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12 days of Christmas at ICAEW Midlands

ICAEW’s Regional Director for the Midlands, Dr Sophie Dale-Black, reflects on her first five months with the organisation – and counts us down to Christmas at the same time.

The first few months in any new role are always a whirlwind. It’s been a fantastic five months since I joined ICAEW in August. I’m really surprised at how much I’ve learned in such a short time. I hope this 12 days of Christmas blog post passes on some of those insights to our members. 

Remember to get in touch to discuss anything that sparks your mind. You’ll find me on Twitter, LinkedIn and email.

12. Partners partnering

We have so many more partners than 12, but it’s such an important part of what we do, that I’m going to cheat and put this here!

Partnering on events engages our members in debates on key topics of interest across the business support services, and creates opportunities for members to connect with like-minded professionals, extending their LinkedIn connections list for the future. 

We work with local sections of the Law Society, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Institute of Directors. Plus organisations such as Local Enterprise Partnerships and Chambers of Commerce, and local businesses looking to make strategic links with chartered accountants – and so many more. This year, we’ve partnered with Robert Walters and other local organisations on the West Midlands Finance Awards, and with Silicon Canal on the West Midlands Tech Awards. Next year, we already have networking evenings, quiz nights, dinners, a Brexit-themed event and the East Midlands Finance Awards in the diary, all through collaboration with partners across the Midlands.

We’d love to hear from partners about how we could work together in the future.

The 2018 West Midlands Finance Awards, Birmingham (image courtesy of Robert Walters)

11. Essential training courses

ICAEW has a new programme of CPD courses delivered locally for our members - developed by ICAEW Faculties with industry expert. Delivered by the leading trainers in their field, our Essentials CPD programme covers the technical know-how to help members do their jobs more effectively as well as  personal development and wellbeing topics in collaboration with CABA.

11 Essentials CPD courses are running in the ICAEW Nottingham, Derby and Lincoln district in 2019 (see, I’m not cheating on this one), with around the same number in our other district areas in the Midlands. For more details see:

10. Percent discounts (and partnerships too)

My friends and family know that I love a good bargain, and I’m a stickler for checking cashback and voucher sites before buying anything online. So I was really pleased to learn about our members’ rewards programme. My favourite has to be the discounts on hotel accommodation for when I’m out and about with work, but there are also discounts on cars, investment and clothing. But the programme has far more than that, including value-add services like software, insurance and business support. Worth a look to see what has been added recently.

9. Tech e-learning modules

The scientist in me is drawn to anything tech-y, so this one really got my attention. We all know that technology is advancing every day, and its role in business is immense. From the digitalisation of manufacturing to the development of autonomous vehicles, not forgetting analysis of piles of data to identify trends and patterns - just some of the many application areas.

ICAEW has worked with Deloitte to develop the e-learning programme Finance in a Digital World. Nine e-learning modules help members to understand how finance business functions will change, the skills that will be needed for success, and the role that members will play in this digital future. This training is on my to-do list.


8. Business breakfasts

Business-themed breakfasts have been a pillar of the Birmingham programme for a number of years now, and our experiences of these events have led us to look at bringing them to other locations. Each business breakfast has an excellent speaker, and also announces the results of the ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor, you can also find information on the East Midlands and West Midlands

2019 will see eight business-themed breakfasts around the Midlands – both East and West – with themes right across the economy. Skills is a particular area we plan to focus on. We’ll have an update on that soon.

7. Specialist faculties

I’m going to sneak ICAEW Communities in here too (there’s 25 of them), and cover both together. ICAEW’s seven specialist Faculties give members opportunities to enhance their professional development by offering the most up-to-date information, thought leadership, advice and guidance. I keep track of the activities in all of them, but particularly the Corporate Finance Faculty, because of its closeness to my previous work in government funding for businesses. My personal interests also mean I keep an eye on the Healthcare Community, but there are many other communities, from Academia and Education to Farming and Rural Business – focusing on a range of industry sectors, professional specialisms and various stages throughout members’ career.

