The Financial Power List 2015
Accountancy Age reveals the most influential and powerful hitters in accounting and finance for the coming year
Accountancy Age reveals the most influential and powerful hitters in accounting and finance for the coming year
1 (4) George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer
Osborne’s moment is now. His ability to straddle the opposing demands of the coalition and a public weary of fiscal gloom will be sorely tested in the run up to May’s General Election, not least because the bulk of his swingeing austerity cuts on public spending have yet to be implemented. The real pain – or reform – depending on your viewpoint, will really begin to be felt. That said, he may be out of office come the fifth month of 2015 – making the whole debate academic. Either way, his role, and the economic path he takes the country on until then – and possibly after – is paramount.
2 (NE) Sacha Romanovitch, UK CEO-elect, Grant Thornton
Following a successful two terms under the leadership of Scott Barnes, Romanovitch has big boots to fill as Grant Thornton’s incoming CEO. A popular and charismatic character, she will be expected to put her own stamp on the role – while also providing female representation at the very top of the profession. We will find out whether her recent background successfully leading the firm’s London advisory division is an indicator of its future plans for a broader range of services.
3 (NE) Ed Miliband, leader, Labour Party
His ability – or not – to galvanise the British public to back Labour’s vision and return his party to the front benches without having to power-share, will be critical if Miliband is to implement his party’s vision without the messy compromise of coalition. The Primrose Hill intellectual will have to overcome his apparent lack of ability to connect on a deep level with the electorate. Fears over the NHS and years of savage, public sector cuts may just help his fight. And it will be the fight of his political life.
4 (9) Lin Homer, chief executive, HM Revenue & Customs
Despite a tough 2014, Homer will be hard-pressed to deliver a better 2015 – the tenth anniversary of the merger that brought about the creation of HMRC. The former Borders Agency boss is still suffering fallout over her £20,000 bonus last year; the Westminster Abbey VIP service for tax collectors; and having to apologise to the Treasury Select Committee over the department’s false report that it had exceeded targets by £1.9bn. That ‘report’ led to the National Audit Office vowing to audit HMRC’s future yield projections. She’ll be expected to keep the tax receipts rolling in – especially from corporates and high net-worth individuals – as the Treasury’s coffers look increasingly bare.
5 (NE) Pascal Saint-Amans, director, OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration
After a year in which the OECD successfully published widely-accepted recommendations to address tax base erosion and profit-shifting by multinational companies, project leader Saint-Amans must ensure the progress is followed through. In particular, he must face down the threat of unilateral actions by participating nations – even from ostensible cheerleaders such as the UK, which is seeking to introduce its potentially extra-territorial ‘Google tax’ – while, predictably, companies will always seek to drive down their costs. Negotiating those pressures could very much define whether the BEPS project succeeds in 2015 and beyond.
6 (NE) Alan Stewart, CFO, Tesco
All eyes will be on new CFO Stewart as he attempts to steer the supermarket group away from the financial and credibility crisis gripping it. The former Marks & Spencer finance chief was parachuted in two months early by Tesco after it admitted that it had overstated its profits by £250m. Restoring trust in Tesco’s finances since it revealed that its commercial department had booked huge payments from suppliers into the wrong accounting period will undoubtedly be top of the list. After decades of success, Tesco and Stewart will be judged on their ability to turnaround Tesco’s fortunes and deal with the myriad problems of declining footfall, aggressive competition, a failed international strategy, a £3bn rescue rights issue, dividend cuts, executive departures, horse meat, profit warnings…and a 50% fall in its share price.
7 (NE) Jimmy Daboo, audit partner, KPMG
Recipient of the 2014 British Accountancy Awards’ “Outstanding Industry Contribution” gong, Jimmy has helped reshape the audit landscape through detailed publishing of audit findings in annual reports. His revolutionary approach, highlighted in the audit of Rolls Royce, builds on the Financial Reporting Council’s new audit reporting standards to encourage clients to discuss the findings from the audit process, including views on the subjective judgments and estimates affecting the numbers. But can Daboo and his KPMG counterparts convince other clients to follow suit? And how will the rest of the audit industry respond?
