ICAEW granted authority to license ABSs

The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) has become the first non-legal entity with powers to regulate probate services and license alternative business structures (ABSs). 

ICAEW is the accountancy profession’s largest regulatory body and the primary regulator of the ‘big four’ accountants.

The institute’s new regulatory powers were granted by a statutory designation order approved by parliament today and it is expected to start issuing licences in September.

It means that ICAEW chartered accountants and ABSs licensed by the institute will be able to provide probate services directly to consumers.

ICAEW executive director Vernon Soare said more than 250 firms had already expressed an interest receiving accreditation.

“We believe this number will grow significantly once the opportunities afforded by probate and the use of ABSs are more fully understood,” he added.

Accountants attracted new scrutiny from the legal profession earlier this year when PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) became the first of the big four to have its legal arm licensed as an ABS (31 January 2014).

PwC and EY are believed to been prominent players in lobbying for the new powers to be granted.

The addition of ICAEW as a licensing authority may pave the way for smaller private client and tax accountants to enter the market, according to Smith & Williamson head of professional practices Giles Murphy.

Soare said the extension of licensing powers to the ICAEW was “practical evidence of the role that the Legal Services Board is playing in transforming the provision of legal services and giving more choice to the consumer”.