Last night, over 200 guests attended ICAEW’s Annual Dinner. The audience included members of both houses of the UK parliament, regulators, senior civil servants and representatives from a cross-section of our profession and wider business. Our guest speaker was former cabinet minister Justine Greening MP, a fellow ICAEW Chartered Accountant.
The evening’s theme was changing lives: by driving social mobility and by taking practical steps to build a world of strong economies.
I shared my own experience with the audience. On Friday 13 June 1980, a partner at A C Mole & Sons - Peter Shapland - took a chance on someone who had failed his 11-plus and had two E-Grade A Levels to his name. Peter was willing to look at the person rather than the academic record and take a risk on me. Because he did, I’ve had a hugely rewarding career - culminating in the enormous privilege of serving as president of ICAEW.
And it is because of my own experience that I want to see more young people – especially those who think, or who’ve been allowed to think, that this profession isn’t for them – given the chance to discover the ACA as the key to unlocking a career that can change their lives too, and help them in turn change the lives of others.
During the evening ICAEW signed the Social Mobility Pledge. Because we believe, as Justine does and as others who’ve signed the Pledge do, that while talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not.
Our profession has a practical role to play in helping to redress that imbalance - helping to create opportunity for all, irrespective of background, irrespective of school, irrespective of everything except talent and potential.
And we have a practical role to play in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals - particularly Goals 4, 8 and 10: quality education; decent work and economic growth; reduced inequalities.
In my speech, I highlighted ICAEW’s capacity building work, which I wrote about in another blog a few months ago. Last year alone we worked in 13 countries on 10 projects: helping to establish audit regulatory systems; delivering national accountancy qualifications; advising on and implementing international standards; strengthening governance, leadership and strategy; training examiners and tuition providers. ICAEW is now the go-to body for this type of work. I am immensely proud of that.
And you will not be surprised to hear that I talked about the work of the ICAEW Foundation, which I have also blogged about before.
In her speech, Justine talked about the way the ACA changed her life and opened a career that took her to the position of UK Government Minister. She encouraged the audience to take active steps to drive social mobility and to create opportunity.
Our profession really can and does change lives. That is something to celebrate.
And each individual life we change counts, so next time you’re interviewing a potential student you’re in two minds about, consider taking a risk and giving them a chance.
You never know where they might end up.