Financial power list 2009

gordon brown

Gordon Brown, number 1 on the power list 2009

The power list

1. Gordon Brown, prime minister

Nationalisation of banks, tax cuts, a surge in government borrowing and a new
45% income tax rate. The PM seems to have rediscovered his political and
economic mojo. The Tories argue Brown is simply maxing out the nation’s credit
card but European governments have followed his example and introduced similar
multi-billion pound stimulus packages. But with recession set to bite next year
will the economic gamble win over voters?

2. René Ricol, Sarkozy’s accounting adviser

A former president of the International Federation of Accountants, Ricol is
thought to be the man briefing French president Nicolas Sarkozy on all things
fair value and the much disputed standard IAS 39. If Sarkozy maintains his
attack on fair value and continues his efforts to force change, it will be Ricol
who has given him the ammunition.

3. Barack Obama, US president-elect

‘Obama has the potential to send the development of core issues –
international standards, audit liability caps and fair value – in a direction
that could not have been imagined just a few months ago,’ we wrote prior to the
elections. The imminent appointments of a new SEC chairman, chief accountant and
Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary will give us an idea of his direction.

4. Tony Lomas, Lehman joint administrator

PricewaterhouseCoopers point man on the Lehmans administration is almost four
months into what has widely been recognised as one of the most complex
wind-downs in history. The sheer volume of outstanding, or ‘hung’, trades the
collapsed investment bank still held, and pressure from powerful creditors will
mean Lomas and the rest of his team will find themselves under intense scrutiny.

5. Sir David Tweedie, chairman, IASB

Sir David’s job in 2009 will be demanding. Last year he weathered attacks on
the IASB and its work from heads of state, businessmen and journalists. Will he
be able to maintain the international accounting project in 2009? He will be
under the cosh as the forces ranged against him are substantial.

6. Alistair Darling, chancellor of the Exchequer

Darling’s first year as chancellor was not exactly bathed in glory. In
retrospect it looks like the greatest hospital pass in the history, but he is
toughing it out. How will he manage the economy and tax in 2009? More fiscal
stimulus? More spending brought forward? Can he emerge from Brown’s shadow?

7. Lesley Strathie, CEO, HM Revenue & Customs

The newly appointed Strathie has joined the department at a time when staff
morale and taxpayer confidence could not be lower following unprecedented job
cuts and tax office closures. With a number of senior management changes – plus
a controversial payout awarded to former CFO Stuart Cruickshank, she has quite a
task ahead in restoring stability to the department.

8. Mary Schapiro, chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission

Regulatory veteran Schapiro is the enforcer president-elect Barack Obama has
chosen to head the world’s biggest financial watchdog. Currently the securities
industry’s own head regulator she is an insider coming to a body that is
demoralised after failing to keep an eye on the banks and or to spot the Madoff
fraud. For accountants her key issues are whether to maintain momentum for the
conversion to international accounting standards and more controversially,will
she stand by fair value as a principle. This will not be an easy job.

9. Paul Boyle, chief executive, Financial Reporting Council

It is entirely plausible to expect accounting to get a little loose in a
downturn as pressure is piled on executives to deliver results. The FRC will be
on hand though to ensure the numbers add up properly. Will it be lenient or take
a rigid stance? Boyle will set the tone at the top, as well as continue his push
to increase the ranks of global firms. That might seem more pressing than ever
as we descend deeper into recession.

10. Michael Foot, chairman of Promontory Financial Group, UK and
chief inquisitor of tax haven review

Heading up one of the most eagerly-anticipated tax reviews is never going to
be an easy task and Foot will face immense pressure. As an ex-MD of the FSA and
former inspector of banks and trusts companies at the Central Bank of the
Bahamas, Foot also has the added responsibility of demonstrating objectivity.
His progress report is due in the spring.

11. Steven W Thomas, lawyer, Thomas, Alexander &

Thomas intends a tough start to the year for BDO International boss Jeremy
Newman, as he represents Banco Espirito in its $521m negligence claim against US
firm BDO Seidman. There could be serious implications for other networks and
associations. Watch this space.

12. John Connolly, senior partner and chief executive at

Accountancy Age’s 2008 Personality of the Year award winner is on a roll. His
firm also won large firm of the year at the awards and the straight-talking
northerner has his sights on overtaking PwC to become the UK’s top firm.

13. Julia Wilson, finance director, 3i

Wilson stepped up from deputy FD of private equity giant 3i to take the top
finance job at the end of last year. In 2009, she will have to deal with some
tricky valuations of 3i’s portfolio which may see some significant writedowns in
the current economic climate. Wilson is one of only three female finance
directors in the FTSE 100.

