PracticeAuditIAS Who’s Who – Setting the pace

IAS Who's Who - Setting the pace

As the deadline looms for Europe's listed companies to begin reporting under the new international accounting rules, IFRS, Accountancy Age is launching its own campaign to raise awareness and open debate within UK plc. To help you prepare your company, as well as yourself, we've compiled a list of the top personalities to watch closely ahead of the January 2005 cut-off. These decision-makers will be pivotal in setting what is still a moving target. The success or failure of the new rules is in their - and your - hands.

Link: IAS special report

1. Sir David Tweedie – IASB chairman
Sir David Tweedie, as chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board, has had to steer the board through one of its most challenging periods. And the next 18 months will certainly be no walk in the park.

As well as stiff opposition from business on many of the proposed standards that will come into force in 2005, he has also had to deal with increasing pressure from the European Commission to acknowledge the concerns of companies.

As it prepares for the coming 2005 deadline, the board is also in the midst of a convergence project with US counterpart FASB, and Sir David will need to keep an eye on the big picture in order to stop the whole process being derailed.

His luck turned in the wake of the Enron collapse, however. The US-made crisis has given him and his IASB colleagues a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to overcome resistance to the global standards. Moreover, those standards could be based on Tweedie’s particular and clear vision. Having the US on board is crucial to the success of global standards.

There are still many exposure drafts to be issued and fights are still ongoing over many subjects. Issues such as share options and financial instruments have already caused much consternation amongst the business community, while a big confrontation is also in the offing over the accounting for insurance contracts. Sir David will have his hands full trying to obtain the best possible standards while resisting intense pressure from all sides. Not that that will bother him, the hard-nosed Scot is renowned for thriving on this type of pressure and is no shirker when it comes to a challenge. Those looking for concessions from the board must get past Sir David’s strong beliefs in the theoretical righteousness of the board’s standards despite concerns over how they will work in the real world.

2. Frits Bolkestein – EU internal markets commissioner
Frits Bolkestein is the European Union’s commissioner for internal market, taxation and customs union issues. The 70-year old Dutchman is responsible for financial reporting issues and will be instrumental in the implementation of international accounting standards in Europe.

He has, so far, been quite outspoken on the implementation of the new rules. In July, he voiced Europe’s disapproval of the new financial instruments standards and told IASB chairman Sir David Tweedie that the latest drafts of IAS 32 and 39 would cause the insurance and banking sectors huge difficulties. He urged continued debate before finalising the rules.

Although at first Bolkestein championed the IAS’ principles-based policies, he has recently expressed concerns about the standards. He wrote to the IASB last month saying: ‘There is a growing unease concerning the standard-setting process itself. The perception seems to be that there is a lack of willingness on the part of the IASB to move away from theoretical principles and accept solutions based on solid, practical experience.’

3. Mary Keegan – ASB chairman
With her wide international experience, tough debating skills and persuasive manner, Keegan is a pivotal part of the global accounting convergence process.

Formerly senior technical partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, she left in 2001 to replace Sir David Tweedie as chairman of the Accounting Standards Board.

In the past two and a half years, she has overseen the introduction of a number of controversial new standards. She also has a number of projects in progress, in particular pensions accounting rule FRS17, which caused such furore in the UK and has been put on hold during the convergence process.

Despite being a target for UK business leaders’ anger, she has proved a robust negotiator and loyal defender of UK financial interests in the development of international accounting standards, where she has battled to maintain the high quality of, and respect for, financial reporting.

4. Karel van Hulle – EU head of financial reporting and company law
Karel van Hulle, head of financial reporting and company law at the European Commission, has been a major driving force in the mission to create a single set of international accounting standards.

He has long believed that the existence of too many accounting standards in different European Union countries has held back the single market.

But he once told a round-table discussion in Warsaw that the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ should have more respect for other cultures if they wanted the International Accounting Standards Committee to be a more international organisation.

He also represents the commission within the IASC.

Van Hulle is one of Tweedie’s favourite sparing partners.

The Belgian is a tough operator and knows when to play his cards, and to whom, to gain the desired result. Van Hulle is definitely no pushover and is determined to create a European economy that will rival that of the US.

Van Hulle joined the commission in 1984 after having worked for eight years with the Belgian banking commission. A lawyer by training, he has represented the EU in the accounting working groups at the United Nations and at the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Van Hulle is wholeheartedly in favour of international accounting standards.

To emphasise the importance of the move away from 15 different sets of rules in Europe, he often draws a parallel with money wasted before the euro’s introduction by member states not having a single currency.

5. Paul Volcker – IASC Foundation trustees’ chairman
As chairman of the trustees at the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation, Volcker is responsible for funding, reviewing the IASB’s strategy and its overall effectiveness and independence.

He believes in good practice within accounting, and sees it as essential that the industry improves confidence in financial reporting. If he and the other trustees believe the IASB is going down the wrong track, they will act on their belief.

Volcker is also holding the purse strings for the IASB. He chairs the committee that decides where money is to be spent, and ensures there is enough money there for the IASB to work independently and produce the best possible standards.

This has become an even greater issue since threats were made to pull funding from those opposing the board’s plans to expense share options.

It is considering levying a charge on international stock exchanges to ensure the board’s smooth running.

6. Robert Herz – FASB chairman
As chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, Robert Herz brings a wealth of experience to the table and will be instrumental in persuading the US to take on IFRS. Herz was a part-time member of the IASB and is known to have a flexible stance with regard to US GAAP. But the Securities and Exchange Commission is a different matter, and much of Herz’s energy could be spent trying to reconcile the two bodies.

