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Chief executive’s strategic report

We improved our strategic performance again this year, delivering our best set of results to date under this strategy. 

For the second year in succession, we met four of the six strategic targets set by the Council and, for the first time, we met all four of our capabilities targets (2016-17: three of four met). Equally importantly, we’ve seen improved performance, year-on-year, across all our measures.

Performance highlights

The most satisfying aspect of our performance is the continued increase in member, student and affiliate satisfaction levels. We achieved our highest overall satisfaction score (80.7%) under both this and our previous strategy – our strongest result since we began measuring satisfaction in this way – with significant improvement across members, students and affiliates. We’ve listened closely to what our members and future members are telling us they need from ACCA in their markets and acted on that feedback with speed and focus. For members, our celebrations around reaching 200,000 members in particular have enhanced engagement with, and pride in, ACCA.

For students, we’re seeing more rapid progression to membership, helped by investment in better and wider qualification support and guidance. All our progression measures improved this year, with 41,000 more exams entered than expected and the percentage of students passing exams during the year also improving. During the year, we moved to computer-based exams (CBE) entirely for our Fundamentals exams across nine countries – including three of our largest markets. Following this successful implementation and with pass rates holding up well, we’ll be extending CBE to a further 65 markets in the coming year.

'We’ve now mapped out the entirety of our strategic change to 2021-22, so we have a clear view of the complete transformation we need to deliver in the medium term.'

Similar confidence is reflected across all our stakeholders and is most clearly demonstrated by an exceptional set of brand power scores. 2017-18 was the first year we achieved all ten elements that make up our Lead measure. Seven of these ten element scores have improved year-on-year by at least 1.9 percentage points, with the other elements remaining at very high levels. Aligned to this, we saw our highest overall employer satisfaction score to date of 91%, a rise of 5.3 percentage points, year-on-year.

Although we didn’t achieve our student growth target, we increased our overall student and affiliate file by 3.4%, compared to 1.2% last year. At the same time, recruitment grew by 2.4% on prior year, demonstrating the strong value of the ACCA brand in the marketplace. 

Student retention, at 84.7%, was 0.8% ahead of expectation. Having invested in specific initiatives around sustainable recruitment policy and learning support in the past year, it is pleasing to see these having a demonstrable effect on progression to membership.

We achieved our highest overall satisfaction score (80.7%) under both this and our previous strategy – our strongest result since we began measuring satisfaction in this way – with significant improvement across members, students and affiliates.

Strategic challenges and our response

We’re continuing to roll out our ACCA Qualification innovations and working more closely than ever with learning providers to bring them on this journey with us. The changes we’re making are necessarily revolutionary – because this is what employers and the market have told us is demanded – and we therefore don’t underestimate the effort and commitment required by learning providers to implement them. This year, we worked in partnership with our learning network around the world to provide them with the specific skills needed to teach our new generation exams. At the core of this has been our largest ever outreach to tutors through an expanded programme of ‘train the trainer’ sessions led by some of the most respected ACCA lecturers in the world. We’ve also begun working with our most significant learning partners in a more strategic and collaborative way so they have a greater input into our plans. As a result, we’re excited about the next ACCA Qualification milestone – the first sitting of our new Strategic Professional exams in September 2018. 

Although we had another record intake of new members, we continued to see falling member retention. We ended the year 0.5% behind our target, with overall retention of 97.4%. Satisfaction levels tell us that we are increasingly in tune with members’ needs but we will look specifically at our member retention drivers in the coming year.

'We’re continuing to roll out our ACCA Qualification innovations and working more closely than ever with learning providers to bring them on this journey with us.'

Our future focus

With the significant changes we’re bringing to the market through our ACCA Qualification innovations, we’ll need to continue to work hard with all our stakeholders – especially our learning partners and employers – to ensure they are adopted successfully. The whole organisation will therefore be focusing on this single shared strategic priority during 2018-19.

We’ve also reorganised our global markets portfolio for 2018-19, moving from five to six key portfolios. This includes new expanded regions of Greater China, ASEAN and ANZ, and Africa, better reflecting regional economic links and synergies.  

And to reinforce our leadership position and our commitment to shaping the profession and delivering value to society, we’ve broadened our strategic vision to be #1 in developing the profession the world needs for the remainder of our current strategy.

In addition to our strong performance foundations, we believe we have better tools than ever to help us plan for ACCA’s future. We’ve now mapped out the entirety of our strategic change to 2021-22, so we have a clear view of the complete transformation we need to deliver in the medium term. Our immediate future will include developing our next strategy to 2025 and work on this will begin in earnest in the coming year. We’ll also begin the reforms to our Governance structures which will give us even greater agility – a key imperative for the global environment of today and tomorrow. 

Our strong foundations have been built as a result of powerful connections. ACCA’s continued progress relies on the success of our members, students, learning providers, employers and many other key stakeholders. We thank every part of this incredible global network for making 2017-18 such a landmark year for ACCA.

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Helen Brand OBE
Chief Executive

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