New year – new faces

But influence, of course, is not conferred by title. Indeed many positions guarantee only that the officeholder will end the year a stone or two heavier than when they started. Knowing who makes the decisions that impact on every accountant’s life is sometimes far from clear.

That’s where this week’s second Accountancy Age financial power list comes in. This unique guide to where influence within the profession lies speaks volumes about the business and cultural climate in which we work.

Last year’s list – headed by International Accounting Standards Board chairman Sir David Tweedie – painted a picture of a profession concerned with the future. The major players were involved in forward-looking initiatives such as international accounting standards.

This year’s is altogether different. The outlook is less positive, but very much in keeping with the wider business environment.

When the Accountancy Age team began drawing up the list there was no doubt who would be at number one: Andersen CEO Joe Berardino. In the wake of the Enron collapse, Berardino admitted Andersen had made mistakes as auditor. The admission has implications for every auditor and client and thrusts the expectations gap very much back into the public consciousness.

Obviously economic factors were at play in the Enron debacle. Debates about the appropriate treatment of off-balance sheet vehicles rarely make the front pages when times are good.

Those economic factors are apparent throughout the list. Railtrack administrator Alan Bloom, for instance, is at number three.

But perhaps the overriding influence on the list is the blame culture that an economic slowdown breeds. Number two is Stephen Alexander of City solicitors Class Law who is currently considering legal action against three of the Big Five in the wake of the Independent Insurance and Railtrack debacles. Forensic accountants and watchdogs like Sir Howard Davies of the Financial Services Authority also figure prominently. Hopefully economic recovery and perhaps less ambulance chasing will make next year’s list more upbeat.

Lastly we make no apology for the names that have been omitted. We had more ‘reserves’ this year than last which perhaps reflects the fact that the destiny of the accountancy profession is not completely in its own hands – the decisions of politicians, civil servants and business figures impact on the working lives of all accountants.

But for accountancy to be recognised as the extremely valuable – and absolutely integral – industry that it is nothing but a good thing.

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