With accountants among the most significant contributors to the success of UK plc, Accountancy Age this week ranks the 50 financial figures whose decisions will affect the working lives of the profession in 2001.
Most of those on this list are accountants but many are not; influence not qualification determines inclusion. Responsibility for the final list rests with Accountancy Age, though we would like to thank the many senior figures who contributed their views.
1. Sir David Tweedie – IASB chairman
Sir David Tweedie, the man who would ‘cross a motorway for a punch-up’, takes the the top slot in the Top 50 without a moment’s hesitation.
Formerly of the Accounting Standards Board, and from 1 January chairman of the revamped International Accounting Standards Committee Board, he is without question the most influential and important man for, and from, UK accountancy.
Sir David has progressed through academia, practice and standard setting, and leaves his post at the ASB after ruffling the feathers of new and old economies alike in the UK. The former KPMG partner was appointed to eradicate lax practices applied by UK plcs during the 1980s and it is upon his unremitting drive to achieve this that Sir David has built his reputation.
Candid and confident, Sir David was chosen to head up the IASC in the hope that he would build a bridge to the US in a bid to realise internationally harmonised accounting standards. It is a big job.
But if anyone can do it in the years ahead, Sir David will.
2. Arthur Levitt – US SEC chairman
The longest serving chairman at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Arthur Levitt left an indelible mark on the accountancy world with his crusade to protect investors by separating audit from consultancy functions within accountancy firms.
After enraging the big UK accounting firms Levitt would have filled our top position were it not for the fact he is about to leave his post.
Without doubt his proposals have radically changed the landscape for the UK Big Five. Not least he held his nerve to stand up to PwC, playing an instrumental part in its decision to sell off its consultancy business.
A political appointee of the US president, he departs in February following the election of Republican George W Bush. And though he leaves his post his proposals are thought flexible enough to live on under the new president.
Recently he said: ‘For the last almost eight years, I’ve had my dream job. I’ve been able to work on issues that I have been deeply passionate about.’
He may be off, but his legacy will be be felt for some time yet.
3. Peter Wyman – PwC tax partner
A tax visionary who has long fought for a simpler tax system, Peter Wyman once likened the struggle to ‘paddling upstream against a torrent from a hydroelectric plant – we are going backwards fast!’
His passion for the cause led him into hot water last year when he became embroiled in a very public spat with Gordon Brown on Budget measures to reform double tax relief. After PwC took the chancellor to task over his taxation plans, Brown publicly criticised Wyman on TV, hinting he was in the pay of the Conservatives.
Anyone who knows Wyman paid little heed to Brown’s outburst. And it has not affected his behind the scenes work. He is sure to be one of the most effective ICAEW presidents when he takes the chair next year.
4. Sir John Bourn – head of the NAO
It is ironic the normally publicity-shy head of the National Audit Office should spend so much time in the public eye.
Sir John Bourn, guardian of the nation’s finances as comptroller and auditor general, was thrust into the spotlight last year when his office revealed its damning report on the financial chaos at the Dome.
If there is something wrong with the nation’s accounts and how the money is being spent, he will say so. And there is no right of appeal. With his appointment to the chair of the accountancy Foundation’s Review Board his influence will spread much wider.
5. Sir Michael Scholar – DTI head
The most senior civil servant at the DTI, Sir Michael is the man steering through many of the most influential pieces of legislation touching the lives of accountants. The company law review and changes to the audit threshold are just two that will soon have far reaching effects. Not only will he be steering the work of DTI officials, he is also a key adviser to secretary of state Stephen Byers.
When Sir Michael speaks, the cabinet listens.
6. John Coombe – FD GlaxoSmithKline
Londoner John Coombe, FD of the now merged drug company Glaxo SmithKline, now gsk, spent most of last year shuttling across the Atlantic sorting out the merger between Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.
After 11 months of waiting, the new London-based company launched on the London and New York stock exchanges last year, and Coombe took control of the purse strings of the UK’s third largest company with a market value of #115bn. He swiftly became one of the most important accountants in business. Chairman of the highly influential inner sanctum of accountants and finance professionals in business, The 100 Group of Finance Directors, and a member of the Accounting Standards Board, his influence is felt widely.
7. Mary Keegan – ASB chairman
The Financial Reporting Council’s decision to elect Mary Keegan, formerly a senior partner at PwC, to fill the post of chairman of the Accounting Standards Board, will ensure a strong voice for the UK and Europe in the international arena. Her new position is a culmination of more than a decade of work dedicated to championing the cause of harmonisation in accounting standards. Formerly head of PwC’s global corporate reporting group, Keegan is well placed to take up the role where she will seek to win over UK plc, still bruised from recent controversial reform.
8. Howard Davies – FSA chairman
A passionate Manchester City fan and the only person on this list with regulatory, business and public sector experience, Howard Davies is the most powerful policeman the Square Mile has ever seen.
In 1997 the Financial Services Authority began its quick step to supremacy, taking over the responsibilities of the Securities and Investment Board, and the Personal Investment Authority. Today it is Davies, who became a Knights Bachelor last month, whose empire takes in everything from accountants to the largest fund managers in the Square Mile, who rules the roost.
9. Roger Davis – partner PwC
The name Roger Davis may surprise a few readers of this list. But no one who sit
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