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In January 2019 the Edinburgh Group (EG), a coalition of 16 accountancy bodies from across the world, published ‘The SMP of the future in a changing world’ looking at the challenges and opportunities that small and medium-sized practices (SMPs) and professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) face in today’s fast-changing world. The extensive research included an SMP survey eliciting 1,906 responses from 52 countries, a survey of and interviews with staff in EG PAOs, and a series of SMP case studies. It also drew on existing professional and academic literature on SMPs.

Eamonn Siggins, Chairman of the Edinburgh Group and Chief Executive of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland (CPA Ireland) provides an overview of the research:

As covered in ‘How to Support the SMP of the Future’ the report shows that PAOs play three primary roles that they need to undertake coherent activities in: 1) creating a space for interaction between members, 2) publicly representing their members and 3) monitoring members’ compliance with PAO expectations.

The EG report recommends that PAOs should segment their membership in order to better understand the needs of their SMP members. They should also:

  • Be proactive in anticipating and understanding evolutions in the accountancy profession and support SMPs in obtaining and/or developing the skills needed now and in future to meet the ever-changing expectations/needs of their clients;
  • Help SMPs identify and address national/regional challenges and opportunities;
  • Provide their SMP members with advice on managing their practice;
  • Consider supporting SMP innovation in, for example, the services provided by introducing new qualifications and certificates;
  • Promote, encourage and facilitate networking among SMPs and between SMPs and SMEs;
  • Partner with IT companies to create and expand awareness of new technologies among accountants;
  • Publicly support and represent the accountancy profession by, for example, collaborating with relevant government agencies and supporting initiatives with universities and high schools to create awareness of opportunities in the accountancy profession.

In order to help PAOs in their considerations of how to support SMPs of the future, EG representatives have shared insights and knowledge on how their member organizations have focused on delivering innovative support and solutions:

Andrew Hunter, Chief Executive, CPA Australia:


Elbano de Nuccio, IFAC Board Member and President, Ordine dei Dottori Commercialisti and Esperti Contabili of Bari:


Dr Nuruddeen Abba Abdullahi, Chief Executive, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria:


Eamonn Siggins, Chief Executive, CPA Ireland and Chair, Edinburgh Group:



Christopher Arnold


Christopher Arnold is a Director at the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). He leads activities on contributing to and promoting the development, adoption and implementation of high-quality international standards, including the Member Compliance Program, Intellectual Property and Translations. Christopher is also responsible for IFAC’s SME (small- and medium-sized entities), SMP (small- and medium-sized practices) and research initiatives, which include developing thought leadership, public policy and advocacy. He was previously an Audit Manager for Deloitte and qualified as a professional accountant in a mid-tier accountancy practice in London (now called PKF-Littlejohn LLP). Christopher started his career as a Small Business Policy Adviser at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).