Speaking at the IPA’s National Congress, chief executive Andrew Conway said professional bodies are “contractually bound” to put members’ interests first, linking concerns to the incoming new education requirements for accountants giving advice.
“In many cases, the issues around taking a strong position on respecting members business models, respecting the fact that in the professional services space or financial services space, we don't think as a standard setters role to dictate terms to practitioners on how to structure their businesses – that's not the job of a standard setter,” said Mr Conway.
“You're bound by a code of ethics, you're bound by other professional standards, you're bound by your obligations of law, you're bound by CPD requirements, professional indemnity insurance requirements, all of these safety nets are in place to protect public interest so to have another layer that says the profession should be at a competitive disadvantage is nonsense.
“We were much maligned about that and I suspect as we roll out and go into the new phase of FASEA, we will be faced with similar conversations.”
Mr Conway called for fellow professional bodies to continue to lobby for a reinstatement of the accountants’ exemption despite new Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert confirming this week that he would not be considering any options until after the final report from the royal commission is handed down.
“Some of this might sound straightforward and basic in relation to a business model of a professional body but if, as a professional body, you are not listening to what members are wanting, then what are you?,” said Mr Conway.
“There's an expectation of alignment of public interest and members interest but as an organisation, we are contractually bound to put your interests first so sometimes there are tough conversations to be had.”
Mr Conway also recognised the governance and transparency concerns over professional bodies over the last two years, calling for bodies to uphold the accounting brand over self-interest.
“Our profession has been through a lot. You look at the last 12 to 18 months and the brand of accountants has been under pressure,” said Mr Conway.
“We have to recognise the fact that the brand of accounting needs to be upheld, needs to be resourced and we need to respect the fact that our clients and community expect a great deal from us.
“The profession is at its strongest when all of the professional bodies are in their strongest position.”