PracticeAccounting FirmsIn profile: FRC chairman Sir Bryan Nicholson

In profile: FRC chairman Sir Bryan Nicholson

Following the decision of the trade secretary last week, Sir Bryan Nicholson has seen his role as chairman of the Financial Reporting Council dramatically expanded.

But these substantial changes to the structure of the FRC may mean the businessman will have to be replaced, taking him out of the front line.

As head of the newly strengthened FRC, Sir Bryan has a hugely expanded regulatory empire which allows him to lord it over many more people and for far more reasons than previously.

In fact, trade secretary Patricia Hewitt has given him leadership of a super watchdog, which subsumes the defunct Accountancy Foundation, with powers to regulate the accounting industry, judge auditor objectivity, and punish inappropriate reporting and use of standards.

In other words, Sir Bryan is now in charge of making sure the public and shareholders feel protected from the kind of unscrupulous accounting that went on over at Enron and the sinister shredding that took place at Andersen.

Sir Bryan was appointed director and chairman to the FRC in July 2001, taking over from Sir Sydney Lipworth. When he was appointed, he was chairman of BUPA and the Cookson Group, and non-executive director at GKN and Equitas holding and AIM-listed GOAL. He is obviously viewed as versatile and able to turn his hand to most sectors.

A politics, philosophy and economics graduate of Oxford, he has a career which includes time at Unilever, the Remington division of Sperry Rand and Rank Xerox in the UK. He had spent time as chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, chairman and chief executive of the Post Office, chairman of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, and president of the CBI between 1994 and 1996.

Just to give an idea of the scale of Sir Bryan’s new regulatory kingdom it’s worth bearing in mind that he has overall responsibility for five bodies – the Auditing Practices Board, the Accounting Standards Board, the Financial Reporting and Review Panel, the Investigation and Discipline Board and the Professional Oversight Board.

Sir Bryan welcomed the changes, saying they were ‘firmly grounded in common sense’ and that they ‘represent a step change for the better in British corporate governance’.

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