8 (1) Laurence Longe, managing director, Baker Tilly
Following a monumental year for Longe and Baker Tilly, he now has other huge decisions to make, such as: what will happen to the Baker Tilly name?; how closely will the firm link to RSM in the US?; and can value be driven from its RSM Tenon deal? Accountancy Age also wonders, for such a long-serving leader, how much appetite Longe has to drive through fundamental changes for the practice.
9 (NE) Sarah Albon, chief executive, Insolvency Service
Albon joins the regulator as it implements a five-year strategy to improve service to its customers, lower its costs and further strengthen the UK’s insolvency regime. Areas of change will include implementing the outcome of a two-part consultation launched last year, which is looking at how the service can work more akin to the FRC and to focus purely on sanctions and reprimands; with the second part looking at how insolvency fees are calculated. Fee caps have proved controversial, while regulation of the profession has been a bone of contention across insolvency for some time. Currently the Insolvency Service regulates licensors, but also issues licences. Although the service is stepping away from this responsibility, its current form is viewed by many as confusing and contradictory.
10 (NE) Rakesh Shaunak, group chairman, MHA MacIntyre Hudson
One of the more dynamic players in the large firm sector, Shaunak has built strong branding in the UK around the MHA association of firms. But there are issues to be dealt with. The firms under the MHA banner now represent Baker Tilly International in the UK. Do two brands into one go? The inter-relationship between the international network and MHA’s UK firms will be fascinating.
11 (5) Alex Salmond, former first minister, Scotland
While some may have thought Salmond would slip away into a quiet backwater of political retirement, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, he is widely tipped as a future Westminster ‘king-maker’. He’s set on striking a deal with a reluctant Ed Miliband if Labour is – as expected – virtually wiped out in Scotland in the 2015 election and unable to form a majority government.
12 (15) Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, Labour Party
Balls has yet to prove that he can inflict any real or lasting damage on the chancellor, or curry any real affection with the electorate. Proposed alternative visions so far include introducing the mansion tax on homes worth over £2m in his first year in office, ‘saving’ the NHS with an extra £2.5bn pumped into the increasingly privatised healthcare system, and a tougher stance on tax avoidance. Whether that proves enough remains to be seen, Balls will have to up his game if he’s not to be a mere footnote in British political history.
13 (NE) Simon Dingemans, CFO, GlaxoSmithKline and chairman, The Hundred Group of Finance Directors
Arguably the most powerful voice in the finance profession – and not for his day job as CFO of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline: Dingemans has been elected chairman of the highly influential Hundred Group of Finance Directors. As chairman, he is in a unique position to represent the views of the companies which account for almost 90% of the market capitalisation of the FTSE 100 and collectively employ over 7% of the UK workforce. Dingemans will be lobbying for ways to improve UK competitiveness and enhance the contribution of big business. His predecessors Andy Halford and Robin Freestone have been vocal chairs – Dingemans’ muted reveal in the role goes against the group’s recent aim of being more open and transparent.
14 (NE) James Schnurr, chief accountant, Securities and Exchange Commission
The new chief accountant of the SEC will be a key player in whether the US moves toward adopting IFRS. After years of stalled efforts to converge US and international accounting standards, Schnurr has said he hopes to make a recommendation in the next few months. Speaking at a securities regulation conference last year, he said a decision over whether or not to recommend moving towards adopting IFRS was a “priority” for the SEC. Although Schnurr has said he doesn’t have a “predetermined view” about what the SEC should do, a possible alternative to the unpopular idea of full IFRS adoption could be to allow US companies to present financial statements prepared under IFRS as a supplement to their required filings under US GAAP.
15 (38) Simon Collins, UK chairman, KPMG
KPMG has gone all fluffy of late, cuddling up to tech start-ups and providing its staff with preferential mortgage rates. But this is the front-end to hard-nosed decisions about investing in more digital-focused services, and fighting to hold on to its talent. Collins is keen to show himself as figurehead, and we can expect him to talk about more forward-thinking schemes in 2015.