Unlike most American accountants, he sees the benefits of principles over rules in accounting matters, as he has worked and attended university in the UK. This is crucial to the IASB in the development of the global rules and in convincing US companies to eventually adopt IFRS. He was appointed FASB chairman in July 2002, and was previously a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers where he was also a member of the Big Four firm’s global and US boards. He has almost 30 years of accountancy experience.

7. Isobel Sharp – IAS expert and partner at Deloitte & Touche
The march towards international accounting standards has left many companies reeling from the volume of information and detail to digest by 2005. None more so than small and medium-sized companies that claim to bear a disproportionate burden of regulation and red tape.

And that’s what makes Isobel Sharp so influential. If small listed companies were to lobby anyone regarding the difficulties they face implementing IAS they should turn to Sharp who has recently been appointed to the IASB’s advisory panel on accounting for small and medium businesses.

If smaller listed businesses are to buy any extra time to implement the standards, it can only be with the support of Sharp who has wide experience looking at the accounting issues faced by smaller companies. Not only does she have vast experience, as a result of rising to partner at Deloitte & Touche, but she has already acted as an adviser on SME accounting for the UK’s Accounting Standards Board run by Mary Keegan. This puts her in a unique position to understand their concerns, something small companies may hope will work in their favour as 2005 approaches.

A very engaging public speaker who can make subjects as apparently dry as IAS come alive, she will need to use all this charm to help win over UK plc if the new rules are to work.

8. Mark Vaessen – KPMG IAS expert
KPMG’s much-respected IAS advisory services group is headed by Mark Vaessen.

Originally working on his own, Vaessen now leads a team of 20 that monitors international accounting developments, and provides clients and KPMG staff with updates and critical analyses of developments in the world of IAS.

Vaessen has extensive experience in advising companies from around the world on strategic and complex technical issues in relation to international accounting standards and has many years of international experience with significant involvement in regulatory and standard setting activities.

With training and knowledge a major issue, the Big Four firms need to take the lead in getting the IAS message across and Vaessen provides a key role in this by speaking at conferences across the globe on the issues surrounding IAS.

With excellent contacts at the IASB, Vaessen will also be important in getting across key concerns and issues relating to the standards currently being formulated and his contribution could have a big impact on final drafting.

9. Gilbert Gelard – IASB representative for France
Gelard is the French representative at the IASB. He was appointed in January 2001, but has been a member of the French standard-setting body since 1997. Since he joined the board, he has been promoting the global set of rules in a country whose bureaucrats are reticent about the standards, not least because they are wary of the US’s excessive influence. His view on the IASB is clear. ‘The role (of creating international standards) is much too complex to be entrusted to politicians. He faces a tough job given the recent outburst by President Chirac on the ‘nefarious consequences for financial stability’ of the IASB’s proposals on accounting for financial derivatives.

10. David Cairns – LSE senior visiting fellow of accounting and finance
The former secretary general of the IASC (1985-1994) caused controversy in 2002 when he slated the IASB, which was faced with mounting criticism, for not retaining its policy of disclosing donors’ names. He now advises and trains companies, firms, regulators and other organisations on the application of, and compliance with international accounting standards.

David Cairns is the author of the International Accounting Standards Survey and Applying International Accounting Standards and is a joint author of The Convergence Handbook.


Jones was appointed to the IASB in January 2001. He has nearly 40 years’ experience in various aspects of international financial reporting. Since 1980, he has been with Citicorp, which operates in more than 100 countries, first as their chief accounting officer and then as principal financial officer.

The first director of international activities for the FASB in the US, Leisenring was appointed to the IASB in January 2001. He was also a member of the International Joint Working Group on Financial Instruments, one of the IASB’s most controversial topics at present. He was the last chairman of the G4+1 group of standard setters before it disbanded in January 2001.

John Sinclair sits on the general council of the Business Application Software Developers Association (Basda), and is well known in the industry for his accounting expertise. He is Basda’s spokesman on all matters IFRS and as such holds an important role in communicating the issues that software developers and IT departments face in meeting the 2005 deadline.

One of the longest-standing members of the UK’s ASB, Cook is a shy, unassuming and well-respected figure who has won a reputation as a man who understands the minutiae of technical accounting issues and, even rarer, can actually explain these to 99.9% of the population who cannot.

Professor Whittington has a long and varied accounting career spanning academia, business and government. He has spent his career lecturing at a number of respected universities and working for numerous public and professional organisations, such as the Office of Fair Trading. In December 2000, he was appointed CBE for services to the Accounting Standards Board.

Until his appointment at the IASB in 2001, Tatsumi was a partner of ChuoAoyama Audit Corporation (PricewaterhouseCoopers), Japan. He was also a member of the executive committee of the IASC and a member of the Japanese IASC board delegation. He is known to those who attend the IASB meetings as being a silent, yet wise contributor to discussions.

Senior technical partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and an IAS expert who is also able to bring complex technical detail down to a layman’s level. He has dedicated the last few years to looking into the impact that international accounting rules will have on UK companies. He has voiced his concerns in the recent past about the IASB drifting over to the US-style rulebook approach.

Currently working for Emile Woolfe International, Anne Molyneux is one of the leading IAS trainers in the UK. Hers is an impressive CV: engagements have included consultancies to the Accountancy Foundation Review Board and to the IASC Foundation. Also a corporate governance adviser to the OECD, she is probably best known for her time as the ICAEW’s technical director.

As CBI spokesman on matters IFRS, Edrupt has an important role to play before the 2005 deadline. He is responsible for advising both the business world on the impact of adopting the standards as well as passing on his members’ concerns to both standard-setters and government bodies.

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