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The Institute of Chartered Accountants: Students’ Challenge Report


Introduction

There are many professional organizations in the world today which are formed by practitioners in a given field. This is, for example, professional organizations for doctors, lawyers, writers, among others. Professional accountants around the world are also organized into professional bodies, given the fact that their work involves a lot of professionalism. In Britain, a chartered accountant is perhaps one of the most prestigious titles and achievements in this profession. A chartered accountant is a title that is used to describe a professional accountant who is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in their country (Australian Financial Review [AFR], 2011).

Chartered accountants are usually found in British countries or countries that were under the colonial rule of the British. The professionals must be trained and work under the supervision of a practicing chartered accountant for about three years before they qualify to become chartered accountants. This is in addition to a set of structured written tests within and without a classroom setting. After meeting all the requirements and becoming a chartered accountant, the professional is then given the title of an ‘ACA’, which is added to their name (AFR, 2011).

Chartered accountants are to be found in many areas in the business and public sectors. They can go into private and provide services such as auditing, accounting, and other financial consultancy services. Their services are also significant in commerce and in the public sector. To this end, they can provide services in fund management, financial reporting, among others.

Chartered accountants in Australia are affiliated to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (herein referred to as ICAA). This is the organization that represents and regulates the activities of these professionals in the country.

According to AFR (2011), this organization has about 66000 members as of the year 2011. This number is made up of both chartered accountants and accounting graduates drawn from universities all over Australia. Chartered accountants comprise about 54000 of this number (AFR, 2011), while graduates are about 12000 in total, making it one of the largest professional organizations in the country.

Like other chartered organizations around the world, ICAA has several roles when it comes to the conduct of accountants in the country. It is noted that the major role of this organization is to regulate the activities of its members within and without Australia. Any complaints made against a member of this professional body will be investigated, and disciplinary action is taken where necessary (AFR, 2011). The organization is also tasked with the duty of improving the standards of the quality of education that is offered to accountants in the country. ICAA also encourages affiliate organizations to adopt corporate social responsibility policies. This is given the fact that the organization recognizes the importance of giving back to the community as far as businesses are concerned.

The student challenge, which is sponsored by this organization, is one of its major corporate responsibility flagship projects. The annual event aims at engaging students drawn from this country in practical applications of accountancy skills acquired in the classroom. By participating in this event, the students are able to acquire the skills that are necessary for one to become a full-fledged chartered accountant in Australia (AFR, 2011). Participants in this challenge are required to come up with a business solution for a challenge that is faced by a selected non-profit organization.

This report is going to address the Australian Financial Review case study on this student’s challenge. The case study on which this report will be based is titled “Bringing Experience to Future Leaders: The Chartered Accountants’ Student Challenge”. The case study focuses on the student challenge that was held in 2010. The 2010 student challenge addressed The Smith Family, a charity organization that works with less privileged children in this country (AFR, 2011).

This report will be divided into three sections. The first section will address ICAA and what the organization is all about. This section will also address itself business ethics and corporate social responsibility within the context of ICAA. In the second section, the author will conduct an environmental analysis on ICAA and analyze the factors that would have led to the development of the annual student challenge. In section three, the author will address the issue of targeting marketing and promotional strategies. The author will look at the target market segment for ICAA’s student challenge and the kind of promotional technique that was carried out by the organization to market the challenge.

Society Interface

Introduction

In this section, the author will address what ICAA is all about, the services it offers to its members, and how it creates value for the members. The author will also define business ethics and corporate social responsibility and where ICAA stands as far as the two concepts are concerned.

What exactly is the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia?

As already stated earlier in this paper, this organization is the professional accounting entity that represents all chartered accountants in this country (AFR, 2011). It was indicated that this organization has about 66000 members drawn from both professional and practicing accountants and graduates in the country. According to AFR (2011), ICAA was among the accounting bodies that founded the Global Accounting Alliance (herein referred to as GAA) to which it is affiliated to date. This global entity has over 770000 members drawn from all over the world.

The Royal Charter that came to effect in the year 1928 is the one that established this organization. Today, the organisation is regulated by the Supplemental Royal Charter that has been amended several times over the years.

An accountant who wishes to become a member of this organisation has to meet several requirements. For starters, they have to successfully complete the Chartered Accountants graduate program (AFR, 2011). The accountant is also required to successfully complete three years of practical attachment under the supervision of a chartered accountant.

So, what services does the ICAA provide both to its members and to the public at large? According to AFR (2011), this organisation ensures that the members attain the highest levels of quality education in this field. This enables them to provide the clients with services that are of the highest standard and in a professional manner. The organization also collaborates with other organizations within and without Australia to ensure that its members are widely recognized all over the world. It is also noted that the organisation investigates any professional accusations that are levelled at a member and carries out disciplinary action where necessary.

