Raising the profile across

The role of ACCA members across Europe varies from region to
region. New ACCA Europe director Roger Acton tells Carolyn
about the challenges and rewards of working in
partnership with branches across the continent.

Roger Acton says that rather than taking a one-size-fits-all
approach, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
has a member engagement agenda for some parts of Europe and a
thought leadership approach for other parts.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the average age of ACCA members is
just 35. Acton explains: “Their experience of ACCA is one of an
examination and an examinations body, so they would not necessarily
have an appreciation that ACCA is a professional body of substance…
I suppose one of the challenges then is to have students, as they
become members, appreciate that there is a professional body there
to support them through their career, so that it’s not just an
examining body, it’s not just a body that produces a syllabus every
few years.

“As you move further west, given that particularly audit is very
different in Western Europe to Eastern Europe, I think ACCA’s
strategy is going to be much more focused on accountants and
finance professionals working in the financial and corporate
sectors rather than exclusively in audit. I also think we would
probably place greater emphasis on inputting into policy at the
European level.”

Acton joined the ACCA in 1999 as the head of its Ireland chapter.
Prior to that he was the chief executive of the Disability
Federation of Ireland, an umbrella body for about 200 community
groups and more than 100 organisations that provide services to the

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Acton brought his interest in the volunteer sector to his position
with the ACCA. In 2004, the association sponsored him to co-found
Boardmatch Ireland, a project Acton describes as “a computer dating
agency for young professionals… who want to get involved in the
voluntary sector”. Boardmatch unites young professionals, based on
their qualifications, experience and area of interest, with
voluntary organisations. After two years of operation, the
programme has 600 registered individuals, including several ACCA
members, and has matched 105 professionals.

One of the aspects of Acton’s new role as ACCA Europe director that
he is looking forward to is building on the ACCA base in Central
and Eastern Europe. In terms of charity involvement, he says,
members in Central and Eastern European ACCA branches are involved
more in community fundraising events than board-level
contributions. “The concept of being involved in the running of a
charity is slightly different from the fundraising aspect,” Acton

In the UK and Ireland, Acton says, members of professional bodies
are more familiar with contributing to policy papers and trying to
shape government policy in relation to issues that affect their
work. But this is not the case in Central and Eastern Europe, where
there has long been a planned, centralised economy until recent

“Previously the notion [in Central and Eastern Europe] was ‘there’s
no point us getting involved because policy will be determined
anyway’, so there was that fatalism in terms of policy development,
which is now changing,” Acton explains.

“I think you would have found that people wouldn’t have got
involved at board level or strategic level of not-for-profit
organisations or voluntary organisations because they would have
just been appointed by somebody and the policy would have been
determined and that’s it.”

Acton suggests this is changing. “If they’re qualified and
ambitious, they can get very good jobs and they are very
forward-looking as a result of that, so they are now looking at
maybe ways to influence policies whereas I think their predecessors
may not have been.”

Still, the community fundraisers fit with Acton’s goals for ACCA in
Europe. “It shows that there’s a nice connection between the local
office, the professional body and members and students, and other
stakeholders and the community,” Acton says. “One of the things
that I’m very anxious that ACCA does become in Europe is totally
integrated into the fabric of the local economies.”

The ACCA has experienced strong growth in several Central and
Eastern European countries recently. Acton names Russia, other
members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Poland and the
Czech Republic as countries where the ACCA has been received
particularly well. “Romania in particular is a very exciting place,
we’ve enjoyed good growth there and I think it’s vibrant. Bucharest
is a very vibrant city with a lot of activity going on,” he

Acton says there is a lot of positive activity throughout all of
Europe. All the members, students and other stakeholders are “all
forward looking, they’re thinking about the future, so it’s nice to
be in that sort of environment, it keeps you young”.