14. Accountancy’s watchdogs

The AADB, led by executive counsel Cameron Scott, will look to step up
another gear after losing in its first case at the end of 2007. Its recent
McLure tribunal provided a boost for the body – particularly important with MG
Rover and Farepak investigations still ongoing. For the previous version of the
AADB – the JDS’ Chris Dickson will hope to finally clear his in-tray of
Equitable Life and SSL in the next few months.

15. Andrew Likierman, Chairman, National Audit Office

Likierman seems to have had every top job in government accounting but the
London Business School academic will now work for MPs and parliament as he
becomes the first chairman of the National Audit Office. The previous
comptroller Sir John Bourn became immersed in a press frenzy over his expenses
and it will be Likierman’s job to re-establish the reputation of the Whitehall
auditor with a new appointment.

16. New comptroller and auditor general of the NAO

This high-profile job will come with more than its fair share of attention
from politicians, the media, and the general public after the expenses scandal.
The chosen one will have to be of unquestionable character and also qualified to
spearhead the watchdog’s activities.

17. Lazslo Kovacs, EC tax commissioner

The European tax chief is determined to stamp out tax loopholes and encourage
greater cross-border collaboration. Then again, many have tried and failed. His
efforts to reduce VAT on labour-intensive services has also caused controversy,
with even hairdressers sharpening their scissors over its implementation in the

18. Pauline Wallace, PwC, soon-to-be head of regulatory

Wallace will this year replace Peter Wyman, who retires from the firm after
becoming the profession’s most effective lobbyist representing Big Four
interests. Wyman has a contacts book to die for and it will be Wallace’s job to
pick up the baton and continue the firm’s argument on many fronts – auditor
liability, IFRS, fair value. It will be big shoes to fill but the word is that
Wallace is a very sharp operator herself.

19. Naguib Kheraj, senior adviser to the Financial Services

He was the FD at Barclays who felt out of love with the role because of all
the regulation. Now he’s working at the FSA on the design and implementation of
measures to improve bank regulation. He reports directly to FSA chief executive
Hector Sants and if bank FDs feel the tight grip of rule makers it could be well
because of Kheraj.

20. Gerritt Zalm, chairman of the International Accounting Standards
Committee Foundation

Zalm faced a tough time as 2008 drew to a close. There were questions
surrounding a potential conflict of interest after his appointment as head of
the new bank formed from the merger of Fortis and ABN Amro. However Zalm said he
will execute both roles, despite time constraints.

21. George Osborne, shadow chancellor

Osborne has some success embarrassing the government over non-doms, but then
again has had an embarrassing year of his own. In 2009 he has a golden
opportunity to challenge Brown and Darling over their economic policy. Can he
offset Labour’s ‘we saved the world’ boost in the polls?

22. Neville Kahn, Woolies’ joint administrator

The collapse of Woolworths has sent shockwaves through the British economy
and insolvency veteran Kahn has made some tough decisions including making the
whole of Woolworths staff redundant after not finding a buyer. He will have to
deal with the fallout, including companies relying on the retailer for stock
looking to avoid collapsing themselves.

23. Ian Powell, senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers

PwC is still the UK’s biggest accounting firm but Deloitte is closing in.
Last year John Connolly said while Deloitte was not bigger than PwC – yet –
‘maybe we have overhauled them already in terms of our standing in the
marketplace’. Powell responded by saying: ‘There are a lot of comments that are
pretty easy to say and pretty difficult to prove.’ Expect more intense
competition for the top slot this year.

24. Credit Insurers

Pulling cover in tough economic conditions has not gone down well. It puts
pressure on the supply chain, which is concerned about dealing with the big boys
but aren’t insured for their goods. Insolvencies ensue.

25. Richard Murphy, tax campaigner, Tax Research Network

The public face of tax campaigning is often criticised for his controversial
approach to tax issues. Of particular importance to Murphy is a globally
recognised crackdown on low-tax jurisdictions, and his efforts in highlighting
the issue have arguably lifted its importance on the government’s agenda.

26. The Taxpayers Charter

The eagerly awaited document will be launched by HMRC this year. It will
contain a clause which gives the charter some legislative clout. It will balance
a clear statement of the principles governing HMRC’s relationship with citizens
and businesses and also sets out taxpayers’ appeal rights in an accessible,
usable document.

27. The IIA and the IFA

No, it’s not a merger story for 2009. Instead, these two bodies are nipping
at the heels of the big boys. The Institute of Financial Accountants has been
recognised as an associated member of IFAC, while the Institute of Internal
Auditors wants to become a chartered body.

