25 Neil Wood
FD of London’s Olympic bid
Seconded from Deloitte, Neil Wood will play an integral part in London’s attempt to secure the rights to the host the 2012 Olympic Games. He will take charge of £20m of funding, not a massive sum in big business terms, but it is public money, and if the bid is successful it could lead to more than £2bn being invested in London’s Lower Lea Valley. It will be up to Wood to convince the International Olympic committee that London 2012’s financial planning is sound.
26 Martin Cook
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young vice-chairman, in charge of Inland Revenue Aspire contract
With press reports from last year claiming that hundreds of staff will refuse a position with CGE&Y, Cook has his work cut out if a series of disasters with the Inland Revenue’s IT systems is not to be repeated. His tenure officially begins on 1 July, but he will be keenly involved from this month to try and escape a repeat of this year’s tax credits mess.
27 Sukhbinder Heer
Robson Rhodes, chief operations officer
Since becoming a partner in 1994, Heer has been deeply involved in the management of the firm and as chief operating officer was the man chosen to deliver Robson Rhodes’ bold message that it would grow to a £200m turnover by 2007. On current figures, that would take the firm from twelfth to around fifth or sixth in the country.
28 Frits Bolkestein
EU internal markets commissioner
The Dutchman knows that turning enlargement into an economic success will be the overriding challenge before he steps down this year. Tax harmonisation plans to be revealed early in 2004 will be watched closely by accountants, though opposition will make radical change unlikely.
29 Peter Cussons
International tax partner PwC
A number of important tax cases that will potentially undermine the UK’s tax sovereignty are due to get underway. Peter Cussons has been a driving force behind many of these cases, and continues to push UK corporates into testing UK tax law.
30 Head of the government accountancy service
No-one yet knows who will replace Sir Andrew Likierman, the man who spearheaded the initiative to bring government accounting into the modern world. Sir Andrew retires in the spring. For anyone interested in a place in the Accountancy Age top 50, his successor will be selected by open competition.
31 Sir John Bourn
Chairman of the Professional Oversight Board of the Financial Reporting Council
The recent reforms of the Financial Reporting Council have put Sir John into another plum job. Already head of the National Audit Office, he now has the statutory role of authorising the accountancy institutes on behalf of the trade secretary. But he’ll also run an audit inspection unit that will monitor the audit of listed companies. If you’re an auditor of a plc in 2004, Sir John will be a man you’ll want to keep happy.
32 Steve Bundred
New chief executive of the Audit Commission
Steve Bundred has taken charge of one of the most-listened-to public spending watchdogs in the land, covering local government, housing, health and criminal justice services. A commission outcry over government spending on foundation hospitals and other major public sector projects could have far-reaching consequences. But his first job may well be to head off plans to limit the commission’s powers.
33 William H Donaldson
Chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission
When he was appointed to head up the SEC at the beginning of 2003, Donaldson said it was time ‘for all of us to pull up our socks’. The world will be watching to see how he delivers. The SEC’s mandate from Sarbanes-Oxley to write auditor independence rules also covers foreign companies with US share listings.
34 Patricia Hewitt
DTI secretary of state
The Department of Trade and Industry, spearheaded by Patricia Hewitt, will be spending a good part of 2004 looking at the accounting profession. Alongside the companies bill, due to be passed this year, the government department will be looking at the tricky issue of auditor liability, which should keep auditors guessing.
35 Tony Sarin
Chief executive of Numerica
His board has taken pay cuts, the company has lost £300,000 and just before Christmas, two sets of talks to sell the company failed. What’s Tony Sarin going to do? Despite what looks like a very painful year he could still be the man to demonstrate that the consolidator, or integrator model, for publicly quoted accountancy companies can work.
36 Mike Rake
Mike Rake will begin the year tanned from his trip to convince the Indian government to drop protectionist measures against foreign accountancy firms. KPMG’s focus will be narrowed after it became the first of the Big Four to cut ties to law practices in the wake of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. But KPMG’s 2003 results should be out in the New Year, which should reveal just how far behind PwC and Deloitte the firm really is.
37 Michael Jackson
Chairman of Sage
The former Coopers & Lybrand chartered accountant has steered the company towards another set of pre-tax profits for 2003, and retained the company’s position in the FTSE100. He also celebrates his 20th year at the company, having joined in 1984. Sage is set to make more acquisitions in the next 12 months, while Jackson also hopes to fend off stiff competition in the SME marketplace from Microsoft Business Solutions and Intuit.
