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2020 All-Member Survey

Sep 30, 2020

Brendan O’Hora reports on the findings of the 2020 All-Member Survey.

For more than a decade, Chartered Accountants Ireland has surveyed its members every two years to track levels of satisfaction and identify their needs and perspectives. This summer’s survey was markedly different. Reflecting the challenging social and economic circumstances across the island and beyond, this survey focused on members’ experiences of COVID-19 and how members have been coping in their business and personal lives, while also recording views on the Institute’s performance in serving its members.

The survey was conducted in June by independent research agency, Coyne Research, and built on other flash surveys undertaken in the wake of the lockdown. All members who had provided an email address to the Institute were invited to participate. Almost 1,900 members completed the survey, a 10% increase on the last survey in 2018. This is much appreciated as this level of participation helps us build a much more accurate picture of member experience.

The survey was launched just a month before the publication of the Institute’s new strategy, Strategy24. Many issues of importance that emerged in members’ responses also resonate through our new strategy, reflecting the level of member contribution to the strategy development process.

Impact of COVID-19 on members

Membership of Chartered Accountants Ireland means being part of a network of professionals, working in support of each other. Therefore, it is now vitally important that the Institute understands how members have been managing during the COVID-19 crisis so we can respond with new initiatives and services.

The survey included several questions assessing the impact of the pandemic on every aspect of members’ lives, and members engaged openly and candidly with these questions.

Economic uncertainty is evident in every part of the economy, and it is clear that our members are in no way inured. One in five members expect some changes to their current role because of the pandemic.

Wellbeing

When questioned as to the impact of COVID-19 on various aspects of members’ daily lives, 40% responded that it had had a negative effect on their physical health. In contrast, one in three members claimed that the pandemic led to a positive impact on their physical health. More than half of members report that their mental health has been negatively impacted.

Around half of all members report that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their financial security, with members in practice more likely to agree with this statement.

CA Support

Awareness of the Institute’s member support service, CA Support, stands at 80% with awareness higher among males and those aged over 40. Of the services provided by CA Support, respondents indicated that they were most interested in accessing support in the areas of mental health and resilience, retirement planning, and financial planning.

Impact of COVID-19 on firms

The survey asked members to compare the financial position of their business or practice before the start of the pandemic with the present day, and the contrast was stark. For members in business, 83% said that their organisations had been either stable or expanding before COVID-19, dropping sharply to 38% post-lockdown. For firms in practice, the contraction was more acute. 93% of members in practice considered their firms to be stable or growing at the start of the year, but 63% changed their description post-COVID-19 to being somewhat impacted or struggling.

Over half of all members stated that returning staff safely to work is one of the top three challenges facing their business/organisation over the next 18 months. A higher proportion of members in practice were concerned with liquidity/cashflow (45%) as well as meeting spikes in demand (25%).

Economic recovery

Members were also asked to estimate the length of time before our economies return to 2019/early 2020 levels. The average answer was just under two years, subject to subsequent twists and turns in the public health crisis.

Satisfaction with the Institute

Looking at Institute-related results, the standard benchmark questions on satisfaction and relevance were once again included. Satisfaction with membership of Chartered Accountants Ireland remains high and consistent with 2018, and there has been a 4% decrease in those claiming to be dissatisfied. Results were consistent across business and practice, though Republic of Ireland satisfaction levels surpassed their Northern Ireland equivalent.

The perceived relevance of membership scored highly, and scores for lower relevance dropped by nearly 10%. More than two in five members said that membership represented good or very good value for money, similar to 2018.

In terms of the relevance of communications received from the Institute, encouragingly two in three members described themselves as satisfied. This represents an increase of 24% since 2018, with those dissatisfied with how we communicate down significantly by -14%.

Net promoter score

The net promoter score (NPS) is a widely recognised measure to assess members’ likelihood to recommend the qualification. This is an exacting metric, and even for brand leaders, NPS sometimes tends towards single-digit results. It was, therefore, encouraging to see the Institute’s NPS increase to +44%, an uptick of 3% since 2018, with over half of members regarded as promoters. NPS ratings from members in business shaded those in practice, while the Republic of Ireland figures slightly exceeded the Northern Ireland equivalent.

Members services

Members were invited to rate a range of Institute services based on their experience and degree of satisfaction. Accountancy Ireland and our suite of electronic newsletters ranked most highly, but the standout results were for the new suite of webinars and online CPD, developed and launched to satisfy members’ professional training requirements during the lockdown. The new COVID-19 hub on the Institute’s website also received a strong reception from members.

The 2020 All-Member Survey points to a profession that is coming to terms with the harshest economic and personal challenges in decades and is already planning for future recovery. Over recent months, teams across the Institute have responded rapidly to member needs with new online professional development platforms, consistently effective and targeted advocacy and representation on behalf of members, and enhanced communications and webinars.

Chartered Accountants Ireland is of its members and for its members, so member satisfaction is the most critical measure of our performance. Member satisfaction remains consistent with 2018, and there is also a high level of satisfaction with communications to members. Our recently launched Strategy24 will help us grow these figures even further, with a strong focus on optimising member experience and further strengthening the relevance and reach of the Institute’s voice. 

While the overall research findings are very positive, specific challenges remain for individual segments of our membership, and these will receive a particular focus. The Leadership Team has begun to address some of the immediate issues, and we will work with the Members Board to bring these insights into the 2021 business plan and our implementation of Strategy24.

Brendan O’Hora is Director, Members, at Chartered Accountants Ireland.