ICAA is also involved in corporate social responsibility. The organisation ensures that the members give back to the community within which they are operating. The organisation creates value for the members by marketing them all over the world. It is noted that an accountant affiliated to this organisation can work both in this country and in other countries around the world. This is given the fact that the organisation is like a symbol of quality on the part of the accountant.

Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

Kuchinke (2005) defines business ethics as professional codes of conduct that address ethical issues that are to be found within a business environment. Business ethics requires a business organisation to operate within a framework of ethical and high standards acceptable within the field. Individuals within the organisation are required to conduct themselves in an ethical manner when they are dealing with clients and fellow workers (Walsh, 2007). For example, it is unethical for an accountant to mislead the client when conducting financial returns.

On the other hand, corporate social responsibility (herein referred to as CSR) can be conceptualised as an obligation on the part of the business organisation that goes beyond the legal and economic requirements (Mallen, 2004). Corporate social responsibility involves the pursuit of long term objectives that are beneficial to the community within which the business organisation is operating. Corporate social responsibility means taking the interests of the community into consideration and carrying out business in a manner that is beneficial to that community. Corporate social responsibility may include providing health care to the community, supporting education among others (Thilmany, 2007).

ICAA is an organisation that is committed to corporate social responsibility and business ethics. This aspect has been recognised by the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. In 2009, ICAA was ranked by this organisation as the business entity most committed to CSR. The ‘Everybody Counts’ program ran by ICAA is a case in point when it comes to CSR in this organisation. The program has sponsored charities like the Alzheimer’s Australia (AFR, 2011), Cancer Council, The Smith Family among others. The student challenge is also a CSR program on the part of ICAA. The organisation also observes business ethics in its operations. The accountants affiliated to the organisation are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner lest disciplinary actions are taken against them.

Environmental Analysis And Market Research

Introduction

In section one above, the author looked at the issue of ICAA and what the organisation is all about. The author also defined business ethics and corporate social responsibility and analysed whether ICAA operates within these standards.

In this section, the author is going to conduct an environmental analysis on ICAA and address the issue of market research on the part of the organisation.

Environmental Analysis in Marketing

Kotelnikov (2011) provides us with a working definition of environmental analysis in a marketing context. He conceptualises it as “the study (of) a business’ internal and external environment to identify those factors that can significantly influence the business’ operations” (Kotelnikov, 2011: pp. 1). On his part, Renee (2011) conceptualises environmental analysis as a qualitative study of the factors that affect the business operations of an organisation.

Different organisations conduct environmental analysis for different reasons. One of the major reasons is to help the organisation comprehend what is taking place inside and outside the organisation and to come up with strategies that will effectively address the issues identified (Elliot, Rundle-Thiele & Waller, 2010). There are several environmental analysis techniques that are adopted by businesses out there. The most common include PESTEL and SWOT analysis. This author is going to carry out a SWOT analysis of ICAA.

ICAA’s SWOT Analysis

Strengths

Hill & Westbrook (2007) defines strengths as those factors within the organisation that gives it an edge over the competitors. These are factors that are within the control of the organisation. This means that the management can manipulate these factors to increase the competitiveness of the organisation. They include factors such as availability of capital, availability of skilled labour among others (Bradley, 2007).

ICAA has several strengths that make its effective as far as its operations are concerned. One of them is the large number of accountants who are members of this organisation. As already indicated, the number as of mid-2011 stood at about 66000. Such a large number of participants make this organisation strong. Another factor is the stringent rules that have been put down for the members. This includes rigorous training, ethical performance among others. This improves the professionalism of the members and the whole organisation in extension. Another factor is the vigorous campaigns carried out by this organisation to market itself among potential members such as students. This creates awareness among the students (for example through the students’ challenge) and increases the membership of the organisation.

Weaknesses

Armstrong (2006) conceptualises weaknesses as those factors within the organisation which threatens its success in the market. These are factors that are within the control of the organisation, meaning that the management can address the weaknesses to improve the organisation.

A major weakness of this organisation is the fact that the individuals are required to undertake rigorous training before they are accepted as full-fledged members. This may turn off potential accountants who would have liked to join the organisation. It is note everyone who likes the idea of working under someone else for three years to earn recognition and be accepted by a professional body.

Opportunities

These are factors that lie outside the organisation but which increases its competitive edge in the market (Malhotra, 2002). The factors are beyond the control of the organisation, but the management can take advantage of them to increase the competitive edge of the organisation. These include positive government policies, lack of competition in the market among others.

