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Northern Society of Chartered Accountants

At the heart of northern business since 1882

Keith wont be putting his feet up following his retirement 31 December 2017

Keith Proudfoot, our ICAEW Director for Northern and Scotland retires from ICAEW on 31 December 2017.

Keith Proudfoot, ICAEW Director speaking at the recent Teesside Dinner

As the man responsible for the Sheffield to Shetland mega-region created by ICAEW restructuring in April 2017 Jane Walker found out what the role has meant to him and why he’s looking forward to what comes next…

As many members will know you come from an accountancy background – can you tell us a bit about your career before you joined ICAEW?

I like to reflect that, without realising it at the time, I was building my experience across a range of areas in which many of our members work.

Having qualified with one of the large international firms (now KPMG) I then went to work in a small firm in the Durham town of Consett just before the huge steel works closed down, this meant that I got to work with a lot of start-ups due to significant impetus from the European funding made available in the area.

After five years there I moved to head up the finance function at a partnership of Chartered Surveyors, which quadrupled in size during my time there. Due to a clash with a commercial property client I took the opportunity to be part of a MBO of the residential property business, becoming group FD of that business.

When did you start working for ICAEW and how has your role evolved since then?

In 2001 ICAEW created its regional structure, directly employing nine regional managers and 21 Regional executives to support the 21 District Societies and their members across England and Wales.

As an actively engaged member – I was Deputy President of the Northern Society at the time – I was keen to continue my support of ICAEW through employment and successfully applied for the Northern position.

Around that time, members in Scotland were agitating for similar support to that enjoyed by members in the rest of the UK, so my area was expanded to include Scotland and a group of members came together to establish what we know now as ICAEW Scotland – a group that, I’m delighted to say, has gone from strength to strength in that time.

Over the years the area that you cover has grown – it now spans the UK from, as you put it “Sheffield to Shetland” – what were the biggest challenges of dealing with such a geographically large “patch”?

Initially, the main challenge was working out where our members were located, but the real challenge was trying to achieve everything that we, and the members, wanted to do. Quart… pint pot and similar challenges!

But we have, I believe, won that by choosing our areas to grow from, and have been very fortunate to have so many committed Northern Society members willing to give their time to boost the resources that we have from our regional exec Joanne and Alison (who provides event support in Scotland and Northern on “part time” hours).

How has Northern Society changed over the years?

Northern Society has continued to evolve over the last 16 years that I have been RD, continuing to connect our business communities across the North and supporting our ACA students. It has a great tradition (going back to 1882) and I think that provides one of its core strengths but it has innovated too – often leading the way.

The annual Graduation and Prize-Giving Event held in King’s Hall, Newcastle University is a good example. It’s developed into a wonderful event offering ACA students and their families the opportunity to attend a local event so that their exam success could be celebrated without having to travel to London. There also continues to be a wide selection of events, not just the well-regarded CPD courses programme, but things such as the retired members events, FD breakfast briefings as well as active student societies. Many members engage actively with these local events which must show that they value the networking opportunities too.

NCASS – Northern Chartered Accountant Students’ Society supported Sir Bobby Robson Foundation

What are the highlights of your time with ICAEW?

This has been such an enjoyable job – promoting ICAEW to our members, reminding them of resources that can help them in their role, and how easy it can be for their firms to train the next generation of ACAs. I particularly enjoy seeing our students grow though engagement and make connections that they might not have been able to within their training firm.

What are you most proud of professionally?

Seeing people who I first encountered as students growing personally and professionally, moving up in their career, growing in confidence through engagement with more senior volunteer members and becoming ICAEW members – it’s been particularly heartening to see younger members then get involved with Northern Society’s student societies & branches and I’m delighted that several are currently are actively involved with the Northern Society General Committee.

As Regional Director of such a large area you’ve spent plenty of time on trains – have you picked up any travel tips along the way?

I find train journeys are a great opportunity to catch up with emails. Of course trains quite often incur delays, so my top tip would be to just roll with those and crack through even more emails!

What will you miss most about your work with ICAEW?

Meeting members and finding out about their career story and interests – professional and personal – I’m both impressed and amazed that so many of our members are triathletes!

I’ll also miss the speaking opportunities, especially sharing a platform with the Bank of England to talk about the economy and our Business Confidence Monitor each quarter. I started out in the role as quite a reluctant public speaker, but have grown to relish these opportunities.

What are your plans for retirement?

I am open to lucrative offers of work for one day per month! Seriously though, after taking a long holiday in January, I am very much looking forward to being able to spend time with our first grandchild, who is due in late February/early March – it’s perfect timing!

I still currently sit on three arts boards so it will be good to have time to fully support them until my trustee roles come to an end.

I also plan to spend more time taking part in rallies in my classic Mini – so I may well be driving though a town near you very soon!

What are you most looking forward to having more time to do?

Driving my Mini and catching up on my reading – there will be fewer emails to be read and replied to, so it will be good to take the time to read some of the books I’ve not had chance to tackle…

Any words of advice for your successor?

Embrace the diversity of members we have and the roles they’re in, engage with key stakeholders across the North East and Cumbria (as well as the rest of the Sheffield to Shetland area!) and enjoy the job; it’s a big challenge but it’s a hugely rewarding role.

On a more practical note, I’d say that they should aim to keep on top of their emails – an overflowing inbox was the only downside of the role in my view!

With thanks to Jane Walker who interviewed Keith on behalf of Northern Society and ICAEW Members in Scotland (IMS).

Happy retirement from Northern Society

On behalf of our 4,000 ICAEW Chartered Accountants and ACA students across Northern Society of Chartered Accountants, Karen Muir, President and our committee would like to take this opportunity to thank Keith for his great work in supporting northern business, fellow chartered accountants and the wider community.  Many thanks for all that you have done and we wish you a well-earned healthy and enjoyable retirement from ICAEW.


Members of the Northern Society of Chartered Accountants are ICAEW Chartered Accountants.

ICAEW is a world leading professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports more than 147,000 members worldwide.

We provide our members with knowledge and guidance, and ensure ICAEW Chartered Accountants are meeting the highest ethical and technical standards. 

As financial experts we act in the public interest offering insights into business and the economy that help to shape government policy and regulation. Find out more at icaew.com

About Northern Society of Chartered Accountants

Northern Society of Chartered Accountants (NorSCA) represents ICAEW members working in business and the finance profession across the North East of England, Teesside, Northern Yorkshire and Cumbria. We have been assisting businesses in the north of England and producing chartered accountants for over 130 years.

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