CPA defends marketing spend, mulls disclosure changes
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CPA defends marketing spend, mulls disclosure changes

CPA Australia says its marketing spend has decreased as a proportion of turnover in the last 10 years, and in response to swelling discontent, agreed to consider alternative models to the disclosure of remuneration.

At its annual general meeting (AGM) in Singapore last night, president and chairperson of the CPA Australia board, Tyrone Carlin, vehemently defended the association’s recent marketing expenditure.

This included its decision to sponsor the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne and engage in a sponsorship package “valued at $756,000” with the National Basketball League.

Expenditure on marketing, promotion and publications as a proportion of revenue remains consistent with what the association was designating in 2006, when it was approximately 17 per cent. In 2016, it was 16 per cent, Mr Carlin said.

“In other words, the quantum of revenue allocated to marketing is falling as a proportion of revenue, notwithstanding greater levels of impact being achieved.”

A particular sore point for members leading a rebellion against CPA Australia has been the promotion of Alex Malley, the association’s chief executive.

Mr Carlin defended the expenditure of funds in this respect, saying they account for a small percentage of total spend, with the approval and direction of the board.

“CPA Australia’s television program, In Conversation, and The Naked CEO book and website, are important elements of our overall strategy. They are about re-framing how people perceive us about leadership for tomorrow,” he said.

“They are products of the organisation that the chief executive is directed to perform to support the strategy. And while they are key parts of the strategy, these publications account for only 6 per cent of total marketing promotion and publications expenditure.”

Met with applause at the AGM, Mr Carlin also said the board has heard the feedback of members who are dissatisfied with CPA Australia’s current remuneration disclosure model, and will be conducting a review to consider future “robust” models of disclosure.

However, he defended the current practice of CPA Australia, saying it is in line with the approach of similar professional bodies.

“Our disclosures are more extensive than many of our peers,” he said.

Aside from these headline items for members, CPA Australia reported some healthy figures, despite the costs associated with its licensing arm, CPA Australia Advice.

“The 2016 financials reflect a strong performance across the organisation, with revenue on core operating activities increasing by $5.6 million or 3.2 per cent during 2016. Overall expenditure increased during 2016, driven by our investment in new initiatives such as CPA Australia Advice and further investment in the digitisation of the CPA program,” deputy president James Dickson said.

Membership numbers have been on the rise, with approximately 35,000 joining CPA Australia in the last three years. Around 6,000 of those have joined from other bodies, and 2,500 from rival associations. Member growth in Asia is also up 20 per cent in that same time frame.

A CPA spokesperson told Accountants Daily that the AGM was “very well-received,” by both domestic and international audiences, a sentiment echoed by the AGM attendees – particularly those based in south-east Asia – who took to the microphone during question time.

“All question areas were covered either through the president’s address, responses to questions asked during the meeting or prior to the AGM,” the spokesperson said.

However, social media activity and feedback to Accountants Daily suggests members are not universally appeased.

One WA member, Melissa Weber, did not feel the justifications of marketing expenditure were adequate, and believes “things that matter to accountants”  such as lobbying the government and ATO for better digital systems  were not sufficiently high on the agenda.

Others, like Queensland member Jeremy Wotton, were dissatisfied with the presumed costs of holding the AGM in Singapore.

Towards the end of the official proceedings, Mr Malley told the AGM he is focused on delivering results based principally on member feedback.

“Do we get it right every time every day? No. But when we get it wrong, we fix it,” he said. 

CPA defends marketing spend, mulls disclosure changes
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