24/09/2013 - 13:08

Better business by association

24/09/2013 - 13:08

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Professional associations in WA have recorded significant growth in membership over the past five years.

Better business by association
AICD WA state manager Suzanne Ardagh.

THE growth in the state’s workforce and increased demand for professional education during the past five years has enabled some of the state’s professional associations to significantly lift their membership.

The Western Australian branch of the Australian Institute of Company Directors has led the way, with 52 per cent growth in membership to about 4,000.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Law Society have also expanded rapidly, with their WA membership up by more than one third over the same period.

Professional associations are widening their scope in the bid to attract new members, including rebranding, as evidenced by Chartered Secretaries Australia’s move to change its name to Governance Australia this month.

Research for Business News Book of Lists has also highlighted developments in some of the big industry associations.

Most notably, the Motor Trade Association merged in May with the Motor Industry Training Association, more than doubling its staff numbers to 63.

The WA Local Government Association (up 17 to 107 staff) and the Master Builders Association (up 8 to 32 staff) have also expanded.

The growth in membership at the local branch of the AICD, from 2,630 to 4,000, puts it well ahead of other state associations.

AICD WA division manager Suzanne Ardagh said this reflected the organisation’s focus on providing information, education and advocacy by directors, for directors.

“We are very aware of making ourselves completely relevant to our members,” Ms Ardagh told Business News.

“My view is if they’re going to come and spend two hours after work at an event, it has to really be worth their while; so we work very hard to make sure that everything we do is of the highest professional level because we’re dealing with professional people.”

While the organisation places a focus on advocacy for issues such as boardroom diversity, its core focus remains education for its members.

Ms Ardagh said the AICD put a strong focus on ensuring directors were up to speed on regulatory reforms and changing legislation, particularly with regard to recent laws that hold directors personally liable for corporate fault.

“Directors are now expected to have a very deep knowledge of companies, which is actually not what a director’s role is,” she said.

“A director is not in management, they are overseeing the management; so it’s a challenge for the directors to keep on top of all of the various issues.”

Despite the growing professional membership base in WA, Ms Ardagh said WA directors still often struggled to be heard on the national stage.

“There is some growing influence but I wouldn’t say it’s massive,” she said.

“I still think the tyranny of distance doesn’t serve us too well.”

Ms Ardagh said the AICD worked hard to provide a support network for its wide range of members, most of whom stayed part of the organisation for many years.

Better-reflecting its market focus was among the reasons behind Chartered Secretaries Australia’s move to change its name to Governance Australia later this month, subject to approval from its members.

CSA chief executive Tim Sheehy said that the 100-year-old organisation’s name no longer reflected its broad focus on corporate governance, nominating risk managers, directors and general counsel as the new breed of members the organisation had attracted in recent years.

He said he hoped the new name would continue to make the organisation, which has added 189 of its 850 WA members over the past five years, more competitive.

“No-one has a market to themselves,” Mr Sheehy told Business News.

“We distinguish ourselves because we set a pretty high bar to enter the organisation. You’ve got to study for a couple of years in most cases so there’s sort of a premier brand that comes with it and we like to think we have the most practical perspective on governance.”

Membership at the CPA’s WA division has seen grown from 8,317 to 10,500 during the past five years, while the Institute of Chartered Accountants WA membership has grown from 3,899 to 5,250 members over the same period.

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