16 (NE) MG Rover appeal
The epic, or interminable, battle between Deloitte and the FRC over the Big Four firm’s role in advising the owners of MG Rover in 2000 over two transactions is finally set to come to an end. The outcome will have serious ramifications for the profession. Deloitte is appealing a reprimand over its work at MG Rover. The firm and its corporate finance partner Maghsoud Einollahi were fined a record-breaking £14m and £250,000 respectively by an independent FRC tribunal for their role in advising the owners of the car manufacturer in 2000. The previous biggest fine was £1.4m, handed out to PwC for its JP Morgan audit work in January 2012. The outcome of Deloitte’s appeal will say much about the strength and validity of the FRC’s new sanctioning powers.
17 (12) Vernon Soare, executive director, professional standards, ICAEW
Soare must be delighted, and relieved, that the institute finally managed to divvy out some probate licences to its members – although it wasn’t exactly a flood. More are expected in 2015, and expansion of its licensing capability to other services must be at the forefront of his mind.
18 (NE) Ça?la Bekbölet, head of global CFO practice, Egon Zehnder
While the recruiter’s ‘25 by 2025′ CEO drive made headlines, its push also relates to the number of females in top CFO roles as well. As Egon Zehnder’s CFO practice head, we can expect Bekbolet to have a more public face during its big PR campaign.
19 (NE) Auto Enrolment
Several years in the making, smaller businesses are now facing up to 18 months where they will have to get their pension eggs in order. The response by practices will be fascinating: get the extra compliance burden dealt with, with as little fuss as possible; or use it to drive more value from clients? One thing’s for sure, practitioners will be popular among pensions and software companies.
20 (34) Ric Traynor, executive chairman, Begbies Traynor
Insolvency practitioners had a tough old time of it in 2014, with corporate insolvency work thin on the ground. As a bellwether of the profession, the fortunes of Begbies Traynor and its executive chairman Traynor will signpost the prospective health of the profession. In December, the specialist business recovery practice said the lowest level of national insolvency volumes since 2007 contributed to difficult conditions that resulted in a 32% fall in pre-tax profits to £1.5m and a 3% reduction in revenues to £20.8m in the six months to October.
21 (NE) Paul Baumann, CFO, NHS
NHS England’s CFO said in late 2014 that the NHS was on a financial ‘knife edge’. The former Unilever stalwart, who spent 22 years at the consumer goods giant, will need to pull out all that experience – and more – to help balance the books in 2015 and avert such a crisis.
22 (NE) Gareth Davies, head of UK Public Services, Mazars
With the Audit Commission’s abolition set for March, its former audit head Gareth Davies is effectively the figurehead for the full privatisation of local government accounts assurance. The commission’s final report last month revealing concern over ‘small bodies’ accounting but satisfaction over principal bodies – now private sector auditors must look to show progression – and their own ‘VFM’ in undertaking the work.
23 (NE) Joanne Segars, chief executive, NAPF
The UK pensions landscape will be dramatically different in April 2015, following a radical shake-up announced by George Osborne in the March Budget. The latest research from the NAPF shows that even those defined benefit pension funds left are fast-closing, even to employees already in them. Segars partly blames quantitative easing but is buoyed by the rapid take-up of auto-enrolment bringing millions into the new breed of pension set to dominate in the private sector. It will be an important year for the business of pensions.
24 (NE) Pierre Moscovici, tax commissioner, European Commission
The former French finance minister has been made commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs union. Developing a VAT system at EU level, improving the functioning of the internal market in both direct and indirect taxation, while fighting tax fraud and tax evasion, will be top of Moscovici’s agenda. At the same time, the German, French and Italian finance ministers have urged the EC to draw up EU-wide laws to curb corporate tax avoidance and prevent member states from offering lower taxes to attract investors.
25 (NE) Stephen Kelly, CEO, Sage
New chief Stephen Kelly, an experienced IT and government executive, might not have realised the reception he would get on his first day in the job: Netsuite ribbing its rival with a provocative ad campaign. But recent strong results would have acted as a salve. Further progress in cloud computing takeup and its new tax software will be key for Sage in 2015.
