The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) has approved its first alternative business structure licence.
The representative body, accepted as an approved regulator in August, has granted a licence to south-east firm Kingston Smith.
The ABS means the firm, in the top 20 of chartered accountants, with a headcount of more than 400, can carry out probate work.
The announcement comes on the day that accountancy giant KPMG was approved as an ABS – although that licence was through the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The ICAEW spent more than two years trying to become an approved regulator and says around 250 firms are queued up to apply for an ABS.
Vernon Soare, ICAEW executive director, said: ‘This will open up the marketplace for the consumer, who might want their accountant to handle legal services too. We also knew that members were keen to offer these services and having more providers should make the market more competitive.’
Sir Michael Snyder, senior partner at Kingston Smith, said the licence will take away the need for outside parties to be involved with its clients, with the accountancy firm able to offer a ‘truly holistic suite’ of probate services.
Snyder is a prominent figure in the City, co-chairing the Professional Services Competitiveness Group.
Chris Kenny, chief executive of the Legal Services Board, welcomed the development and said it was an important step on the road to ‘more consumer choice, innovation and competition’ in the provision of legal services.
‘I hope that this is the first of many probate licences issued as ICAEW commences its role as a regulator in the legal services sector,’ he added.
The ICAEW is the accountancy profession’s most prestigious body with more than 142,000 members.