PracticeAudit35 years: Looking back – and forwards

35 years: Looking back - and forwards

Accountancy Age celebrates its 35th birthday this year. When we launched in 1969 we made bold claims. We pledged to 'mark and assist the changing status of the profession, and to report on all aspects of its enhanced role as a vital part of management in Britain - management of both corporate and personal business'.

That’s still the case today, though much else has of course changed.

Indeed some of the stories we ran then sound impossibly unlikely today.

We reported how the board of the Inland Revenue had called for a three-year standstill on all new tax legislation. Don’t hold your breath for a repeat of that sort of plea from within.

Other articles, however, showed to a worrying degree just how little the issues facing accountants have changed. In a story headlined ‘Clash over accountants with dual role’, we covered the views of a consultant.

He maintained that one firm of accountants should not report to shareholders as auditors and to the board as consultants. It’s an argument that – to a greater or lesser extent – still rages today.

The new ‘weekly newspaper for accountants’ also carried the views of the then president of the ICAEW – referred to in an oddly deferential way as Mr Ronald Leach.

Leach rejected claims that auditors of companies had become so close to management that the accountancy profession was now unable to protect the integrity of shareholders adequately.

‘To people who feel that auditors lack independence and that they are really friends of the directors, I would say that there is hardly any audit which does not involve points of difficulty – some of them substantial,’ he said. Is there a president of the institute who has not had to echo similar sentiments since?

In fact the deeper you delve, the more similarities than differences between then and today you see.

Until, of course, you get to the recruitment pages. The vacancies advertised in that first issue offered salaries, mostly, above £2,000 a year. Others, we boasted, were above £5,000 a year. Some accountants – including KPMG chairman Mike Rake and Man Group FD Peter Clarke – now earn more than that each day.

Over the coming weeks and months Accountancy Age will be returning to the birthday, looking back over a changing profession. Rest assured we will also be looking forwards – to our next 35 years.

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