Accounting regulatory bodies are essential for ensuring that accountants, actuaries, and auditors are trained to a common standard and held to a code of ethics and good practice. In the UK, the top level of oversight is performed by the FRC, or Financial Reporting Council.


While FRC does not train or certify accountants, they serve as an independent regulator of professional bodies and set the UK’s Corporate Governance and Stewardship Codes. The FRC recognises six professional accountancy bodies, for which they provide oversight. This includes handling complaints regarding the actions of these bodies as a whole.

What is the role of professional accountancy bodies?

These professional accountancy bodies each oversee their own accountant qualifications, which differ in the details but often conform to internationally recognised standards. The bodies are responsible for setting and conducting exams, which candidates must pass in order to receive their qualification and be recognised as members of the professional body. Aside from exams, these qualifications also require candidates to have a certain amount of work experience to be eligible.


In addition, professional bodies provide support for their members in various ways, including conducting research to advance the field of accounting. Importantly, these bodies are also responsible for handling complaints regarding their members.

Who are the six main professional accountancy bodies?

The six professional bodies recognised by the FRC are the ACCA, CAI, CIMA, CIPFA, ICAEW and ICAS. All of these, except the CAI, are members of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), which is the largest global accountancy organisation. The IFAC holds no power to authorise professional bodies in the UK, but membership with IFAC demonstrates a commitment to the international standards used by its 180 member bodies.

The ACCA was formed in 1904, with the aim to allow more open access to the profession than was offered by ICAEW and ICAS at the time. In 1909, they were the first professional accountancy body to admit a female member.


The ACCA is a truly global accountancy body, with 241,000 members and 542,000 students across 178 countries. Members hold the qualification of Chartered Certified Accountant.



Established in 1888, CAI now represents 31,000 members, including roughly 1900 members overseas. The Irish Chartered Accountancy qualification is fully recognised by the  dominant accountancy body in the US (AICPA), one of the few finance and accountancy qualifications to have such valuable recognition.

CIMA awards qualifications to management accountants, who partner with a company’s management to create planning and performance management systems, using their financial expertise to help create an organisation’s business strategy.

The CIMA qualification does not include audit, and members therefore  cannot perform an audit.

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CIPFA touts itself as the only professional accountancy body in the world dedicated exclusively to public finance. The FRC revoked the recognition of CIPFA as an audit qualifying body in 2017, meaning it cannot authorise its 14,000 members to perform audits

The ICAEW was formed in 1880, and currently has over 198,000 members in 147 countries. The institute is also a founding member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), a global collective that works to support and promote the role of chartered accountants.

The ICAS is the world’s first professional body of chartered accountants, having received its Royal Charter in 1854. Since the mid-1990s, ICAS has also trained students living in England and Wales, which puts it in competition with ICAEW.  ICAS currently has around 23,000 members and trains around 3,700 students.

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