Accountants in business are the invisible men and women of the profession.
Not only are public debates about the professional issues of the day generally conducted by practitioners, but the agenda that shapes those debates is set by those in practice. The fact that many accountants use ‘the profession’ to mean only those in practice adds insult to injury. A large part of the profession is effectively disenfranchised and that has to be put right as a matter of urgency.
Some are inclined to blame the victims. In a recent speech Ian Hay Davison, whose career has spanned business as well as practice, dismissed attempts to involve business accountants in the work of the English ICA as ‘artificial’.
He added: ‘Our industrial members don’t really want to participate.’ Others would say that after years of seeing practice dominate, those in business see little point in embarking on a fruitless crusade to overturn the status quo.
The reality is rather more prosaic. While partners view having a colleague on the national stage as good publicity for the firm, boards of directors take an altogether dimmer view. Instead of support, accountants in business are more likely to be accused of wasting company time or, worse, speaking out of turn. Some of the profession’s brightest and most able members go into business and it is time the profession’s institutions found ways of not just listening but giving them the voice they deserve in shaping the future of accountancy.
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