26 (NE) Tim Bush, head of governance and financial analysis, Pirc
The furore over the failings of IFRS may have abated with the introduction of a new standard for financial instruments and accounting for loan losses yet Bush, a well-known opponent of IFRS, remains a stalwart of the list. Acting on behalf of investor lobbyist group Pirc, Bush has turned his attention to how the adoption of IFRS – with its emphasis on neutrality over prudence – has dangerously weakened the ‘true and fair’ accounting concept. With audit and accounting and audit problems identified at the likes of Tesco and the Co-op Bank, plus new-form audit and audit committee reports coming to the fore, expect to hear a lot more from Bush and Pirc in 2015.
27 (8) Margaret Hodge, chair, Public Accounts Committee
The former PwC consultant and chair of the influential Public Accounts Committee looks set to enjoy another high-profile year. With the government’s focus on tax avoidance showing no signs of abating, Hodge and her band of populist PAC colleagues, look set to continue to derive as much praise for her pugnacious attacks on tax-avoiding corporate bogeymen as howls of derision from a sizeable band of critics amongst some sections of the accountancy world for her perceived deficits in her tax knowledge.
28 (NE) Paul Clark, London office managing director, Duff & Phelps
Clark makes the List this year because of the fallout from his involvement in the high-profile administration of Rangers FC in 2012. Clark and fellow Duff & Phelps employees David Whitehouse and David Grier were arrested last year in relation to the sale of Rangers in 2011. They were granted bail ahead of a future hearing.
29 (NE) Rob Whiteman, CEO, CIPFA
Now a year into the role, there is no respite for the public sector accounting chief. Professionalism in public sector finances has, ironically, seen the more corporate accounting qualifications prove popular, while CIPFA membership has slipped to 13,500 – with just 500 internationally-based – and an ageing membership. Whiteman must drive home CIPFA’s good reputation abroad and convert into new members, and increase its voice in the UK. Will its recent move from Robert Street into the City help?
30 (45) Helen Brand, CEO, ACCA
Brand will be delighted that the institute continues its seemingly inexorable growth, and is now by far the biggest of the UK-based institutes. But it’s not impervious – following its rivals in seeing student numbers slip back in 2013. ACCA moves forward with its 2020 strategy: to be number one in developing accountants through top-line student and member numbers. A new cloud-based system and organisational structure have been put in place to support this…will they work?
31 (NE) Helen Weir, CFO, M&S
It is fitting that Weir appears in the Power List. A true City heavyweight, one of the UK’s most high-profile finance chiefs – who has just joined retail bellwether Marks & Spencer. The former head of Lloyds Banking Group’s retail division, Weir was trumped to the top job at the bank by António Horta-Osório and left shortly afterwards to join John Lewis. With stints at B&Q owner Kingfisher and Lloyds as FD, Weir is among the top CFOs in the UK and was recently described by City analyst Bethany Hocking as a “strong hire”.
32 (3) Paul Druckman, CEO, International Integrated Reporting Council
Druckman remains one of the most influential voices in corporate reporting, but if integrated reporting is to become embedded in company culture the body will have to make strides in the next 12 months – and overcome suggestions that annual reports already include much of the information required under integrated reporting. Businesses are hesitant about adopting integrated reporting with FDs waiting to see how the project develops before making decisions about changing their reporting models. According to former Hundred Group chair and Pearson CFO Robin Freestone, it “is not very clear” how integrated reporting differs from many FTSE annual reports.
33 (NE) Charles Tilley, chief executive, CIMA
It was a year in which CIMA had to admit in its annual report that its Margaret May-related judicial review had gone against it. Now Tilley must handle its move to a new base in the City – The Helicon to be precise – and integrate Tony Manwaring on board this month as its first external affairs executive director. Good finances belie a need for stronger communication; can Tilley and Manwaring step up to the plate?
