'Professional accountants benefit from global brands and they also build and develop them through their skills and expertise' said Neil Stevenson, executive director-brand at ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), in a presentation he gave to delegates from CICPA (China Institute of Certified Public Accountant) in Beijing, about the principles of branding and how it applies to the accountancy profession.
Mr Stevenson adds: 'We see the value of branding in the ability to differentiate the offering of a particular firm and to provide a compelling reason for the client to choose that firm over other providers. In an increasingly competitive world, this is of increasing importance to the long-term success of the firms. The difference lies in image, public value and people in the firm who embody the brand and its values.'
Neil Stevenson spoke about how employees’ values are a part of their organisations’ brands. If the firm offers wrong advice, the impact of the damage on its reputation can be immense. He further explained that a brand symbolises the experience the organisation has to offer to its clients.
His presentation also drew on how ACCA uses its own brand to promote what it does and how its members can use it to their advantage too.
He said: 'We believe that it is appropriate to talk about ACCA as a brand in the context of the aspirations of our members and the image and values we wish to project as an organisation to our partners, employers, regulators and policy makers.'
He added: 'This presentation ties in with ACCA’s public value agenda, as getting an organisation’s branding right is key to helping ensure its clients, and the wider public, value what it is doing.
'ACCA’s own values have remained constant since it was established more than 100 years ago, with a mission to offer an accounting qualification to people of ability and application, irrespective of their backgrounds. We abide by core values of opportunity, diversity, innovation, accountability and integrity.
'At the heart of our brand, supporting the integrity of our brand, are the members. It is the skills, expertise and professional standards – including ethical conduct – of our members which is at the heart of our brand reputation. For every member who is doing an excellent job in his or her workplace, bringing the value that is required by his or her employer, the ACCA brand is enhanced in the eyes of its most important primary user: the employer. For this reason, professional bodies should see their codes of ethics and regulation of their members’ activities as central to the brand reputation, without which they are unable to provide a framework of quality assurance which underpins the reputation of the members collectively and the brand specifically.'
Neil Stevenson concluded: 'Branding is at the heart of modern professional services firms and I believe it is truly relevant to the accountancy profession, not least so that its value can be enhanced. Consolidation, competition and the needs of clients in the global economy have driven a greater emphasis on branding. Branding is not a discipline which should be seen as the opposite to quality, integrity and good service. Rather, it should be viewed as the means for a firm to articulate how it is client centric and brings value, quality and consistency and a distinct offering to clients.'
Neil Stevenson also asserted that accountants help to build brands: 'Reputation management is perhaps the greatest area in which professional accountants can support world class brands. Brand value can be destroyed in an instant through poor management or policies. Professional accountants can play a vital role in assuring the reputation of the company and its brand, across the full spectrum of areas that can give rise to poor reputation, such as economic, social and governance areas, the integrity of the supply chain, transparency and ethics. Consumers are increasingly concerned with what lies beneath their brands. Accountants are well placed to provide a guarantee which benefits both business and brands. Communicating the whole story and being transparent helps with a firm’s reputation.'