We’re going through an intense period of unprecedented change in business and the accountancy profession. The demands being placed on our members are greater than ever before. And the changes we anticipated in our Professional accountants - the future research, back in 2016 - rapid digitalisation, the need for professional accountants to deal with reporting on factors far beyond the financials, and the demonstration of even deeper strategic insight – are now a firm reality.

 

Against this background, ACCA has needed to evolve significantly. The radical changes we’ve made to the ACCA Qualification over the past two years mean that we have the most up-to-date, digitally-enabled professional qualification in the global marketplace. The introduction of our new Strategic Professional exams in September 2018 – including our revolutionary Strategic Business Leader case study – was the latest step in this journey towards a refreshed qualification for the digital age. We also continued our transition to computer-based exams by rolling these out for our Applied Skills papers and withdrawing paper exams across 65 markets.

Because we have overhauled the syllabus and how we examine it so thoroughly, we’ve also needed to collaborate more closely than ever with our learning providers around the world. We’ve worked with them on how we should introduce these sweeping changes, helping train their tutors to teach this new breed of exams, and connecting them with each other as a global network, in our most hands-on and focused engagement with learning partners to date.

The radical changes we’ve made to the ACCA Qualification mean we have the most up-to-date professional accountancy qualification in the global marketplace.

Summary strategic performance

We met three of our six strategic targets this year:

KPI Measure 2018-19 performance 2018-19 target 2019-20 target
Vision # of members 219,031 218,000 226,400
Our difference Net operating surplus/(deficit) before tax £(35.2)m £(14.8)m £1.0m
Attract # students and affiliates 527,331 521,200 551,600
Develop Three student progression elements met

782,253 exam entries‡

67.0% of affiliates becoming members in four years

36.8% of students passing an exam in the year

786,000 exam entries‡

66.9% of affiliates becoming members in four years

38.0% of students passing an exam in the year

782,200 exam entries‡

66.9% of affiliates becoming members in four years

36.8% of students passing an exam in the year

67.0% of affiliates
becoming members
in four years
66.9% of affiliates
becoming members
in four years
66.9% of affiliates
becoming members
in four years
36.8% of students
passing an exam
in the year
38.0% of students
passing an exam
in the year
36.8% of students
passing an exam
in the year
Sustain Member, students and affiliate satisfaction 79.1%† 80.0%† 80.0%†
Lead Ten brand power elements Six of 10 elements met Eight of 10 elements met Eight of 10 elements met

‡ considered achieved if result is within or better than -1.5% of the target

† survey measures are judged achieved if within +/-1.5% of the target to allow for accepted survey variations.

Capability targets

We met all four of our capability targets this year. We report these for information only and they are not linked to executive reward:

KPI Measure 2018-19 performance 2018-19 target
Customer-centred solutions Customer services SLAs 94% 80%
High performing people Best companies employee engagement score 678.4 (One Star status) 659.5 (One Star status)
Operational excellence Cost per member and student £262 £263
Digitally enabled and flexible delivery Digital experience SLAs 92% 80%

In addition to equipping our members and future members for change, we also need to reshape our organisation for a digital age. How we support members and other stakeholders needs to reflect the intuitive and engaging online experience they receive from commercial service providers. It also needs to draw on data analytics, so that the information and support we provide is targeted and relevant and we help better facilitate connections across our vast global network.

 

To do this requires an entirely fresh approach to our digital architecture. So, this year, we’ve begun our biggest ever transformation programme, a four year journey of digital change to create the organisation of the future by replacing legacy systems to deliver a best-in-class experience for our members and everyone we serve. The investment we’ve made in this is substantial – and absolutely necessary if we’re to carry on leading in the profession.

 

This has had implications for ACCA’s financial out-turn for 2018-19, with a substantially larger deficit than forecast. We had planned for a pre-tax deficit of £14.8m in 2018-19, but this increased to £35.2m as a result of the timing of our investment in IT infrastructure and digital transformation, a one-off accounting adjustment relating to ACCA’s defined benefit pension scheme, and a combination of smaller items including a reduction in investment income and a change to our accounting policies following the adoption of IFRS 15 and IFRS 9.

50%

One in two employers told us they would prefer to recruit an ACCA and 64% said they would prefer a fresh recruit to study for the ACCA Qualification.

The background to this financial result is explained fully in this report and in our detailed financial statements.

Our financial strategy – supported by Council – has been to build reserves to fund our Strategy to 2020 and we are staying true to that objective and level of ambition. Investing now is key to preparing ACCA for the future and we remain committed to this, recognising that the risk of not doing so presents the greater threat to ACCA’s long-term sustainability.

Meanwhile, ACCA’s balance sheet remains healthy, we have ready access to liquid funds and we are targeting a pre-tax surplus in 2019-20.

Employer demand was the driving force behind the major advances we’ve made to the ACCA Qualification, which has been a significant part of our investment in digital systems so far. Organisations across the world told us that they need digitally-enabled, work-ready professionals with the facility to respond to rapidly changing business dynamics. This year – for the first time since we began surveying on this metric – one in two told us they would prefer to recruit an ACCA, up seven percentage points. Moreover, 64% of employers told us they would prefer a fresh recruit to study for ACCA, up nine points on last year.

Our ultimate goal – and what drives all of us who work for ACCA – is to make the ACCA Qualification the first-choice professional accountancy designation in the global marketplace, trusted and valued by organisations the world over.

With the support of all our stakeholders around the world, we look forward to continuing the strong progress we’ve made towards this goal as we continue to reshape ACCA for the digital future ahead.

Helen Brand OBE, Chief Executive