6. UK regions

The Midlands region that I lead is one of six ICAEW regions within the UK. While working with different members, in different places, the six UK regional directors have similar foci on engaging members, supporting the district societies and ensuring ICAEW’s strategy is delivered locally. I’ve found it really useful to get to know the other regional directors, learning from them on what makes regional support for members work well.

When I meet with contacts at other professional organisations, we often compare geographies, and it’s rarely exactly the same for history and legacy reasons in each organisation. But it is quite something to be able to say that at (approximately) 14,300 ICAEW members, the Midlands hosts around 9.5% of all ICAEW’s members globally.

5. Midlands team members

Do you know your local ICAEW regional team contact? I thought this was a good one to pop in here, as we’re a team of five in the Midlands. We are sorry to be saying farewell to Deborah Turner, Senior Regional Executive for the Midlands, during December, when she retires from ICAEW. So for now, that leaves four of us as follows:

We work closely with Midlands district societies and regional strategy boards, faculties and communities, our other regions both UK and globally, and right across ICAEW – more examples of our partnering approach. We will update members very soon on our new starter in the team, taking on the Senior Regional Executive role.

4. District societies

Our four district societies are a big focus of our work in the Midlands, providing local support for the 14,300 members in the region:

Each district society represents the interests of ICAEW Chartered Accountants in the local area. Each has a committee that meets regularly, and each organises events for members, ranging from CPD courses to dinners and lunches, social events and discussion groups, as well as representing the interests of members to the wider business community.

The district societies’ committees are often looking for members to join to help deliver local support – members can even observe for a couple of meetings to see what it all involves. If you’re interested in this, please do get in touch.

3. Student societies

Across the Midlands, we have 1,800 provisional members training towards ICAEW’s ACA qualification – their path to becoming a chartered accountant. Many of these students are based in Birmingham, Nottingham, and Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, and three student societies support them both professionally through study events, but also socially with brilliantly supported activities such as balls, boat cruises, sports tournaments and even a fashion show.

As these groups qualify as ICAEW Chartered Accountants, they often connect into other groups – both the recently qualified member groups in places like Birmingham and Worcester, but also in joining activities with the district societies.

2. Regional strategy boards

The Midlands has two key regional boards:

  • ICAEW East Midlands Regional Strategy Board
  • ICAEW West Midlands Regional Strategy Board

Recently, I’ve worked with the West Midlands Regional Strategy Board to develop a members’ response to the West Midlands Industrial Strategy Consultation (please email me if you’d like a copy). Topics for discussion for both Boards range from skills in the area and the potential impact from Brexit, to maximising connections with other professional organisations in the region. We look forward to the development of the East Midlands Industrial Strategy, and the publication of the Midlands Engine Strategy in 2019.

If you’d be interested in finding out more or joining either of the two Regional Strategy Boards, again please do get in touch.

1. Global ICAEW

I had to end on this one, right? I have learned so much since joining ICAEW, but I know I’ve only scratched the surface. There are lots of areas of support open to members, and many really interesting thought leadership areas that I want to make use of with members in the Midlands.

One of the big things that I’ve reflected on since joining ICAEW is the power of the volunteer. Each of the committees and boards that I’ve mentioned is driven by ICAEW members – volunteers. They give their time for the good of their profession, generally but also specifically in the region. They support events from design to delivery. They mentor school pupils through our BASE educational work. They visit universities to award prizes, raising the profile of ICAEW among graduates. The list is endless; our team is very grateful for this support.

A goal for me for 2019 focuses on the Midlands team working ever more closely with our members - right across the region - ensuring they have access to the very best CPD training and cutting-edge knowledge in the areas of technology and business support topic areas, and the connections they need with each other and with professionals across the business services.

I close 2018 thanking my team, the wider ICAEW staff and our members for making me so welcome in my role, and look to 2019 with enthusiasm for the engagement of members on the big topics in the sector.