34 (37) Ian Powell, chairman and senior partner, PwC
Having won the British Accountancy Awards gong for Best Global Firm, Ian Powell will have to work hard for the firm to live up to its top billing for client service; a task made more difficult because of the negative news that continues to dog the firm. PwC is being probed by the FRC over its audit work at Tesco in the run up to the discovery of a £263m accounting black hole, while Labour MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge accused the firm of “scamming the British people” over the business structure of pharmaceutical giant Shire.
35 (NE) Andrew Ratcliffe, incoming president, ICAEW
ICAEW presidents don’t always make our list, despite the influence of the institute and their profile within the profession. Ratcliffe’s appointment could prove more interesting than most given he was responsible for signing off on the accounts of Barclays during a period now under investigation by the UK accounting watchdog. Ratcliffe, set to become ICAEW president in June 2015, was the lead audit engagement partner for work carried out by PwC at Barclays Bank, during a period that is now being investigated by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). There is no suggestion of any misconduct on his part, and neither is he being personally investigated by the FRC however, his role as audit lead responsible for Barclays between 2010 and 2014 could prove distracting during his presidency if the investigation continues, or a tribunal hearing against PwC is announced while he is in the ICAEW role.
36 (NE) Vincent Tchenguiz, property developer
It looks set to be a seismic year for real estate tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz, as the ramifications of his £2.2bn legal action against Grant Thornton, Icelandic bank Kaupthing and three individuals involved in a failed Serious Fraud Office probe into him and his brother Robert, play out. The lawsuit, which also names GT partners Stephen Akers, Hossein Hamedani, alongside Icelandic lawyer Johannes Johannsson, alleges that the defendants “conspired to instigate” the SFO probe into his business affairs – leading to dawn raids in March 2011.
37 (22) David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive, Deloitte
Sproul and his 700 Deloitte partners will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Big Four firm’s appeal of the £14m fine imposed by the FRC following the collapse of MG Rover in 2005, which resulted in the loss of 6,500 jobs. He will also be keeping one eye facing east, as Deloitte awaits news that it could be facing a ban on auditing Saudi Arabian public companies, after the oil-rich kingdom’s market authority issued a letter to all its licensees not to use Deloitte’s audit services from June 2015.
38 (14) Simon Michaels, managing partner, BDO
BDO’s chief has kept the PKF-enlarged ship afloat during the merger between the two firms; revenues and profits spiking in their first full year together. But with Michaels warning of “less elevated” numbers in 2014/15, is the true impact of the merger being dragged out, or is it simply a more normalised set of results to follow?
39 (NE) Ben Affleck, actor
Can Ben Affleck succeed where Jason Donovan failed? The public perception of an a-typical accountant looks set to get a serious make-over with the latex-clad Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice thespian reputedly signing up for the lead in a film called…you guessed it…The Accountant. The broad concept of the movie is about a man who juggles the twin perils of GAAP by day, and the less taxing demands of being a high-class assassin by night. So can Affleck and screenwriter Bill Dubuque paint the profession in a sophisticated light akin to that of the legal profession? Previous attempts, including an accounting drama starring the aforementioned Donovan, were met with limited success.
40 (NE) Ken Frost, blogger
In and out of the Power List since his anti-ICAEW/CIPFA merger campaigning in the mid-Noughties, his recent posts on the cheekily named HMRCIsShite blog seem to have invoked illuminating spleen-venting among the taxman’s staff – we expect even more to follow in what will be another tough year for HMRC.
41 (39) Steve Varley, chairman, EY UK & Ireland
A year on from the Ernst & Young rebrand, Varley will be keen to build still further on EY’s most recent successes which saw its advisory business account for the biggest slice of revenues at £559m, up 15% on the year before. The former Andersen Consulting partner will also hope to pick up more blue chip audit accounts such as the BBC, the Co-operative Bank, and London Stock Exchange, which it snared in 2014. And it will be more of the same as it aims to double the size of its big data and cyber security teams before 2015 nudges into 2016.
