13 May 2020: Strategic performance update from the president and chair of the Council Board, Jenny Gu, and chief executive, Helen Brand

In light of external conditions, ACCA is giving advance notice of its year-end strategic performance. We trust this provides members, future members and our partners with confidence in ACCA’s ability to carry on developing and operating effectively and efficiently while the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak are being felt.

As we adapt to meet the continuing challenges of the pandemic, our main priority remains supporting our members and future members through the crisis.

At this unprecedented time, we’re all dealing with a strange new reality and the restrictions and challenges it is bringing. ACCA is working hard to support our members and other stakeholders, recognising that sharing ideas, advice and innovative thinking is essential.

In March, we developed a Covid-19 online hub containing relevant information and insights for members and other stakeholders – such as regularly updated economic analysis, CPD resources for members, signposting to sources of business support from government and other agencies, and advice on how businesses can plan through a crisis.

During 2020-21, our focus will be firmly on meeting the needs of our members and future members and helping them succeed, in whatever way we can.

Strategic performance for the year ended 31 March 2020
In this final year of its strategy to 2020, ACCA recorded strong performance against its balanced scorecard of measures, meeting four of the six targets set by Council:

2019-20 result

2019-20 target

227,332 members

226,400 members

544,446 students and affiliates

551,600 students and affiliates

£2.3m net operating surplus (before tax); subject to audit

£1m net operating surplus (before tax)

One of three student progression elements met

Three of three elements

81.3%* overall member, student and affiliate satisfaction

80%* overall satisfaction

Eight of ten brand power elements met

Eight of ten

* survey measures for members, affiliates and students are judged achieved if within +/- 1.5% of the target to allow for accepted survey variations.

These results and the strong fundamentals they represent mean that ACCA is in a good position to cope with the challenges and uncertainties the pandemic is continuing to create. However, since the initial outbreak in China and the consequent cancellation of some of our March exams, we have been actively preparing for, and mitigating against, a wider and more prolonged impact.

We will be publishing fuller information about this and all our performance measures in our integrated report on 31 July 2020.

Approaching the 2020-21 performance year
On 1 April, we launched a new strategy, designed to take ACCA successfully to 2025. The impact of Covid-19 so far has demonstrated that this strategy has both the robustness and flexibility to enable ACCA to withstand highly testing conditions. Our focus on agility and innovation in our operations has enabled us to divert resources to more digital services and support for all our stakeholders, prepare for offering an exam sitting in July in markets where centres can be operated, and accelerate our plans for remote exam supervision, if needed.

While we ended 2019-20 in a healthy financial position, we have nevertheless felt significant revenue impacts from the cancellation of exams in March and/or June in very many countries around the world, changing recruitment cycles, and the pause in economic activity globally.

Alongside the examining mitigations outlined above, we have also taken several steps to ensure ACCA’s financial sustainability and keep us in the strongest position to compete and deliver. This includes applying the utmost fiscal prudence to every aspect of our activities.

We have repurposed activity to focus on additional digital engagement and delivery and delayed strategic investments that are not integral to our areas of critical strategic focus for the coming year.

In terms of our people costs, salaries have been frozen, recruitment paused, and bonus payments in respect of 2019-20 performance have been removed.

We have planned for a range of different scenarios, with responses ready to be put into action, as and when required. Our revised governance structure – with our Council Board meeting more regularly and enabling us to respond quickly and decisively to evolving conditions – has proved to be a particular asset.

Areas of critical strategic focus
The challenges we are all facing have informed our three areas of critical strategic focus for 2020-21. By delivering against these, we believe we'll enhance our resilience and ability to achieve our strategic aims – and, most importantly, help our members and future members weather the present storm. These focus areas are:

·         exam delivery and innovation: we’ll seek to run exams wherever and however we can, so that future members carry on progressing in their journey to membership, and we’ll deliver the innovations we need to do this at pace

·         member and future member support and retention: our members and our future members lie at the heart of our success and we’ll take an agile approach to delivering value for all of them, strengthening our communications and offering the solutions they most need to meet their challenges

·         financial sustainability: we’ll practise a deeply cost-conscious approach in everything we do and continue to take proactive steps to plan for a range of scenarios with appropriate financial mitigations to keep ACCA strong.

We’ll continue to keep members, future members and our partners informed and involved as we innovate to provide even greater value for all of them in the year ahead.

In this time of global crisis, the power of a global family of members and future members has never been more important. We’re gaining fantastic inspiration from your work, as you play a key role in steering your organisations and clients through the challenges. By continuing to work together, we can make a real positive difference to the economies we work in and the people they serve.