Developing connections between practices and introducing innovative new service areas can help small- and medium-sized practitioners extend their global presence, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has urged.
In a review of the seven member bodies from across the world, IFAC found that an effective forum for smaller practices, a database of shared knowledge, and a strong advocacy role could help bolster the profile of such practices.
The study - available to download in Word format - looked at how organizations such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) were helping smaller firms, so IFAC could help out at international level.
The working party charged with the task looked at practices from around the globe in the following five areas:
- Quality enhancement, such as development of standards for quality assurance, quality in practice management, quality of education, continuous learning, and codes of ethics
- Service to members, including such things as educational courses and training, marketing support, technical aids, web-related services, and networking support
- Participation of small- and medium-sized practices (SMPs) in standard-setting, including their presence on standard-setting committees and their presence on governing bodies of the profession
- Innovative service areas that can help SMPs grow their businesses and meet expanding client needs
- Advocacy and alliances, including contacts with public authorities, governmental agencies, and regulators, advertising and promotion, and placement services
IFAC found that systems varied widely between countries - ACCA, for example, went beyond the minimum requirements to ensure that its members were of a high quality. But AICPA takes a broader approach, offering advice on good performance.
As well as discovering that an international database could help smaller firms keep abreast of the latest developments, IFAC said that a forum to share knowledge and contacts would help the profession, as would assistance in helping SMPs develop innovative new service areas, such as providing assurance services in e-business, advice on risk management, and strategic planning.
Angelo Caso, chairman of the SMP Working Party, said: "By identifying and meeting the emerging needs of SMPs in the international arena, the profession as a whole will benefit. It will operate on a more level playing field competitively and, ultimately, this will lead to increased quality of services to the public."