As an all-island organisation, ACCA Ireland has long recognised the value of strong regional representation in ensuring CPD and networking opportunities are accessible to all its members, and has four regional networks: Connaught, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. They are led by panels elected from the membership and which meet four times a year.
The regional member networks play a central role in developing engaging CPD programmes and creating networking opportunities for members, says ACCA Ireland’s member engagement manager Lloyd Meredith. ‘New members bring new perspectives and ideas. I would encourage all network members to see participation at panel level as an opportunity for professional development that also allows them to make a difference in their community.’
‘It is a wonderful working environment that really only requires a few hours of your time over the year’
The Connaught member network hosted the first ever red box event in Ireland in June. The concept emerged in Australia, where ACCA members meeting in bars and cafés use a large red box to identify where they are in the venue.
Billed simply as an opportunity to connect with others and support the local ACCA community, network chair Laura Kelly FCCA says the gathering in Galway city was one of the highlights of the year. ‘It was clear members really appreciated a way to meet with colleagues again.’
A further highlight for Kelly was the sustainability matters event, co-hosted with the Business Leaders Forum and the Ulster network. This virtual event, Kelly says, ‘left me in no doubt that we all need to do more in terms of accountability, action and bringing about change’.
Kelly describes being part of an ACCA panel as ‘a wonderful working environment that really only requires a few hours of your time over the year’, adding: ‘A diverse group of people is needed to represent our community, and you will build amazing connections and enhance your own professional brand working in ACCA panels – you get back so much more than what you put in’.
Looking to the year ahead, she believes that ‘for events to work as networking opportunities we will all need to challenge ourselves to get more creative. We need to adopt hybrid models of delivery where possible.’
‘In 2022, we really saw how virtual meetings could create a new space and new opportunities’
Jamie Renehan FCCA commenced his term as chair of the Leinster member network with the goal of delivering ‘a diverse programme of events that would support the opportunity to network, develop skills and update knowledge while also raising the profile of ACCA and its members throughout Leinster’.
Highlights of the year’s CPD programme included a webinar on whether technology will be an enabler or disruptor for the finance function, and a high-level look at driving value from data in finance (in conjunction with the Business Leaders Forum and DAMA Ireland).
Renehan says: ‘Throughout the year we sought to strike the right balance between online and in-person events to maximise engagement and reach with members.’ In July, an in-person event organised by the network met with great enthusiasm and general agreement it should be a quarterly event going forward. A warm response also greeted the return of the network’s Christmas lunch at the Westin, Dublin, which saw over €5,200 raised for the charity Pieta House.
‘I would stress the value of getting involved. I am delighted I finally did’
Elizabeth Lynch FCCA says the first meeting in 2022 of the Munster member network was ‘a little daunting, personally, as I had not held a chairperson’s role before’, but adding: ‘I need not have worried, as my fellow panel members proved supportive and encouraging.’
Highlights of the year were the provision of international and local insights through the launch of ACCA’s report on global supply chains, and a virtual careers event titled ‘From procrastination to purpose: creating the career you deserve’ (co-hosted with the Leinster network).
Lynch is also hopeful that the membership of the panel will continue to grow in diversity. ‘I would stress the value of getting involved. I am delighted I finally did,’ she says.’
‘We are accessible now for people who might not have considered they had the time in the past’
For Louise Johnston FCCA, being chair of the Ulster member network in 2022 was an opportunity to recognise resilience as a key strength of ACCA and its members. ‘We were able to carry on business as usual yet be ambitious in our approach to events and remain strong advocates for ACCA.’
She highlights the benefit of panel meetings usually being held in the day, often as a working lunch. ‘It’s important to stress just how accessible panel membership now is to people who might not have considered they had the time in the past.’
Collaboration was a hallmark of the network’s CPD activities in 2022, with highlights including an event on the post-Covid evolution of working, co-hosted with the Business Leaders Forum, and a sustainability matters event with the Business Leaders Forum and Connaught member panel. ‘This was an opportunity to talk about sustainability as one issue for all our island, which is not something we often get to do.’ An audience of 800 online broke records for an Ulster network event.
‘In 2022, we really saw how virtual meetings could create a new space and new opportunities,’ Johnson says, and adds: ‘You don’t have to have a long career track-record behind to consider joining a panel. What’s important are the relationships that you build working together.’