What once was a wish-list designed to stimulate debate has become something closer to a rescue bid, a ten-point plan requiring urgent discussion if accountancy’s battered reputation is to be salvaged.
Service industries trade on reputation. That’s why in the last few days Andersen UK managing partner John Ormerod has written to clients stressing: ‘I give you my personal assurance that our people remain completely focused on the important work we do every day for you, particularly at this busy time of year in the financial calendar.’
Welcome though that statement might be, it isn’t enough.
Clients will be just as interested in how the firm – and the profession – will be tightening up procedures. And while they may be looking for immediate reassurance that ‘an Enron’ couldn’t happen in the UK (let alone to themselves), they will also want to know what Andersen will be doing to reassure markets and regulators of the integrity of the firm’s work.
This holds true for every member of the Big Five. As much as the firms themselves, ‘Big Five’ is now a global brand. If one of them sneezes they all catch a cold. So feel free to disagree with our proposals. And tell us if you do. But please don’t ignore them. All our reputations are at stake.