28. Dave Hartnett, HMRC permanent secretary of tax

The taxman’s new permanent secretary could find himself betwixt and between,
what with a chairman and chief executive also on board. Whether he can still get
his hands-on fighting the good fight remains to be seen. The charismatic civil
servant may have to take a back-seat after being the face of the taxman for so
long – or he could be left with the dirty jobs.

29. head of the government’s finance professionalism team

At the end of last year Mal Singh left the role to serve as deputy director
finance strategy and communications at the DWP. This means there is a vacancy
for the second most senior position in the government’s finance team as support
to the top man Jon Thompson.

30. Douglas Flint, group finance director, HSBC

Flint has been on the board of the banking powerhouse since 1995. As the only
bank to come through the credit crisis relatively unscathed, he must be
recognised for his efforts in steering it through turbulent of times – but its
$1bn exposure to Madoff’s fund saw 2008 end on a sour note.

31. Helen Brand, CEO, ACCA

Brand will lead the ACCA as its new chief executive this year, taking over
from the larger-than-life Alan Blewitt. He worked on expanding the ACCA’s reach
overseas and it will be Brand’s job to maintain that growth. At home the
qualification could do with some bolstering of its reputation but 2009 will
reveal her priorities. And can she match Blewitt’s feistiness?

32. Michael Devereux, director, Centre for Business Taxation, Oxford

With a PhD in economics under his belt and a seat on the European Tax Policy
Forum, the Multinational Tax Forum and the International Institute for Public
Finance – among others, Devereux is a force on the tax landscape. His
accessibility to the Treasury, along with research interests focusing on
location decisions made by multinational corporations, demonstrates a commitment
to tax policy.

33. Paul Aplin, ICAEW tax faculty chair

The tax faculty chair has, with little fuss and great diplomacy, pushed the
ICAEW into parliamentary offices to discuss tax matters with great effect. With
tax compliance and HMRC’s powers of such great issue in 2009, his contact base
will no doubt be of use to the ICAEW when he steps down in May.

34. Peter Mandelson, business secretary

The master of political comebacks returned to Westminster last year after a
stint as European Union Trade Commissioner. Well-connected and well-regarded in
business circles, he has criticised banks for having adopted too conservative
lending policies. Set to play a key role in shaping the government’s economic
recovery plan.

35. Ashley Almanza, chair of 100 Group of FDs

Almanza heads a business group described as ‘probably the most influential
organisation that you’ve ever heard of’.The 100 Group of FDs is discreet but
vitally important, lobbying government behind closed doors rather than through
the media. Almanza’s day job is also pretty high-powered too – he is chief
financial officer at BG Group, the gas exploration and production company.

36. Bill Dodwell, head of tax policy, Deloitte

Dodwell’s willingness to comment and critique some of the more sensitive tax
issues has afforded him a public profile rivaled by few in the profession.
Whether co-incidental or otherwise, he is widely perceived as the face of Deloi
tte, and strikes the balance between client-facing work and media commitments

37. John McFall, chairman Treasury select committee

McFall examines all things tax but of late his committee has been looking at
the credit crunch and the failure of the banks. The New Year will see him look
at the audit of banks. This could be a minefield for auditors but it could also
be very useful deflecting attention from accusations of individual failings.

38. Sage chief executive Paul Walker

Sage boss Paul Walker faces a tough year. Slowing sales have been offset in
part by recurring license revenues. But with Microsoft nibbling at the edges,
and the development of new markets such as Software as a Service, can Sage stand
firm in 2009?

39. BDO’s Andrew Caldwell, Northern Rock valuer

Andrew Caldwell was thrust into the spotlight after BDO won the plum job of
putting a price on the Rock if the £25bn bail out package was stripped out. His
team may have to restart the valuation if a High Court appeal against the
Treasury is upheld.

40. Chris Sanger, head of tax policy, Ernst & Young

As a former advisor to HMRC, Sanger consulted with the chancellor and MPs on
the reform of the business taxation system. Recent commentary has focused on the
government’s clarification on exempting UK multinationals from taxes on foreign
dividends from overseas subsidiaries.

41. Stephen Timms, financial secretary to the Treasury

Appointed in October 2008, Timms is responsible for the strategy behind the
finance bill, HMRC, and European and international tax issues. He has been
charged with defending the HMRC staff cuts and is also responsible for
justifying tax office closures. But he is credited with the introduction of a
new business support service.

42. Jon Moulton, accounting member of Alchemy Partners

Moulton spent much of 2008 in a one man campaign against the greed of bankers
and how they got us into the credit crunch. This year could provide him with as
much material again and if the TV planners give him more airtime who knows, he
might become one of the most influential commentators and critics around.

