AS CHAIRMAN of an international accountancy organisation, I regularly attend conferences where I meet other members of my profession. While we all come from a diverse range of backgrounds, one particular group of people always seems to be under-represented: the younger generation.
At 58, I can’t consider myself young and, indeed, most of the people I meet at conferences are senior or managing partners in their 50s or above. While, for many of these people, attending such events is something of a perk, it doesn’t help take our profession forward.
We need new blood to come in and take us forward in new areas of business, new areas of discussion and new ways of running our profession. I believe that the older we get, the more closed-in our views become. The younger generation has the strength and ambition to create a more open profession, particularly in an age where accountancy is becoming much more globalised.
For example, my youngest daughter, who works for my firm, suggested that there was more money to be made from a payroll service we had previously only viewed as a sideline. She went away, researched the matter thoroughly and then turned around our payroll department from a one-woman band to a nine-person team in just nine months. Lots of UK companies invest in Spain and they want to deal with accountants who can speak English and handle matters such as payroll. My daughter saw the potential in this and helped move the business forward.
We must also start to rely on younger partners and managers with knowledge of technology, including the internet, and the ability to relate to it quickly.
From speaking to firms in places such as Latin America and India, I know that the profession is not as developed as it is in the West. These firms have told me their young people would benefit greatly from training from Western organisations which, again, is where our younger generation could really shine in taking the profession forward globally.
Organisations such as IAPA and the UK200Group are both working to engage younger people in helping shape the future of accountancy. The UK200Group, for example, introduced the David Turnbull award – named after its late founder – to encourage younger members to attend its annual conference. It also organised a national charity relay event last year, designed to involve people at all levels in fund-raising. IAPA has started a series of regional one-day conferences in Europe for the younger partners.
The bottom line is this: there are a lot of younger people in the profession with a great deal to contribute – we just need to engage them. Encouraging them to attend conferences where they can meet others and share their ideas could be the turning point.
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