Kieran Poynter:Top of the rich list?

The mystery surrounding the wage package of the man at the helm of the UK’s largest accountancy firm will soon come to an end.

And not soon enough for many industry observers, regulators and compilers of rich lists, which will certainly soon feature PricewaterhouseCoopers’ UK senior partner Kieran Poynter.

And although wise heads suggest that Poynter’s salary will not be as high as many expect, he could knock another of the UK’s highest paid practising accountants off the top spot.

Yes, Mike Rake’s bulky pay package may soon pale by comparison.

Rake, KPMG’s UK senior partner and chairman of KPMG International, earned £1.45m for the year 2002/03 making him easily one of the UK’s highest paid practising accountants, of those that have disclosed their salary.

But PwC’s straight-talking, down-to-earth senior partner doesn’t seem to be relishing the disclosure. He appears in equal measure to be puzzled, frustrated and entertained by the fuss about his salary. Clearly he’d rather it wasn’t an issue. But large pay packages are of growing, perverse interest to many of his peers, and those that aspire to his job – not forgetting financial journalists, of course.

One of the driving forces behind the disclosure was PwC’s decision in January 2002 to become the third member of the Big Four to move to a limited liability partnership, which it duly did on 1 January 2003. As an LLP, the firm has to publish full UK accounts, although the last Big Four firm to move to LLP status, Deloitte, already publishes its UK accounts.

This will be the first time that PwC publishes country accounts and unveils Poynter’s salary in them. It is, however, a move made with some reluctance.

Speaking to Accountancy Age exclusively last year, Poynter admitted he was ‘of the camp that says “no” to accounts disclosure’.

But with PwC’s policy of encouraging its clients to improve their financial reporting – another reason for the firm to disclose – PwC believed it was time it ‘practised what it preached and became an LLP’.

PwC’s year end is 30 June, so most were anticipating the publication of its UK accounts in September. Alas, September has come and gone.

Despite the firm’s shyness to reveal the breakdown of its income, and its sluggishness in following through, Poynter has to his credit been one of the most outspoken defenders of his industry.

It was Poynter who made the first public moves in January 2002 to defend the UK profession in the wake of the Enron scandal. He told Accountancy Age: ‘An auditor would have to be mentally ill to deliberately do an audit wrong. You would not knowingly run that risk. Bad audits cannot cause company collapses. A big problem is the lack of public understanding of the audit process.’

Since those early tumultuous days, the firm has done much work to demystify the process of auditing.


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