As chief executive of the UK’s first ever quoted accountancy business, Ian Buckley is spearheading a revolution that is already shaking up the practice sector and looks set to continue doing so.
Tenon floated on the Alternative Investment Market in March 2000 raising #90m, and by July this year the company had made nine acquisitions, including some well-known firms.
Its rapid entrance into the accountancy market not only placed it at number 15 in this year’s Accountancy Age Top 50 league table, but introduced a new business model replacing the traditional partnership structure.
Buckley has a background in practice and corporate finance. Former group MD of Smith & Williamson, he was also chief executive of EFG Private Bank until being headhunted to lead Tenon, taking up the job in February 2000.
Further expansion could see it threaten the Big Five.
Rival accountancy ‘consolidators’ are now emerging out of the woodwork, as are critics of the new structure. Detractors say it offers little substance and promotes short-term gain at the cost of long-term growth. But supporters say it gives partners an exit strategy and access to a national network which is of benefit to them and their clients. Shares, they argue, are also more attractive to skilled staff than partnerships.
GlaxoSmithKline finance director John Coombe is the financial mastermind behind the biggest-ever pharmaceutical merger in corporate history.
To succeed in completing the twice-delayed merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham, he spent most of last year flying back and forth across the Atlantic to complete the deal.
Not only did he have to come up with a deal that would satisfy both pharmaceutical giants, he had to convince authorities in both the US and Europe that the merger would not give them an anti-competitive advantage.
When it was completed in December last year, the global business community reacted rather nonchalantly. Coombe told Accountancy Age he believed this was because the announcement lacked an element of surprise. Now that the merger is completed, Coombe is finance chief of a company with a market value well in excess of #100bn. He is also one of the most important accountants in business.
As chairman of the 100 Group of finance directors, he leads an influential but elusive pressure group, mostly made up of FDs of FTSE-100 companies.
He is also a member of the Accounting Standards Board, where he speaks up for the business community.
Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies is a controversial figure with a controversial job.
His strong stance on regulatory issues has helped establish the FSA as a credible regulator.
Since he took over as chairman in 1997, the FSA has grown from fledgling body to a powerful watchdog that has expanded its remit across many financial sectors, including accountants who carry out investment business.
He has revealed himself to be one of the City’s more colourful figures, saying for example that his own position was an ‘over-mighty regulator, prosecutor judge and jury monster, bureaucrat and unaccountable behemoth’.
He also said having a bill in parliament is like having a ‘skip in front of your house where other people are putting their rubbish before you’ve had a chance to fill it with your own.’
He has a varied background and broad interests – including writing book reviews. His career began with government, working at the Treasury and Foreign Office, where his positions included being British ambassador in Paris.
In the early eighties he worked for McKinsey & Company, after which he served as controller of the Audit Commission. Before he took the job at the FSA, Sir Howard was director general of the Confederation of British Industry for three years.
As the man who helped to pull together one of the most exciting art collections the capital has seen in the National Gallery’s Vermeer exhibition, Land has won wide plaudits.
But it is his work within the profession which makes Ernst & Young’s senior partner stand out as a man of innovation in the business of accountancy practice. He was the first of the Big Five managing partners to sell off a consulting arm and he then led his firm to become the country’s first limited liability partnership.
Land had long been campaigning for LLPs. In the end it was the combined efforts of E&Y and Price Waterhouse, including the threat to move offshore to Jersey, that focused the government’s mind. But it was Land who was bold enough to be the first to embrace the new corporate vehicle with enthusiasm. PwC has still to follow suit.
And the sale of his management consultancy to Cap Gemini clearly demonstrated good timing. The price was good, certainly when compared to the attempts of other Big Five firms to spin off their consultants.
The affable Nick Land admitted to a degree of good luck, but that is like saying the National Gallery got lucky with the Vermeer collection.
By sponsoring the exhibition, E&Y has cemented its commitment to art, and raised its profile with the public.
Former philosophy lecturer Nick Montagu was brought into the Inland Revenue to bring about change. Since becoming chairman of the Revenue board in June 1997 he has headed up one headline project after another and has led the charge to transform the country’s tax collector from an ‘enforcer’ to an ‘enabler’.
This year he became one of the most public of senior civil servants when he sacked Hector, the Revenue’s self-assessment mascot, replacing him with an ad campaign featuring Mrs Doyle, the downtrodden tealady from TV’s Father Ted.
Montagu joined the civil service in 1974 after five years teaching at Reading University. He has spent time in the departments of health, social security and at the Cabinet Office.
In 1992 however he joined the Department of Transport and oversaw the privatisation of the railways. In 1997 he moved back to the Cabinet Office to head the Economic and Domestic Secretariat but within weeks landed the job at the Revenue.
He has a reputation for being tough, defending his staff and policies, and for being an original and confident public speaker. Despite having headed up a key Tory privatisation policy, he is said to be working well with Labour.
It was not the easiest of years for Graham Ward as president of the ICAEW.
But it was he alone who travelled from the UK to go head to head with the powerful US Securities and Exchange Commission over new conflict of interest rules.
Before travelling to New York for the stand-off he first had to fill the shoes of his predecessor, the formidable Baroness Noakes – no mean feat, even for someone of Ward’s stature.
The Baroness, or Dame Sheila Masters as she was then known, had set in train a series of reforms for the institute, which Ward carried on with suitable aplomb in the face of protest from several quarters.
This included the infamous district society revolt, which tied up large quantities of executive time.
Then, in between dealing with such local difficulties, Ward was able to jet off to to present the UK profession’s views to Arthur Levitt, the SEC’s one-man crusader against the accountancy world. Ward has been able to continue his international work through his involvement with IFAC, using his position to further the international accounting standards cause.
He took the opportunity of addressing MEPs in Brussels to urge early adoption of IAS in Europe.
The one-time boxer is certainly used to going a few rounds with the great and the good, whether it is with the institute, his own firm, PwC, or the government.
What with regulatory battles, dramatic reshaping of the practice sector and the bursting of the dotcom bubble heralding economic slowdown, the last year has been a turbulent one for accountants whatever field they work in.
Now it’s your chance to have your say on how the accountancy sector has influenced these and other developments by voting for the Accountancy Age Personality of the Year 2001.
We have singled out six leading financial figures who in different (and sometimes controversial) ways have changed the lives of UK accountants.
And we want you to decide which one deserves to walk away with the trophy – use the form below or vote online at AccountancyAge.com.
All voters will be entered into our prize draw with three lucky winners each getting #100 of Oddbins gift vouchers.
ICAEW: Sponsor of Personality of the Year.
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