Accountants aren’t boring: breaking the stereotype

Why not a dentist? Apparently, because they have a disproportionately high
suicide rate. But why not an accountant? Geri didn’t say.

My guess is that Geri, like many people, has a stereotypical image of
accountants as grey, dull, introverted and boring. As a recruiter of accountants
– and of 11 years’ standing – I find this image frustrating.

It just isn’t true. Accountants, in general, are not boring people – or at
least, no more than some actors, pop stars, sky-divers and (sorry, Mr Shearer)
footballers. Just because finance people have worked with numbers, and, in a
work context, take a more cautious approach to risk assessment, does not mean
that they are boring outside of work.

Indeed, if you look at the role of finance and its influence on the
commercial aspects of business over the last few years, one thing becomes very
clear. Finance is growing in importance and influence, and that means that its
practitioners are doing the same. The more involved they have been in the front
line of the business, the more they have become commercially aware.

This has greatly broadened their outlook, their business acumen and,
coincidentally, their personality.

Nowadays, finance directors sit at the board table as true participants in
the business, and their opinion on the commercial and strategic aspects of
business performance is valued as highly as their technical skills ever were.

As a result, those people in the finance function underneath finance
directors are being pushed out into the businesses more and more, and so in
turn, their experience and commercial acumen is also developing. It’s not
unusual for newly qualified accountants to work in partnership with brand
managers, marketeers, and factory managers – and you can’t work with these sorts
of people and still be John Cleese’s version of an accountant –1950s –
Brylcreemed and wearing a beige plastic raincoat.

My wife had our first child six months ago. Unlike Geri Halliwell, we’re
unlikely to be featured across 11 pages in gossip magazines, but I have already
told my wife that unlike Geri, I would be delighted if our son grew up to be an
accountant. In fact, I may have already started the process, by ensuring that a
Plc FD is his godfather.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray & Berndtson

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