Council, our governing body is responsible for setting AAT’s strategy and defining business priorities. There are 34 Council members, who are Directors of AAT. They are appointed either by election from among our members (up to 18) or by nomination from one of our sponsoring bodies (up to 12). In addition, the AAT President, Vice President and the two most recent Past Presidents are ex-officio members of Council.
Our sponsoring bodies are:
- Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Role and structure of Council
Council monitors and reviews the performance of the organisation and has put in place a structure of policy boards and panels based on the following principles:
- Council sets and monitors strategy
- The policy boards are accountable for the implementation of policy
- Decisions on income and expenditure are taken by policy boards with the resources allocated to them by Council
- Members of staff have the authority to take decisions that implement Council strategy and within the scheme of delegation
The policy boards are accountable to Council and their terms of reference are reviewed at least once a year. The policy boards, and their subsidiary panels, implement strategy within a set framework of delegation. The Chief Executive, together with AAT employees, undertakes the day to day management and development of AAT. On appointment all members of Council sign up to a Code of Conduct and a register of Council members’ interests is held and regularly reviewed.
Council oversees risk management policy. It ensures that our level of exposure to risk is regularly reviewed and that the risks identified, and the actions needed to manage and mitigate them, are recorded in the risk registers and reported to Council on a regular basis.
Public benefit test
As a charity, we must demonstrate that our objectives and activities continue to be for the public benefit. Our charitable objects are to:
- Advance public education and promote the study of the practice, theory and techniques of accountancy; and
- Prevent crime; and
- Promote the sound administration of the law for the public benefit by promoting and enforcing standards of professional conduct amongst those engaged in accountancy and monitoring and supervising their compliance with money laundering legislation.
These charitable objects are achieved by promoting excellence in accountancy through the provision of the qualification known as ‘Accounting Technician’. This qualification is accessible to all, and underpinned by a membership programme designed to maintain high standards of professional conduct and uphold AAT’s status as a Supervisory Authority for enforcing anti-money laundering regulations.
Furthermore, in considering all new initiatives or changes to existing strategy, Council explicitly considers their ‘public benefit’ as part of its formal decision making process.
AAT’s charitable objects are met through our objectives and the delivery of our three year business plan. The current business plan sets out the overall actions and strategies for a three year period from 2012-2014. Its overall purpose is to make AAT essential for people, businesses and organisations, through the achievement of our vision to put AAT at the heart of every business. The business plan of AAT's subsidiary company is also set up to support the same aims.
AAT is seeking to increase the number of professionally competent accounting staff by providing a qualification that is valued by individuals and employers and by supporting its members with their lifelong learning needs to firstly attain a relevant qualification and then keep their knowledge up to date post qualification. Our primary objectives are:
- Growth - expanding our core membership by increasing recognition, creating demand, and maintaining a strong and valued relationship with members.
- Innovation - embracing the possibilities of change and development to be ahead of the game.
- Diversification - attracting people beyond our core membership, with new AAT products and services.
- Staying financially secure - managing our resources efficiently and effectively and investing wisely to continue to develop and progress.
The Business Plan provides a foundation for Council’s decision-making and ensures the activities of AAT are continually delivering these aims.
Key Council decisions in 2012
Regulation and compliance policies
This year has seen a number of revisions to policies, including the Disciplinary Regulations and supporting policy framework, which now includes:
- A right of appeal
- Amendments to the insolvency policy, clarifying the entry requirements for those affected
- The introduction of a new policy on convictions, civil sanctions, and disciplinary findings of other professional bodies.
The Regulation and Compliance Board has been proactive in responding to a variety of consultations from stakeholders, including HMRC and IFAC.
Business Systems Strategy review
Following Council’s decision in 2010 to invest in a Business Systems Strategy review, the project delivered the first phase of AAT’s new website in February 2012.
The next phase - integrating the website with a new customer relationship management system and accounting system - is to be launched during 2013.
Employees across the organisation have been involved heavily throughout 2011 and 2012 ensuring that this project is delivered successfully. This major evolution and future proofing in our key business systems will allow for better and quicker services to all our customers.
Code of Conduct for Council members
Council members are expected to act in accordance with AAT’s Code of Conduct for Council members, based on the Nolan Committee’s principles of public life.
During the year the Code has been reviewed to ensure that it reflects changes in legislation and best practice and that it remains fit for purpose. The Code has been updated to reflect the implementation of the Bribery Act 2010, linking it more closely to AAT’s Disciplinary Regulations and to provide clarity and additional guidance where needed.
Council election procedure regulations
A review of the Council election procedure regulations during 2012 has led to the regulations being updated to reflect current practice.
This is to facilitate the receipt of nomination forms by electronic means, and to reinforce the need for candidates to refrain from any form of electioneering and the consequences of breaching the regulations. The election of members to
Council in 2013 will be conducted under these new regulations.
Changes to existing international activity
Council recognised that it was becoming increasingly difficult to replicate the approach taken in the UK in delivering core services and support for members and students outside the UK.
Firstly, acknowledging the rapid decline in student numbers in the Caribbean, and the drop in demand for the AAT Accounting Qualification in that region, Council agreed to the strategic withdrawal of training support from the Caribbean.
Council also agreed to the phasing out of the international branches in the six countries where they had operated. The resources freed up by this will be used for the development of further services and support to meet the needs of members and students outside the UK.
Research was conducted amongst the international membership and, as a result, tailored services were developed and put in place by the end of 2012, with plans for further developments for 2013 well underway.
Review of AAT’s risk management and risk appetite framework
During 2012 Council considered and agreed a risk appetite framework which allows AAT to prioritise the risks it faces and identify the appropriate response to take in relation to those risks.
AAT’s membership continues to grow despite difficult economic conditions. Council would like to formally thank the dedicated AAT staff for their hard work in enabling us to achieve our business objectives.
AAT would not be the organisation it is without our members. Council would also like to thank the many AAT members who facilitate and attend CPD and branch events, contribute to consultations on a voluntary basis and freely give their time to offer support and encouragement to each other.