Big issues about STEP – the 2021 consultation

With around 750 members responding in detail to the STEP 2021 consultation members’ survey, we can be statistically comfortable that we have an accurate snapshot of member opinion. We are starting detailed analysis but what are the issues that immediately jump out?

  • Members overwhelmingly want STEP to have a stronger relationship with employers – 87 per cent ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’; only 0.5 per cent ‘disagreed’. The world of private client practice is changing from one of small partnerships and sole practitioners to one where many members work in larger managed organisations where there are human resources, strategic and education decision-makers as well as practitioner decision-makers. STEP has to meet the strategic needs of these organisations as employers as well as meeting the needs of STEP’s primary constituency – you the members.
  • Quality really is more important than quantity – 83 per cent of respondents ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ with this statement – less than 1 per cent ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’. The implications suggest that if anyone has plans for some massive increase in membership, perhaps through lowering the entry standards in developing countries, such plans are not going to meet with  any ;support and would be seen to undermine the brand.
  • Opinion on STEP as a regulator is finely balanced – a small majority, 56 per cent are against STEP being a regulator, but 55 per cent felt it would be okay for STEP to be a regulator in certain jurisdictions. Other questions and discussions with members, plus initial branch meetings suggest that members see STEP’s first and original role as an educator as primary. However, members recognise the complex external factors which mean that STEP may sometimes have to take on a regulatory role in future because the government directs or STEP knows it has to regulate to sustain its role as an educator.
  • Members see strong value in online education – 55 per cent of members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’, only 3.5 per cent ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’, but how could STEP develop this while not undermining the value of face-to-face training, in-depth learning, networking and a feeling of belonging?
  • 41 per cent of members are willing to volunteer to help in some aspect of STEP’s work – yet on the other hand, at the STEP leadership level there is perception that it is getting harder and harder to attract volunteers. As Chief Executive, I then have to ask if the problem is with those of us leading STEP now? Perhaps we are not finding the right ways to present attractive roles or to ask potential volunteers to volunteer?
  • STEP needs to move from exclusive society to professional excellence – 65 per cent ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’, while only 3.5 per cent disagreed with the statement. This raises questions about admission to membership and about what a professional body does against a trade association or the club that STEP was originally set up as when times were different. It also raises questions about where STEP branches are on their journey between club and professional body and whether members themselves sometimes now have a stronger affiliation to STEP than to their law society or accountancy body.
  • Value for money – 80 per cent ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ that STEP offers value for money and only 1.25 per cent ‘strongly disagree’ or ‘disagree’. In the discussion section of the survey, there were many observations and ideas about value for money today and what it needs to be in the future. Just as members are forever pressurised to provide value, there are many ways in which STEP can sharpen what it offers.

Detailed analysis of the survey results will be published before the end of August.

Keep up-to-date with Consultation 2021 meeting developments

David Harvey, STEP Chief Executive

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