Associate professor at Deakin University, Dr Adrian Raftery - a firm principal who is a chartered accountant, CPA and IPA member - attended CPA Australia’s Congress in Melbourne with the expectation of low morale and limited participation.
He told Accountants Daily he was “genuinely surprised” to find that the conference had the look and feel of a regular CPA Congress.
“It was very much business as usual for members,” he said.
New CPA Australia president Peter Wilson briefed the crowd on the association’s plans to focus its marketing on the association brand, as opposed to the brand of its next chief executive - a position that has been vacant since Alex Malley was dismissed in June. This was particularly well received by members.
“To get such a strong reaction, at a key event, and possibly the lowest point in their history, is a pretty good sign that members are going to recover,” Mr Raftery said.
“I did notice that in terms of traditional CPD there was a lack of ethics and governance topics, and I did have a bit of a chuckle about that. But other than that, I was suitably impressed,” Mr Raftery said.
As the CPA saga unfolded, Mr Raftery was “gobsmacked” with the salary revelations of the old CPA guard, and believes an entirely new board was the right move from a public perception and corporate governance perspective.
“I was definitely the same way as the majority of CPA members - pretty disgusted,” he said. “They were… paid so well considering their output, and the benefit to their own personal brands,” he said.
“It’ll take 12 months to turn it around, you can’t expect it to happen in 12 days. [CPA has] taken enough of a hit as an organisation… they will ensure they don’t go in the same direction as they have in the past,” he said.
‘A bad decision’
Like many of his peers, Mr Raftery thinks CPA Australia’s venture into financial advice is out of step with what its membership wants and is willing to pay for.
The original price and package for prospective licensees was also not in line with market or member expectations, he said, which is consistent with the findings of the ongoing review into CPA Australia’s operations.
“CPA priced themselves out of the market in terms of being a dealer group for accountants,” Mr Raftery said.
The idea of members competing with their own association if they are independently licensed is also problematic, as is throwing the CPA Australia brand into the financial planning realm, which has been marred by high-level controversy and scandal for the last five years.
“There is such a negative undertone in financial planning in general, it had a huge impact on the overall CPA Australia brand,” Mr Raftery said.
“I think a lot of people think there’s a huge opportunity in the financial planning space… but a lot of accountants are moving away from financial planning,” he said.