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A Younger Accounting Association?

December 7, 2008

A century-old association with roots in Britain is setting up shop in the United States, trying to give the American Institute of CPAs a run for its money.

Are they a bunch of old fogies with their minds in the stone age or do they have a chance?

Well check this out. Despite their long history, the average age of its members is 39.

Compare this to the stats provided by the AICPA that 75 percent of its current members will reach or approach retirement age in the next 15 years. Average age? 50.1.The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, which has 130,000 members and 375,000 students throughout the world (roughly 5,000 in North America including chapters in 11 states), plans to go into schools and educate the educators about what they're all about. (The recent materials the association sent us cites the numbers as 122,000 members and 325,000 students, but that was from April, and this is what the executive cited Friday.)

The reason the ACCA wants to make its footprint in the states is that many students who start the certification abroad end up moving to this country and need to finish their certification here, according to Paul Costello, who heads the association's Canada and U.S. operations.

In fact, roughly one-third of their members and students relocated to other countries last year. Costello doesn't know whether it was an off year, but he says that the reason that mobility is feasible is because this organization follows International Financial Reporting Standards, so in theory it's easier for members to move to other countries without too much re-learning (other than tax law). And many of them in China and the Middle East are trilingual.

We're not saying that this organization is going to convince people to take on their certification instead of the CPA one or even add it to the list of acronyms following their names—which Costello compares to someone switching from an American Express Gold Card back to the standard green one they initially receive. Though they might sign up for the diploma in IFRS the association offers—a one-year course open to all accountants.

Costello confessed that the AICPA may not even know the ACCA exists.

But something's attracting these young people. And the number of student members grew by 10 percent this year alone.

Not too shabby.

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