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January 14, 2015

Spanish equivalent of chartered accountants introduced to boost SMEs access to finance

Spain’s General Council of Economists (Consejo General de Economistas or CGE) and the Institute of Auditors (Instituto de Censores Jurados de Cuentas de España or ICJCE) have partnered to introduce a professional profile called experto contable, which would resemble the chartered accountant of other jurisdictions.

Spain’s two professional bodies said the move is aimed at building the reputation of Spanish professional accountants and enhancing their responsibility and regulatory oversight.

ICJCE, the professional body for auditors, and the CGE, which is formed by a wider range of finance professionals including economists as well as auditors and other types of accountants, will jointly run the new qualification.

To that end a committee will be tasked with assessing the professional experience and capabilities of those members who would like to become a registered experto contable and meet the criteria to do so.

Candidates could compensate the lack of certain professional capabilities or specific experience with CPD courses, according to a CGE spokesperson.

The committee will be formed by members of both professional bodies, the spokesperson continued, and could include former presidents of Spain’s audit regulator, the Institute of Accountancy and Audit (Instituto de Contabilidad y Auditoría de Cuentas or ICAC).

SMEs lendingThe CGE spokesperson told The Accountant that the professional bodies decided to join forces as both were working on similar initiatives to strengthen the regulation and opportunities of professional accountants in Spain.

The experto contable would be a finance professional who would work for those companies that do not need to pass a statutory audit -therefore a majority of them are Spanish SMEs.

The idea behind the introduction of "Spanish chartered accountants" (or the French equivalent of expert-comptable) is to place trust in the financial statements of those companies, which may lack reliable independent third-party assurance.

For example, the initiative could improve the access to finance by SMEs as Spanish banks have been traditionally reluctant to lend to smaller companies, particularly in the aftermath of the credit crunch.

According to Eurostat, 38% of Spanish companies had no more than 9 employees in 2010, compare with 18% in Germany and with the 28% of the Euro area’s average.

Spain’s CGE merged recently with an institute of finance professionals whose qualification became extinct. There is also an ongoing debate for a second merger in the long run between the CGE and the auditor’s body.

Despite being intended to serve different purposes, the agreement to create a Spanish chartered accountant might bring closer together both professional bodies.

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