A mid-tier association has revealed it
went to great lengths to appear more like an association of
independent firms following a decision not to join the Forum of
Firms.

AGN International, the 18th-largest
accountancy group in last year’s International Accounting
Bulletin
world survey, introduced a series of strategies in
order to be regarded as an association, including asking member
firms to rebrand without the AGN initials and a new quality control
system.

The association’s chief executive, Nick Blake,
said AGN had been pondering whether to become a network or remain
an association for a number of years, but as the Forum of Firms
deadline loomed, a “hard decision” was made to remain an
association.

AGN’s decision to continue down the
association path was motivated by several factors that were cost,
liability and business related.

“Not only from a cost viewpoint, but also from
an operational viewpoint,” Blake said. “Would all member firms give
the necessary information in order to make it a worthwhile and
realistic database? We felt that wasn’t going to be the case and
the cost of putting that in place and maintaining it was going to
be exorbitant.”

Setting up a conflict identification system
within the organisation was another motivating factor.

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A consequence of remaining an association has
been the introduction of a new strategy on quality control
procedures.

“Once firms become members we can’t undertake,
within AGN, peer reviews and the monitoring of quality and quality
standards,” Blake said, while stressing the association does
implement quality standards.

To overcome this problem, AGN draws on quality
reviews by regulators where possible. In the markets where
regulators do not perform audit reviews, AGN commissions
independent firm reviews in accordance with the International
Federation of Accountants’ ISQC1 – Quality Control for Audit,
Assurance and Related Services Practices.