42 (NE) Sir Win Bischoff, chairman, Financial Reporting Council
The septuagenarian Anglo-German City grandee will mark his first year anniversary at the FRC in April this year, having left the Lloyds banking group to do so. While juggling his time as chairman of JPMorgan Securities, Bischoff will play a key role in restoring credibility to the future direction of UK corporate reporting and governance following years of industry-driven criticism of the FRC for its glacial pace in implementing change. Bischoff will also spearhead the reforms to statutory audit following EU and Competition Commission edicts.
43 (26) Michael Izza, CEO, ICAEW
Izza must be content with the general direction of travel for the institute, with new ventures planned in banking capital assurance and deals struck to extend its reach via MoUs in the Czech Republic and Saudi Arabia. But in his ninth year in the role, and with other institutes setting out ‘2020 strategies’, how much appetite does he have for the fight?
44 (24) Hans Hoogervorst, chairman, IASB
With the European Commission’s impending evaluation of IFRS in the EU, Hoogervorst will seek to up the IASB’s efforts to further exorcise unnecessary and repetitive disclosure burdens and to cut even more clutter. And despite Ian Mackintosh, the IASB’s vice-chairman, saying that after a decade of almost continuous change in financial reporting, a period of ‘relative calm’ could be on the horizon, we still believe his boss will be kept more than busy in 2015, with the new Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting and a host of other issues bubbling away long into 2015.
45 (29) Richard Murphy, founder, Tax Research UK
Decried by right-wingers and praised by those on the left, the former Peat Marwick man and founder of the Tax Research UK think tank is never shy of taking on the tax-advising establishment and the corporate practices that earn them millions in fees, which he argues denies governments vital taxes. In 2015, the tax justice campaigner has called for ‘an end to the narrative of austerity’ because it is ‘akin to madness’. His currency – love or it loathe it – will only continue to rise in the year ahead. Fireworks are guaranteed.
46 (NE) El?bieta Bie?kowska, internal markets commissioner, European Commission
Former Polish deputy prime minister Bienkowska has the unenviable task of opening trade for business while ensuring nobody takes too big a slice of the pie. As EU commissioner for industry, the internal market, entrepreneurship and SMEs, she has promised she would “insist on simplification and predictability for businesses”, with a special attention to SMEs. She also wants to significantly reduce the time needed to set up a business in any EU country by “deploying an electronic one-stop shop”.
47 (NE) Anton Colella, chief executive, ICAS
While member numbers are good for ICAS, breaking the 20,000 barrier, its student number has dropped steeply: to 767 in 2013 from 963. Efforts to open up routes to entry have begun. ICAS seems unharmed from its neutral position during the Scottish independence debate – but can it take a stronger lobbying role in 2015? This is what we want to see, and hear, from Colella and its other highly-regarded accountants.
48 (NE) Loraine Woodhouse, acting CFO, John Lewis Partnership
Woodhouse is the third retail CFO to make the Power List this year, indicating the state of flux the industry is presently in, with roles at Tesco, M&S, Debenhams and John Lewis changing hands in the last year. Woodhouse, who succeeds M&S-bound Helen Weir, makes the list because John Lewis remains a darling of market commentators as a well-run example of mutual/employee-owned business. She is also a CFO on the rise, having previously been recognised in Financial Director’s Ones to Watch initiative in July 2011 as FD of fashion retailer Hobbs.
49 (7) Paul Aplin, chairman technical committee, ICAEW Tax Faculty and partner, AC Mole & Sons
Previously recognised in the British Accountancy Awards, the quietly-spoken tax adviser continues to hold sway with those in power. His dealings with civil servants and ministers across the last two governments suggest he will continue to influence tax in 2015.
50 (NE) Karl Sandall, chief executive, TaxAssist Accountants
‘Karl Sandall and the franchisees’ sounds like some strange doo-wop revival group. Actually, TaxAssist Accountants MD Sandall and a tranche of its franchisees have broken new ground in their ownership of ‘the firm’. More than 190 TaxAssist franchisees have bought a 32% stake in the business, with executives, including Sandall, owning 53%. But can they all live happily ever after? Can such a fractured ownership model work? Sandall has lots of stakeholders, with varying levels of investment and engagement, to keep happy.