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Strategy and risk

Risks & management

Our risks and their management

Our corporate risk register records the top cross-cutting risks and uncertainties we believe ACCA faces. These risks, should they crystallise, have been judged to pose a significant threat to the successful delivery of our strategy and our longer-term sustainability.

We continually assess risks and opportunities relating to our strategic outcomes and revise our risks accordingly. Risks on the corporate risk register are either escalated from the directorate level risk registers through respective directorate governance and risk meetings or included as a result of recommendations from the Executive team, Audit Committee or ACCA’s risk manager. 

These risks cover a range of issues, with 10 risks currently recorded on our corporate level risk register (compared to 10 for the year ending 31 March 2017).

Ownership and oversight

Each corporate level risk is owned by a member of the Executive team with the entire Executive team reviewing all corporate level risks every month to reflect any market, legislative and/or operational developments and adjusting mitigation and threat levels accordingly. As a result, new corporate risks are added and existing risks de-prioritised as appropriate. 

Audit Committee exercises independent oversight of both all ACCA’s corporate risks (undertaking detailed review of each risk on a rolling basis) and our Enterprise Risk Management Framework.

Key changes to our corporate risks in 2017-18

Removals 

Because we have developed stronger governance over pricing strategies and been able to manage greater flexibility successfully, the loss of students to alternate qualifications as a result of pricing strategies has been de-escalated to our Market directorate risk register. 

Additions 

We added one risk in 2017-18, which recognises the potential impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the need to keep both risks and opportunities under continual review so we minimise any adverse impact on ACCA. 

Risk appetite 

In line with our vision, we are committed to a bold and innovative approach to market development, so that we can maintain our reputation for being at the forefront of responding to market needs. Because the integrity of our qualification is at the heart of our brand, our corporate-level risks have a strong focus on minimising threats to the standing and value of the ACCA brand.

Risk appetite definitions:

Hungry: eager to be innovative and choose options offering potential higher rewards, despite greater inherent risk.

Open: willing to consider all potential options with a bias towards options likely to prioritise the certainties of successful delivery over potentially high-reward strategies.

Averse: preference for safer options which have a lower level of residual risk but which may have more limited upside potential. 

Corporate risks

  • Inability to accurately forecast income and costs (raised 2014)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Sustain

    • Risk appetite 

      Open

    • Mitigation

      Income governance group in place; monthly monitoring of financial performance; global focus on plans to increase exam uptake and enhance student progression.

  • Restrictions on our ability to operate (raised 2014)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Attract

    • Risk appetite

      Hungry

    • Mitigation

      Cross-organisation review group reports to the Executive team monthly on recognition risks, which is provided to the Market Oversight Committee, with specific mitigations taken on a market-by-market basis.

  • Increased competition attracting potential students to other career development paths (raised 2014)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Attract

    • Risk appetite

      Hungry

    • Mitigation

      Ongoing review of marketplace and alternative offerings through a programme of global competitor monitoring, with oversight from the Market Oversight Committee.

  • Failure to comply with legislation in countries where we operate (raised 2014)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Lead

    • Risk appetite

      Open

    • Mitigation

      Dedicated team of regional business support managers who actively manage ACCA’s national and regional compliance risks, with guidance from ACCA’s global Corporate Assurance team. Global delivery of employee training on compliance issues.

  • Information security breaches (raised 2014)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Flexible delivery

    • Risk appetite

      Open

    • Mitigation

      Defined security strategy, encompassing a vulnerability management process and information security awareness training.

  • Operational failures in our end-to-end exam processes (raised 2014)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Operational excellence

    • Risk appetite

      Averse

    • Mitigation

      Exam contingency group in place to monitor potential disruption to exams with plans reviewed for each session. Robust exam results and processes and controls in place and strategic supplier governance model in place.

  • Regulatory action resulting from control failures in the end-to-end qualification process (raised 2014)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Operational excellence

    • Risk appetite

      Averse

    • Mitigation

      A comprehensive range of physical and digital controls of the entire end-to-end process. Ongoing monitoring of compliance with primary educational recognition (Ofqual) and continuous engagement with education regulatory environment. 

  • ACCA’s network not ready, willing or able to support ACCA’s Qualification and business model changes (raised 2016)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Sustain

    • Risk appetite

      Open

    • Mitigation

      Market adoption change programme and leadership in place, with a cross-organisational focus on maximising the impact and adoption of the ACCA Qualification changes for 2018-19. 

  • Changing ACCA student mix (geographies and demographics) leading to progression challenges (raised 2017)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Develop

    • Risk appetite

      Hungry

    • Mitigation

      Full suite of learning support provided through ACCA’s website, which is being continually reviewed and expanded. Analytical tool developed and employed to identify student progression challenges and plan interventions.

  • Challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit (raised 2017)

    • Relates to strategic outcome

      Sustain

    • Risk appetite

      Open

    • Mitigation

      Brexit oversight and working groups established. Links with UK government strengthened, including providing support for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Trade and Investment.

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