I’m not sure if anyone has seen the ad campaign for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia titled ‘CA. Employ our thinking’. Although I was initially amused to see it, I was appalled at the level to which the Institute has stooped. You wouldn’t see lawyers advertising “engage our cunning.”

While the slogan is good, I don’t believe that the Institute should engage in television advertising. The extensive studies and training that we endure to become CAs and the positions we occupy in business, government and the community ensure that we are highly regarded.

Ultimately, it is our reputation, as long as we safeguard it (for some that’s the hard part) that affects our employment opportunities, not a cheesy TV advertisement.

Now, being an accountant myself, it’s only natural that I throw some numbers out. In its 2004 annual report, the Institute recorded a profit of $2.6 million and is sitting with a cash pile of over $27 million. This is after they’ve spent nearly $7 million on marketing. Clearly, the institute has money to burn. With more than 40,000 members paying annual fees of around $680 each, the Institute has a significant recurring income stream. What’s next, an IPO?

Any professional body should have its members at the forefront of its mind, not how to cream them. Leaving a budget of, lets say a generous $2 million for “marketing” and eradicating the profit motive, I’m guessing membership fees could be reduced to under $500 each. Easy.

Another point of interest is that according to the Institute’s Charter and By-Laws, members are not entitled to dividends. It’s our profit, why not?

Instead of wasting members’ contributions on fruitless campaigns, perhaps the Institute should do the unthinkable – lower its fees. At least this would entail a real benefit for members.

It will be interesting to see in the upcoming 2005 annual report what the Institute has done with its $27 million cash pile, and how much profit it records.