Young Leaders Think Tank creates global community of difference makers

Chartered Accountants Worldwide Think Tank Dublin 2024

The inaugural Chartered Accountants Worldwide Global Young Leaders Think Tank has set the stage for a shared vision for the future of the profession

The drive to attract and retain talent is not news for anyone in the trenches of day-to-day recruitment and retention, but for the accountancy profession, the challenge of attracting new entrants is a global one – and a global problem requires global thinking.

To foster exactly this, the Institute was delighted to facilitate the inaugural Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW) Global Young Leaders Think Tank in early January.

The session saw representatives from the next generation of leading professional accountancy organisations come together to discuss their shared vision for the profession. Present at the inaugural Think Tank in Dublin last month were representatives of:

  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA)
  • The Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA)
  • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ)
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS); and
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland.

The CAW Global Young Leaders Think Tank initiative is the brainchild of Sinead Donovan, President of Chartered Accountants Ireland.

After meeting the global delegation representing CAW at last September’s One Young World summit in Belfast, Donovan saw an opportunity to further strengthen the connections forged between members of the CAW delegation at the conference and give these young leaders a lasting platform.

Chartered Accountants Worldwide ThinkTank Dublin 2024 GroupYou can view photos from the event here.

Community of difference makers

“Seeing the energy, enthusiasm and appetite for tangible collaboration amongst the CAW delegation in Belfast, we recognised the opportunity for CAW and its member institutes to derive substantial value from establishing a think tank,” Donovan explains.

“CAW is more than just a worldwide network, we are a community of difference makers and we need to embrace the opportunity to build stronger connections within the global Chartered Accountancy community and amongst our leaders of tomorrow.”

Facilitated by Donovan and Sinead Fox-Hamilton, FCA, Relationship and Professional Development Manager with Chartered Accountants Ireland (and herself a former Chartered Star), the inaugural CAW Global Young Leaders Think Tank took place at Grant Thornton’s Dublin office on Friday, 19 January.

During the session, representatives shared their ideas on how best to communicate with the next generation, how to tackle myths surrounding accountancy careers and potential barriers to entering the profession.

Also on the agenda was their shared insights into what they most value as a member of their respective Institute and the importance they place on their own professional development, now and in the future.

Platform for future strategies

Focused on giving the profession’s young leaders a platform to express their insights freely, the goal of the Think Tank’s first session was to discuss strategies to evolve the profession and engage Gen Z and Gen Alpha to ensure a strong talent pipeline.

Despite differences in paths to qualifications and entry requirements across the jurisdictions, representatives universally agreed that one of the biggest barriers to recruiting the next generation of accountants were the misconceptions that persist about the profession.

These include the mistaken belief that the profession is dull, overly focused on numbers and suitable only for introverted personalities naturally skilled at maths. Combined with a narrow understanding of the various career paths and roles available to Chartered Accountants, these perceptions are limiting the appeal of the profession.

While those in the profession know this couldn’t be further from the truth – with the Think Tank delegation being the very embodiment of the diversity of industries and career paths the qualification opens up – dispelling these outdated myths for the wider public, those not already ‘in the tent’, is key.

The Think Tank participants discussed the need to reposition Chartered Accountancy as the exciting, purpose-driven profession it truly is, emphasising its role in enabling business leadership and fostering innovation. They also highlighted the teamwork inherent in the profession and multitude of potential career paths it offers.

Also highlighted was the ability to travel with the qualification to work overseas and avail of visas in locations not as readily available to other professions and in sectors outside accountancy.

Global opportunities for profession

Think Tank participants identified the mobility of the qualification as a key attraction, particularly in the context of third level students who may have had their key university years curtailed somewhat by COVID-19 restrictions.

Other key areas of discussion included how representatives viewed the value of their membership and what they saw as priorities for lifelong learning.

The group advocated for an increased focus on qualitative skills to reflect the increasingly advisory or consultative nature of the role of the Chartered Accountant in business.

Soft skills identified include communication and presentation skills that could better enable them to articulate the ‘narrative behind the numbers’ and convey their strategic insights and recommendations to businesses and clients.

Among their many recommendations, the group also discussed the importance of fostering skills in relationship management, teamwork, leadership and conflict resolution and the need to include these more in professional development programmes.

Developing these skills in a hybrid or remote work setting was put forward as a big challenge, particularly for students in the post-COVID-19 landscape for whom hybrid working may be their predominant experience of working today.

CAW white paper

The findings and perspectives gathered at the inaugural Think Tank will be summarised in a CAW white paper analysing key trends. This white paper will be circulated to each Institute in its global network to inform their own strategies.

The energy and enthusiasm garnered for this pilot event further cements the need for future Think Tanks, where issues affecting the global accounting community, such as sustainability and technological change, will be discussed and progressed.

The success of the inaugural session has set out a template and vision for a continued series of annual Think Tanks event, hosted by each Institute in the CAW network in turn, all aimed at building stronger connections within the global community of Chartered Accountants and giving future leaders a platform to help shape the profession for future generations.

Among this year’s inaugural delegation were several of Chartered Accountant Ireland’s past Chartered Stars. These included:

  • Michael Walls, Associate Director, Management Consulting, KPMG Ireland;
  • Aisling McCaffrey, Director, Sustainability and Financial Services Advisory, Grant Thornton;
  • Caroline McGroary, Assistant Professor, DCU, Research Fellow and Fullbright Scholar, Boston College; and
  • Patrycja Jurkowska, Global Programme Finance Lead, Self Help Africa.

The international delegation comprised Chartered Accountants working across Ireland and the UK, each representing their own respective Institutes. They included:

  • Jane Carroll, Client Relations Associate with AllianceBernstein in London (but originally from Brisbane representing CAANZ);
  • ISCA representative Joanna Chung, now based in Berlin as a junior consultant with Boston Consulting Group;
  • ICAEW’s James Skilton, Client Manager with London’s Cooper Parry;
  • Lisa Blum, ICAS, Finance Manager at Lloyds Banking Group in Edinburgh;
  • Louise Chunnett, IT Internal Audit Manager, Bidvest Group, based in Dublin and representing SAICA; and
  • Mishka Hajee, Vice President of Internal Audit and Integrated Risk at Citi Bank, also based in Dublin and representing SAICA.


This article was first published by Chartered Accountants Ireland on Feb 08, 2024 at