It’s time to tackle accountants’ stereotypes

Why is accountancy still considered to be so dull? Kingston Smith recently
commissioned research into career choices and perceptions about our profession.

It was encouraging to see that, of 48 different career options, accountancy
ranked as the fourth most popular career choice ­ more popular than teaching,
HR, engineering, marketing, journalism, veterinary surgery, catering and
hairdressing ­ and was equally popular amongst men and women.

However, further analysis revealed that accountancy still has a major image
problem, especially when compared to other professional career choices.

Twice as many people wanted to go into law or medicine as accountancy. We
clearly have a long way to go to persuade people that accountancy can be an
exciting and challenging career option.

The stereotypical views about accountants seem to be firmly set in people’s
Until they are addressed, we will continue to be considered an inferior
profession when compared to medicine or law, deterring many strong candidates.
Our research indicates that the overriding personality trait associated with
accountants is that we are boring.

Almost half of those polled thought this was the case, with 28% believing us
to lack a sense of humour and only 4% perceiving accountants to be fun.

Instead of accepting such damning criticism, we should be doing everything we
can to promote the message that accountants are at the heart of business and can
play a key role in the strategic development of a business.

We all know that accountants need far wider skills than just an aptitude for
numbers, but we must continually communicate this externally. Anyone in practice
knows that we wouldn’t attract any new clients if we couldn’t relate to people.

At Kingston Smith, we have a number of initiatives to encourage greater
understanding about the reality of the profession, from partners giving talks at
local schools to a summer holiday scheme allowing university students to gain an
insight into the reality of the profession before committing to a career in this

Maybe we need to go a stage further, however. We all need to be more
accountable for our image problem.

Is it time for a sustained PR campaign, perhaps organised by the ICAEW with
direct input from the top 20 firms?

What else can we all be doing together to tackle this ongoing issue?

Michael Snyder is senior partner at Kingston Smith

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