PracticeAccounting FirmsEric Anstee: Chief among accountants

Eric Anstee: Chief among accountants

When Eric Anstee takes up his new job as chief executive of the ICAEW in September, he will be making history.

It is the first time in the institute’s 123 years of existence that it has abolished a structure based around a secretary general, giving way to a more business-like model with a chief executive.

The move consolidates calls from institute members during the past year to relieve its presidents from the burden of day-to-day management. This will allow each president to spend more time on policy development, branding, representing the profession and lobbying government.

Serial non-executive director Anstee is a member of the institute, and is keen to use the newly-created post to make a difference in accounting.

He has spent two years building up a portfolio of non-executive directorships and chairman roles, and is now willing to shed them to become the institute’s boss on a full-time basis.

‘I feel quite strongly about the role. I’ve got a number of things on the agenda that I think the institute should be involved in,’ says Anstee.

The most urgent issue Anstee intends to tackle is the chaotic state of pension accounting. He argues that pension accounting is in such a ‘state of flux’ that businesses no longer know what to do.

Anstee bemoans the lack of completion of an international accounting standard on pensions. There is the UK’s FRS 17, but he says that businesses do not agree with it on the basis that it is a ‘discontinuance calculation’.

To make matters even more complex, the Institute of Actuaries is set to launch another pension calculation this week. ‘Frankly, business needs more guidance and I believe the institute can play a role,’ he says.

Besides addressing the pensions chaos, Anstee will look at issues of risk and corporate governance. Many of these items, he says, overlap with the agenda of new ICAEW president David Illingworth, which is to prepare for international accounting standards, get a modernised company law into this year’s Queen’s speech and develop the institute’s brand.

The new chief executive intends to give Illingworth as much support as he can. He believes the role of chief executive can broadcast the same message and enhance the position of the institute. Illingworth in turn is equally supportive of Anstee and is ‘delighted’ he accepted the post.

‘Anstee brings a wealth of international business experience and will help build our global reputation. As a chartered accountant who worked in business and in practice, he has first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing our members. He’ll use this experience and insight to move forward on our strategic international goals,’ says Illingworth.

Anstee was the chief executive officer of FTSE-100 company Old Mutual until 2001. He is presently managing partner at accountancy firm Anstee Associates. He is a past chairman of the Eastern Region Industrial Development Board and a member of the Urgent Issues Task Force of the Accounting Standards Board.

‘I accepted the post for a range of reasons on a personal basis. After 30 years of being pleased and proud to work in accountancy, the chief executive role gives me a good opportunity to put something back into both the institute and the profession,’ Anstee says.

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