Our work recognises that in order to guide and foster professional ethos, we need to go beyond identifying arbitrary professional skills and knowledge that our members need. Instead, to revive the notion of ‘professionalism‘, we need to engage in a deeper discussion about the social purpose that our professionals serve, and to plan for the professional values and virtues that our professional institution aims to foster in its members.
With this project, we want to revive the notion of the ‘virtuous professional‘ who is not merely a competent technician that follows professional rules and procedures. Instead ‘virtuous professional’ blends moral and intellectual qualities that enable her to achieve the public good she has committed to and professed. We emphasise the need for deeper understanding of ‘common good’ that determines the obligations and virtues needed from the accountancy professional.
Instead of focusing on the desired skills and behaviours of professionals, we also recognise that we need to take account of the conditions and culture that foster and encourage such qualities and behaviours. An important part of our approach is to understand things systemically, through presenting a metaphor of the ‘journey of becoming a professional‘ – the stages through which individuals become aware, develop values, interests and flourish as a professionals.
Identifying and cultivating these virtues is essential especially in the face of automation and the rapidly changing socio- economic context. Fostering these qualities might provide a way for chartered accountants to adapt and sustainably add value where technology could otherwise supersede specific technical and administrative skills.
In our recent report “Ethos“, we explore the virtues and purpose that guide our profession, which aims to help us better understand the specific attributes that chartered accountants should embrace and develop.
In this paper, we bring attention to the concept of ethos and emphasise the significance of character, qualities and purpose as necessary in guiding the work of ICAEW chartered accountants. We aim to unpack these and integrate them in the concept of ethos for the profession. While this builds on familiar grounds, it also raises some challenges the profession needs to think about. We believe that by helping chartered accountants to understand better and define the nature and purpose of their profession, we can assist their personal development and redefine the perception of the profession.