AA Awards 2008: Outstanding Industry Contribution

AccountancyAge Awards 2008

‘There were times I could only hear from him by turning on the radio,’ an
ICAEW council member once said of Peter Wyman, the winner of the 2008
Accountancy Age Award for Outstanding Industry Contribution. ‘Peter got
more press coverage than Kylie’s bottom!’

That was five years ago, as the profession sought to fight off regulators
eager to bear their teeth after the collapses of Enron and Worldcom. And it was
true: you could just as easily wake up with Wyman on the Today Programme as you
could go to bed with him on CNN.

If his profile has been a little lower in the years since then, his schedule
has been no less frenetic and his influence every bit as keenly felt.

After serving as PricewaterhouseCoopers’ UK head of regulatory and
professional affairs for a number of years, this summer saw him add the title
global leader for public policy and regulation. He already serves on the
profession’s global public policy committee. His hectic schedule takes him
everywhere from London to Washington to the likes of Argentina.

That’s the internal side. Externally you can measure his influence by his
formal advisory roles to government: serving as special adviser on taxation and
deregulation to the then under-secretary of state for corporate affairs, one
Neil Hamilton, in the early 1990s, his membership of the government’s
deregulation task force in the mid-1980s and his subsequent three-year stint as
external overseer of the Inland Revenue/Contributions Agency joint working

Within the profession he was, by a distance, the most effective president the
ICAEW had ever seen, serving in those dicey, post-Enron months as the
profession’s ambassador, advocate and, in the eyes of many, saving grace. And
not just in the UK either: he took the fight for accountancy’s reputation to the
SEC and the European Commission.

Since then he’s been deputy chairman of the Financial Reporting Council and a
member of the group that oversaw the rewriting of the UK corporate governance
code that followed the Higgs Report.

It was no surprise when, in 2006, he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s
Birthday Honours for services to the profession.

Educated at Epsom College, Wyman trained as an articled clerk with Ogden
Parsons/Harmood Banner in 1968 before moving to Deloitte Haskins and Sells in
1973 where he became international tax partner as well as a partner in corporate

He joined Coopers and Lybrand in 1978 and held a variety of positions within
the new PwC empire including head of tax marketing, head of tax, and head of
external relations.

He is as highly regarded for his intellect and his formidable contacts book
as he is for the ability to speak plainly and simply about technical matters.

Five years ago, for an article in The Times, Wyman subjected his handwriting
to review by a graphologist.
The results were surprisingly accurate: ‘One perceives ambition and
intelligence, but also an idealistic streak. The writer is motivated by a desire
to improve as well as create and there is an almost spiritual element to their
aspirations to success.

‘A wealth of theories and ideas come easily to this person, but there is no
doubt that they may need more practical or grounded individuals to “earth” them
occasionally, or at least to help them instigate their flashes of brilliance.

‘This shows an inquiring and imaginative mind that would prefer to leave the
day-to-day mundanities for others to cope with … the material and physical side
of life often takes a back seat to planning and a desire for recognition.’

Many in the profession instantly spotted the subject. Given his keen interest
in 20th century history, it seems fitting to recognise one of the most
influential accountants of the first decade of the 21st century with this year’s
Outstanding Contribution Award.

Brave new world

In a speech in 2002 entitled ‘The Enron Aftermath – Where Next?’, Wyman set
out his fears about the potential impact on the accountancy profession.

‘We can allow the forces of destruction to destroy the profession and replace
it with a clerical process which ultimately, since it will involve no
judgements, could be entirely automated. An automatic, unthinking and
non-judgmental accounting process will not, cannot provide what business really
needs. And it will fail to provide the needs of wider stakeholders and customers
on whom all business and commercial value ultimately depends.’

That that is not the profession that flourishes today is in no small part
thanks to Wyman.

Related reading