Taking Stock: Top 10 of 2000

No 1: How to keep your head above water

No year end review would be complete without some mention of the enthusiasm shown by many of you for the misguided TS feature of Where on Earth in which we feature readers perusing copies of Accountancy Age in varied and exotic locations.

We say misguided because the response was huge and got dafter and sadder.

That said, a boat load of respect is due to Charles Hemming who submitted this photo of himself scuba diving with his copy of the Age 20,000 leagues under the Red Sea (actually it was only 100 feet). Staggering quite frankly.

Not only did he take time out of his holiday to do this but Hemming, who works for Brebner Allen Trapp in Tunbridge Wells, had to put time, effort and money into planning it. Look carefully and you can actually see his copy of the Age is laminated. We at TS are breathless.

No 2: No, we said castigator
We couldn’t let a review of TS go without mentioning the choice of name made by the Accountants Joint Disciplinary Scheme for its new website – Castigator.

This S&M sounding tag came from Chris Dickson, executive counsel at the JDS, and caused no end of jokes. TS can now exclusively reveal that if you search castigation on the web, you get an Italian UFO site, a Christian think-tank and something called ‘penis dance’. Don’t ask.

No 3: Teach yourself the art of speaking Franglais
John Mellows, senior partner at Mazars Neville Russell proved that the language of business must remain English if your French is limited and goes no further than ordering yourself ‘un sandwich’.

Mellows is a member of the firm’s group executive board and meets regularly with colleagues from the umbrella French organisation, including the chairman Patrick de Cambourg.

Indeed most of the other board members are French and TS wondered just how Mellows coped. He managed, as it turned out, through the generosity of fellow board members who undertake meetings in English to help the Mazars man out.

Early in the year TS was in Mellows’ office and noticed a teach-yourself French audio kit on a shelf with which he is hoping to transform school-boy French into boardroom lingo.

No 4: Beat the players
It takes a hard man to get through the nerve wracking experience of some corporate finance deals, but the staff at HLB Kidsons Glasgow and Edinburgh offices proved they were too tough to handle.

Joining forces the two branch offices had come together to form a football team which apparently engaged in some dubious tactics. Indeed so intent was the team on doing damage rather than scoring goals that it was eventually banned from the firm’s annual national sports day.

One employee at the firm told TS: ‘It is certainly the case that they had trouble concentrating on the football rather than wiping out the competition by other means.’

However, the team has been rehabilitated and is apparently playing again with the appropriate good behaviour.

No 5: Top tax lady offered topless work, but it’s all for charity
September saw TS reveal all about ICA councillor and entrepreneur Anita Montieth.

Staggeringly we discovered Montieth had been offered her own column with The Daily Sport, Britain’s most sordid newspaper.

Who could refuse the fat fee that would follow from that kind of tabloid exposure with a finance column sitting beside all sorts of sex and scandal and invention.

Montieth used to write for the News of the World where she was affectionately known as ‘our top tax chief’ and was challenged with the opportunity to win money for charity if she managed to get her advice into the Sport.

Not one to turn down such an offer she approached The Sport which turned out to be more than happy to give her exposure, with the stress being on exposure.

Indeed they agreed to run her money musings only if she appeared topless.

‘I wasn’t willing to do that for the Alzheimer’s Society,’ she told TS in September. ‘There are limits.’ What, even for top tabloid tax girls?

No 6: R3 on the rampage
Some of the most impressive news this year came from the insolvency body R3 whose members managed to get up to all kinds of mischief at their annual knees up in Barcelona.

A few of the excitable liquidators took to the hotel bar and before anyone knew what was happening the reception cash machine was drenched through and short circuited. Some say it was just water, others point to a tantrum involving vodka.

Still it took a team of electricians all night to repair the machine ready for business and netted R3 a bill for £400.

If anyone knows how to put the rock and roll into finance it’s R3 and we wish them luck finding a hotel for next year’s bash.

No 7: Head to lost property
Attention to detail may be the watchword of many a finance expert but the chaps over at accountancy software specialists Baan proved that if take your eye off the ball you can lose an entire office.

Accountancy Age revealed in November that when Baan attempted to sell off its subsidiary CODA to Science Systems it was the Systems chaps who pointed out the CODA inventory should include an office in Sydney.

Baan even had to be supplied with a telephone number of the office to verify its existence. An insider said: ‘Baan had not given the impression they were people in control of their operations.’ You have to wonder what else Science Systems found once it actually sealed the deal.

No 8: Kidsons partner gets bogged down
It seems the ‘dry’ nature of work in finance prompts practitioners to go looking for ever more bizarre pastimes to fill their downtime.

Peter Owen, a partner with HLB Kidsons in Bristol, this year went further than anyone else to prove that juggling tax calculations all day along can seriously loosen some screws.

In 1999 Owen proved his lung power by becoming the world champion bog snorkler. This year however he demonstrated just how unhinged he had become by returning to the sludge filled ditch in Wales to defend his title.

‘It’s just a great way to spend the day,’ Owen told TS back in August and also revealed he trains for this event. Trains! It all went beyond belief for TS at that stage, but Owen was adamant. ‘You have to pace yourself,’ he advised. Like TS would give up Soho cappuccino bars for a mud filled bog in the principality.

No 9: Give a dog a bad name and nice step
Every dog has its day and in September Baker Tilly revealed that a canine’s toilet habits may be the secret to winning new clients.

Indeed persuading people to spend their hard earned cash is fast becoming an art in itself in the profession but partner Theresa Graham inadvertently revealed that you don’t have to shell out hundreds of thousands on expensive marketing to get new work.

She enquired of a new client how he came to chose Baker Tilly.

He said that for as long as he could remember he had been walking his dog the same way and it had consistently chosen to relieve itself on Baker Tilly’s door step.

So forget Saatchi and Saatchi just get yourself a dog-friendly doorstep, sit back and watch the clients come flooding in.

No 10: Shameful act of spin doctoring at 10 Downing Street
TS couldn’t let a survey of the year pass without mentioning the shameless piece of spin doctoring from Downing Street and PwC after Tony Blair accosted one of the firm’s employees on the Tube.

Georgina Leketi-Soloman was sitting innocently on the underground when Blair came aboard to do a bit of glad handing.

Georgina, intent on her walkman, ignored the PM. Brazenly PwC’s PR people went into overdrive and managed to get the secretary invited to Downing Street so the pictures could be taken all over again.

And the upshot. Poor Leketi-Soloman was turfed out without so much as a cup of tea. Shame!

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