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January 2, 2015

Cross-border merger of UK and Australian accountancy bodies completed

The UK Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) and the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) in Australia have partnered to create a global organisation aimed at representing the interests of SMEs and SMPs.

Following the majority vote of IFA members (96%) on 16 December 2014, the consolidation process was scheduled to be legally completed by the transfer of IFA’s assets to the newly created organisation by 31 December 2014.

IFA and IPA have undergone an "amalgamation", as they called the move, to form the IPA Group which has more than 35,000 members and students in 80 countries according to the institutes.

As of January 2014 IFA counted 7,000 members, 60% of them based in the UK, and 2,200 students. According to the 2014 World Survey of The Accountant, IPA has 12,631 members and 9,811 students.

The "amalgamation" of IFA and IPA represents the second cross-border consolidation project of professional accountancy bodies.

Earlier in 2014 the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA) merged to create a Tran-Tasman institute named Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

ICAA had 53,711 members and 13,715 students, while NZICA counted 26,146 members and 12,373 students, according to the 2014 World Survey of The Accountant.

IFA and IPA, both members of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), said they will however preserve the autonomy of each institute.

In a recent interview before the December vote, IFA chief executive David Woodgate told The Accountant that both IFA and IPA members will be part of the IPA Group’s membership, although the brand names of the two will be retained.

"At the moment there’s no plan to change the names, that’s important for the members. Other institutes can be invited to join further down the line," Woodgate added.

Woodgate explained that informal talks started as early as 2002 and intensified during the last four years, based on the common affinity of the institutes’ members rather than on geographical reasons.

"It’s not because they are Australian but because they are just like us: the same kind of membership. It’s a perfect fit. This proposal will make us the twentieth largest IFAC body, but more importantly, we’ll be the biggest SME accountancy institute in the world," Woodgate said.

For Woodgate, SMEs are underrepresented in the global accountancy community where the accountants of smaller businesses don’t get a word in edgewise.

"Yes ICAEW [the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales], ACCA [the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants] and others have SME members but they are trying to be all things to all people. We exist to look after SMEs and SMPs and that differentiates us."

Woodgate continued: "We deal with smaller enterprises, most of them below the statutory audit threshold, which are the backbone of the economy. So we don’t need to do audit, we leave that to others."

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