There are factors external to ICAA but which can improve the performance of the organisation. One of them is the large number of students in Australia taking marketing and accounting courses and who are potential members of this organisation. According to AFR (2011), there are about 100000 students in Australia who are potential members of this organisation. This is one of the reasons why this organisation launched the students’ challenge. There is also lack of competition given the fact that ICAA is the only chartered accountant’s institute in Australia.

Threats

According to McDonald (2007), these are factors that are external to the organisation but which threaten the success of its operations. Such factors are beyond the control of the organisation (Kotler & Armstrong, 2007). One such factor has to do with the fact that a graduate in the accounting field may opt to pursue a different career and not necessarily that of a chartered accountant. This threatens the membership of the organisation.

The factors above are some of the reasons why ICAA launched the students’ challenge. For example, the challenge was launched to attract a significant portion of the 100000 students in Australia. The challenge was also launched to encourage such students pursue a chartered accountant’s career as opposed to other careers available to them.

Target Marketing And Promotional Strategies

Introduction

In this section, the author will look at market segment that is targeted by ICAA’s students’ challenge. The promotional technique adopted by the company to market this challenge will also be analysed.

Target Market Segment

Demographically, the target market segment for this challenge is made up of those students taking accounting, business and finance courses (AFR, 2011). These are the students at the undergraduate level of study. Geographically, the challenge targets those students within Australia. This means that students outside the country (for example from the United States of America) are not eligible to participate in this challenge. As far as psychographic and behavioural variables are concerned, the challenge targets those students who are passionate about CSR and who would wish to pursue a chartered accountant’s career.

Promotional Campaign Adopted by ICAA to Market the Student’s Challenge

According to AFR (2011), the ICAA has marketed this challenge just like any other product out there. A combination of marketing, advertising and public relations’ techniques has been used to sell this challenge to the target audience.

A critical analysis of the promotional campaign adopted by ICAA will prove that it was an example of an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach. According to Clow & Baack (2006), an IMC is a marketing strategy that is characterised by communications and messages that are intricately and carefully meshed together. All the promotional tools used by the company are linked together to ensure a harmonious operation (Clow & Baack, 2006). The marketing technique is also centred on the customer and uses data to communicate with the client.

The marketing technique that is used by ICAA is IMC in nature given the fact that it is customer centred and it uses data. For example, the organisation carried out a market research to establish the number of potential students in Australia. All the strategies used are aimed at communicating with the client at an integrated manner. The strategies used include print materials such as posters and flyers, presentations and lectures made in campus, advertising in student publications (both print and electronic) and presentation in career fairs (AFR, 2011).

However, it is important to note that the list of strategies used by this organisation is in no way exhaustive. There are other techniques that could have been used, for example sponsoring events such as sports in campus.

Conclusion

This report looked into the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia’s sponsored students’ challenge. The report looked at the challenge that was held in the year 2010 and which addressed a not-for-profit organisation in the country. ICAA was found to be an organisation that supports CSR and which upholds ethical conduct among its members. The students’ challenge is one of this organisation’s CSR projects. A SWOT analysis was carried out on this organisation to identify some of the factors that would have led to the launch of the challenge. The author also looked at the target marketing and promotional strategies that have been adopted by this organisation to market the challenge among the students.

References

Armstrong, M. (2006). A handbook of Human Resource Management practice. 10th ed. London: Kogan Page.

Australian Financial Review. (2011). The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia: Bringing experience to future leaders: The student challenge. ICAA, 2011.

Bradley, N. (2007). Marketing research: Tools and techniques. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clow, K. E., & Baack, D. (2007). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications. 3rd ed. London: Pearson Education.

Elliot, G., Rundle-Thiele, S., & Waller, D. (2010). Marketing. Milton: John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd.

Hill, T. & Westbrook, R. (2007). SWOT analysis: It’s time for a product recall. Long Range Planning, 30(1): 46–52.

Kotelnikov, V. (2011). . Web.

Kotler, P., & Armstrong, G. (2007). Principles of marketing. Pearson: Prentice Hall.

Kuchinke, K. P. (2005). The self at work: Theories of persons, meaning of work and their implications for HRD. New York: Elliott & Turnbull.

Malhotra, N. K. (2002). Basic marketing research: A decision-making approach. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Mallen, B. (2004). ? Web.

McDonald, M. (2007). Marketing plans. 6th ed. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Renee, O. (2011). ? Web.

Thilmany, J. (2007). Supporting ethical employees. HR Magazine, 52(2): 23-24.

Walsh, A. J. (2007). HRM and the ethics of commodified work in a market economy. London: Pinnington, Macklin & Campbell.

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