43. KPMG 2012 budget review team

KPMG has been closely involved with keeping the budget for the London 2012 in
check. Its last report ramped up the tension between Boris Johnson and the
organising committee. Future reports are expected to cause further disputes, but
other firms will also be looking to cash in on the advisory work.

45. John Edgar, finance director at Selfridges

Edgar joined Selfridges last month from troubled Woolworths. He has also held
senior roles at House of Fraser and Arcadia and joins the upmarket department
store at a time of turmoil on the high street with big names going into

46. Moira Stuart, the face of tax filing

Stuart is the TV face of self assessment filing. She follows in the footsteps
of scientist Adam Hart-Davis, Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle and, of course, Hector the
Tax Inspector. Will she do a better job than her predecessors?

47. Multinational Tax Forum

The top-level think-tank is shrouded in secrecy. Comprised of members from
both industry and academia, the forum was established amid growing concerns over
the governments approach to taxing overseas profits. Its direct access to the
Treasury and Darling himself affords members bucket-loads of tax clout.

48. Michael Izza, chief executive ICAEW

Almost by definition the chief executive should be in our power list but Izza
places himself on the list by winning the trust of government and the job of
chairing the committee established to find someone to value the remnants of
Northern Rock for its investors. They appointed BDO StoyHayward and so good so
controversial, but the role helped cement Izza’s growing reputation and boosts
his stature in one of the profession’s most high profile roles.

49. Friehling & Horowitz/Madoff

The tiny audit firm that is alleged to have signed off on the accounts of the
investment business run by Bernard Madoff, it’s owner David Friehling and his
two employees will forever live in notoriety as a lesson in how to spot
something wrong in a finance business. Huge businesses should not retain
dispro-portionately small auditors. It’s a give away really and if anyone
prompts new regulation for hedge funds on the back of the Madoff scandal it c
ould be the retention of these
micro auditors.

50. Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor

One of Parliament’s most respected economic commentators has had a good
credit crunch. Shrewd, incisive and possessing a dry wit, the former chief
economist at Shell is likely to retain his high profile in 2009.

What ever happened to…

Kevin Reed looks at the fortunes of last year’s power list names – and
some of those that failed to live up to the hype.

Last year’s Accountancy Age Financial Power List was somewhat
overtaken by events, but our predicted biggest players over the year had some
part to contribute.

Gordon Brown came to the fore in terms of showing the world how a government
could take quick and bold action in light of the banking and finance crisis,
good going considering he didn’t even manage to squeeze himself into the top 50
last year. When details of the government’s ‘pay now tax later’ approach during
Darling’s PBR speech, our 2008 number one choice George Osborne was quick to
point out the ‘tax timebomb’ being created.

But for Osborne it was a disappointing year following on from his great
performance in 2007, when his tax proposals were effectively lifted by the
government. In 2008, meetings with a Russian oligarch and comments about the
strength of the pound saw his star wane.

Dave Hartnett, in at number four last year, had a tough 12 months. From
acting chairman to permanent secretary, he is now part of a triumvirate at the
top of the tax tree. Huge concerns over morale at the tax HQ, and still no sign
of a high profile tax case off the back of the first tax amnesty back in 2007,
he will be under more pressure than ever to increase the taxman’s yield while
not nobbling struggling businesses.

Last year will be viewed as a good year for Paul Boyle as head of the FRC.
Our number four has steered the ship through choppy waters, with no big audit
disasters following the banking crisis ­ yet. Audit concentration concerns
persist, and liability capping hasn’t worked.Firms have also been less than
pleased over the AIU’s first public audit reviews either.

Sir David Tweedie, our number 12, perhaps would have charted higher if we
could have predicted the level of furore over fair value and the future of IFRS
­ but we didn’t. We did rank ‘fair value’ in at number 11 though. Sir David’s
come through unscathed after taking the offensive, but another big year for him
and the IASB is ahead.

Others in the chart had quieter, more stable 12 months. ICAEW chief executive
Michael Izza (number 29) saw the institute lobby government effectively. Helen
Weir broke the top 20, but would have no doubt ranked in higher had we seen her
appointment as LloydsTSB chief coming.

John Connolly (number 27) had deserved at least a top ten spot after hitting
the headlines with Deloitte’s successful ‘£2bn in two years’ target, putting the
boot into PwC for good measure and winning Accountancy Age personality of the
year. Sports Direct FD Bob Mellors (21) had a quieter time of things, as his
boss took the limelight with his controversial role at Newcastle United.

ACCA chief Allen Blewitt (36) went out with more of a whimper than the ‘bang’
we’d hoped for at Accountancy Age. He now makes way for Helen Brand.

View previous financial power lists here:

power list 2008

power list 2007

power list 2006

power list 2005

power list 2004

power list 2003

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