38 Robert Wardle
The new director of the Serious Fraud Office took over from Rosalind Wright last year, inheriting an agency with strong morale and a good recent record. The SFO won convictions for 17 out of 25 individuals prosecuted during the year until April 2002. Its budget is due to rise from £23.4m in 2003-04 to £33m in 2005-06. And Wardle expects to be busy.The Enterprise Act, as well as anti-terrorist legislation, will only add to his workload.
39 Sir Derek Higgs
Author of the combined code review
His work may be over, but his legacy, in the form of the combined code, will start to affect most companies throughout 2004. Although the wording of his recommendations has been toned down somewhat, shareholders will be watching companies very closely to ensure they explain if they do not meet the code’s requirements.
40 Sir Michael Peat
Prince Charles’ private secretary
As private secretary to Prince Charles, the former KPMG partner has spent much of 2003 defending the King-in-waiting from scurrilous allegations. This year is likely to offer more trials. He will act as official spokesman for the prince alongside his other duties, which include overseeing his royal employer’s public and private engagements. Sir Michael, though, should be well prepared for this task with 13 years’ royal service, including being keeper of the Privy Purse, the Queen’s accountant.
41 Henry Staunton
FD designate of ITV
Henry Staunton takes up the task of integrating Granada and Carlton as FD of the combined TV giant ITV plc. Staunton, who was FD at Granada, takes the role of FD supreme, which sees Paul Murray FD of Carlton step down. But the pressure will be on in 2004 with institutional shareholders demanding big cost savings.
42 Dennis Keeling
BASDA chief executive
Having founded the British Applications Software Development Association in 1993, Keeling now has 350 leading business and accounting software companies represented by the body. He will continue to extol the virtues of BASDA’s Standards and Accreditations over the next 12 months, with a particular focus on the emerging software requirements for companies adopting IAS.
43 Digby Jones
CBI director general
The CBI’s tireless and enthusiastic director general will doubtless spend 2004 as he has spent the last few years – relentlessly playing tag with the chancellor and the prime minister on corporate taxes, Europe and the business environment. While he criticised Brown on NIC hikes, he has welcomed Blair’s conciliatory words on taking a stand against European regulation. Undoubtedly he will continue to fight the good fight.
44 Oliver Letwin
Shadow chancellor of the exchequer
Oliver Letwin will have an interesting year if he can continue to capitalise on the diverging interests of the prime minister and his iron chancellor. Letwin has already cut his teeth on the pre-Budget report. Watch out for his performance during the spring Budget.
45 Ruth Kelly
Financial secretary to the Treasury
Still only in her mid-thirties, Ruth Kelly has come a long way in a short time. Now, in her role as financial secretary to the Treasury, she has a daunting workload to deal with. Responsible for pensions, the City, the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England, Kelly will often be in the firing line – and a position of influence – through 2004.
46 Sir Robert Smith
Chairman of the FRC group on audit committees
Sir Robert Smith, chairman of FRC group on audit committees, will continue championing the role of independent audit committees. Smith’s recommendation that audit committees should be constituted by those with recent and relevant skills formed the foundation of the combined code, and will go on testing the ability of plcs to change throughout the year.
47 George W Bush
In the past year, the president of the free world has unleashed the dogs of war – against fraud. Sarbanes-Oxley, a new watchdog in the form of the Public Companies Accounting Oversight Board, and an increased SEC budget, allowing it to create some 700 new jobs to ‘protect investors, root out fraud and instill corporate responsibility’, have all occurred under his watch. With share options at the heart of the IAS debate, expect to hear his views here too.
48 Mervyn King
Governor of the Bank of England
King has the unenviable task of squaring the circle between business and consumer needs. Many economists believe that the domestic economy is at ‘tipping point’. King and his committee will face crucial decisions on interest rates in the coming 12 months. Inevitably, they won’t please everyone.
49 Barbara Cassani
CEO of London’s Olympic bid
Cassani will spend 2004 in the full glare of the world’s media as she spearheads London’s push to win the right to stage the 2012 Olympic Games. Among the leading contenders, the American-born bid chairman must defeat are Paris and Rio. The year should see the serial non-exec put forward strong technical arguments for London, ahead of the IOC’s final decision in 2005.
50 Allen Blewitt
Chief executive of ACCA
After finally finding a willing and able chief executive following a two-year search, ACCA can press ahead with its centenary year celebrations. Allen Blewitt will be holding the reins in what promises to be the most important year for the association yet. Promoted from his previous position as director of ACCA’s Asia Pacific region, the name Blewitt will be a common sight this year.
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