The volatile rise of e-business, vitriolic battles over tax changes, painful regulatory upheavals and the ever-tightening grip of globalisation have all made for a busy year for financial professionals. Now it’s your chance to have your say on the last year’s events and vote for the Accountancy Age Personality of the Year 2000. Send your details in with your vote and you could win #100 in Oddbins vouchers. We have narrowed the field down to eight candidates so, by using the form below or by visiting AccountancyAge.com, you can make your voice heard.
While many people may be sitting on the sidelines, wondering whether or not to join the ‘second wave’ of e-business, Bob Head is already well into his second high profile e-banking job.
Smile’s first chief executive joined the Co-operative Bank’s internet bank in April six months after launch. He was poached from Prudential’s internet bank egg, where he was co-founder and finance director.
Head, a Coopers & Lybrand-trained accountant, has said of his experience at egg that he relished starting a business from scratch. It has also helped him deal with the vexed case of online security.
And now that internet banking has gained wider acceptance from business, Head is looking to persuade the public that there are ‘compelling reasons’ to bank with smile.
When Jon Moulton took his venture capital company, Alchemy, into the fray to buy Rover, he overnight became the most prominent businessman in Britain.
Paradoxically his media persona portrayed him wearing two hats – the man who could save the ailing car company, but also as the man who would make thousands redundant to do it.
With a steady hand and unfailing nerve the chartered accountant negotiated his way through countless sessions with BMW, answered thousands of media questions without giving any sign of ever wavering from his message. He made no inflated promises and just stuck to his business plan. In the face of relentless media coverage it was a bravura performance and one which demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that accountants have got guts.
SIR DAVID TWEEDIE
Sir David Tweedie has never been battle-shy. The Accounting Standards Board chairman has had to don his armour a number of times this year to get the message across that he is determined to eradicate lax standards in financial reporting.
Sir David now faces opposition from many companies that offer employees shares and share-options following the publication of the ASB’s proposals to force companies to show the costs of doing so in their profit and loss accounts.
His quick wit, dry humour and determination to ‘nip in the bud’ irresponsible reporting has led to the Scottish accountant’s election as board chairman of the International Accounting Standards Committee, ensuring a global voice for the UK, which he will take up next year.
Arthur Levitt, chairman of US regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission, has come to be viewed by many in the UK accountancy profession as the common enemy.
His crusade to ensure that auditors are seen to be independent has caused furore at the Big Five, the accountancy firms at which Levitt has directed his most scathing attacks. Levitt’s actions have also contributed to moves by the big firms to sell off or separate their consultancy arms, a trend which is changing the landscape of the profession.
But Levitt believes that his drive will increase public and investor confidence in company reports and boardroom life. If he’s right, in the long run splitting audit from accounting and consultancy will benefit the accounting world as well.
Apart from its sheer size, there were two notable features about the storm of opposition whipped up by the IR35 tax rules introduced this year.
One was the use of the internet in coordinating opposition, and the other was the unprecedented cooperation between accountancy, tax and business groups in the protests.
Ann Redston, an Ernst & Young partner who led the Chartered Institute of Taxation’s protests, made a leading contribution to the debate and to the behind-the-scenes discussions, both other business groups and the government, on the issue.
She earned praise for her reasoned and diplomatic approach, and has become a well-established writer on IR35 and other personal tax issues.
Peter Wyman is not one to back away from controversy. But even he may have been somewhat taken aback this year to find himself publicly slated by Gordon Brown when he spoke out in protest at the government’s plans to reform double tax relief.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers partner, however, maintained a dignified silence after the chancellor said his estimates of the cost of the changes should be taken with a ‘pinch of salt’ – although Brown was in the end forced into a partial climbdown on the issue.
Wyman – who last year led the failed bid to introduce optional exam papers into the English ICA’s syllabus – is set to become the institute’s president in 2002 having been elected as vice president in February this year.
When John Millett took over the post of finance director at Rover, one of his first jobs was to come up with a credible business plan for the ailing car company.
At that time you could not have found an accountant in the world with a more daunting task than that.
He said at the time it would be ‘exciting and challenging’ and observers of Rover could only agree that the Midland auto company, even if it does fail, will go out with a bang rather than a whimper.
Millett is in there fighting for the company with no small amount of bravado after declaring measures to save Rover would have to be ‘radical’.
He acknowledged Rover’s tight position but made it clear he, and the Phoenix group, would come out fighting.
Wendy Thomson has led from the front in the government’s drive to improve public services. Heading up the Audit Commission’s introduction of Best Value, responsibility for the success of this crucial but controversial initiative rests largely on her shoulders.
Since 1 April, when it formally replaced the hated Compulsory Competitive Tendering system, Best Value has asked councils, and police and fire authorities to ask whether services can be improved. Authorities must then carry out a review that is examined by Best Value inspectors. Thomson, as national director of inspection, has set up the department and persuaded the public, local government, MPs and a sceptical press of its merits.
You can also register your vote online by visiting AccountancyAge.com – don’t forget you can win #100 worth of Oddbins vouchers.