For the Profession
Beyond Numbers · October 2005
By Richard Rees, FCA
Every two years the BC Institute conducts a member survey that seeks members' perceptions of the designation, the Institute, and its services. In 2001, we identified a number of areas that required work. In 2003, we saw clear progress in the use and value members attached to the Institute's products and services. Our 2005 survey reveals that members—while still using and valuing existing services—want more.
Your concerns closely reflect the challenges we've been discussing over the past year. We've talked to many of you about the shortage of CAs and how we see it increasing in the future. We've talked about growing market confusion between the designations, and many of you have expressed frustration about the high visibility of advertising done by other accounting organizations.
In short, your heightened expectations come as no surprise—the leaders of the provincial institutes also have higher expectations about what they can accomplish.
Perceptions about the “CA”
Approximately three-quarters of the 2005 survey respondents believe the CA designation holds public confidence, is held in high regard, and is an attractive career option. This confidence level was 5-10% higher in 2003.
In 2005, 88% are proud of the designation— a very high rating, but down slightly from 93% in 2003. Consistently, more than three-quarters of members find their profession challenging and fulfilling.
The Institute itself is generally held in high regard, with 78% of members describing it with positive adjectives—most commonly: “professional,” “capable,” “supportive,” “approachable,” and “progressive.” The number of members who are very satisfied with the Institute's services overall has risen steadily since 2001.
In contrast to this praise, 39% of members offered negative adjectives, including: “bureaucratic,” “inefficient,” “expensive,” and “elitist.”
Most important services
Members ranked protecting the public interest; promoting the profession; and professional conduct, enquiry, and discipline as the Institute's most important services.
Our survey also measures the gap between the importance given by members to different areas and their satisfaction with the Institute's performance in those areas. The biggest gaps were in:
- Promoting the profession;
- Attracting new people to the profession; and
- Representing the CA profession on a political level.
While no one would argue that more work needs to be done to promote the profession, we find the other two gaps surprising. In the past year, more students were hired into the profession than had been hired for many years—and we still had to turn candidates away. Over the last four years, we have consistently had more quality candidates than articling positions. Finding the training positions is the real challenge.
Similarly, the representation of CAs at a political level has been very successful in the last two years, resulting in the adoption of LLP legislation in BC and an update to our provincial Act . So what members may actually be criticizing is the limited influence CAs have on standard-setting issues, especially those driven by global events.
Regardless, these gaps are clear marching orders for the Institute. In the next few months, we will tell you more about our promotion of the profession (through our branding initiative), and about hiring students (through our education task force).
Most used services
Services most used by members:
- Reading Beyond Numbers (83%)
- Visiting the website (82%)
- Reading News 'N Views (67%)
- Participating in PD courses (59%)
Readership of News 'N Views and participation in PD courses have seen the biggest growth since 2003. The most avid readers of News 'N Views are older CAs outside the Lower Mainland, and members in industry have driven the increase in PD participation.
What does the future hold?
The 2005 survey results clearly indicate that members continue to value the Institute and use its services, but want more.
Responding to the need for new services is always an important part of our mandate. Since 2001, we have:
- Added a member strategy for members in industry to increase services to this important member group and help them deal with increasing regulation;
- Added a program for young CAs, including networking sessions and a career website;
- Increased both the number of PD courses and the number of registrants by almost 30%;
- Enhanced support for new standards to include plain-English documentation, more PD support, and greater guidance from Advisory Services;
- Engaged in national strategic planning and collaboration to address fundamental challenges within the profession.
Our challenge is to allocate resources to accomplish these activities. For four years, we have held member dues steady while at the same time adding to our products and services. Now, as your expectations grow, we will strive to add even more within our current budget. But closing the expectation gap may well require additional resources.
As our world becomes more complex and our assistance more critical, we must ensure that we continue to provide relevant, cost-effective, and timely solutions to the challenges members face.