Why Peter is a 21st century man

Being elected on an agenda of modernisation in an organisation unused to radical change, is a feat in itself.

But for vice-president designate Peter Wyman, being given the opportunity to reshape the English ICA is the chance he has been waiting for.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers partner was elected last week ahead of rival Andrew Shelley to take up the post that will see him installed as president in 2002.

In his first interview since the confirmation of his election win, Wyman says: ‘We need to continue to modernise the institute, building on existing strengths and developing these to recognise the diversity of our members professional activities. The task now is to create a consensus to allow the institute to develop and thrive in the fast-moving business environment of the 21st century.’

Wyman joined the old Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte corporate tax division in 1990, and was made head of tax in 1993. His experience at the institute is also broad. He has been a member of the council since 1991. He was founder chairman of the influential Tax Faculty and has since held various appointments, including chairman of the Education and Training directorate.

Wyman is currently chairman of the Professional Standards Office and a member of the executive.

Although he has more than two years to wait for his turn at the tiller, Wyman already has clear ideas about the direction of the English ICA.

Wyman believes that the institute has to ‘adapt far, far faster than we have ever before if we are going to be at the leading edge in future’.

He says the institute must adapt in a way which builds on its strengths but with a fresh ‘rapidity’ that many professional organisations have never had to contend with in the past. ‘Communication is key,’ he says.

Wyman’s own recent history has been spent as PwC’s head of external relations and communications – but he is happy to be known simply as a partner.

He is described by colleagues as easy to get on with and always prepared to listen.

Communication is, therefore, something which he understands.

‘We need to be very transparent,’ he says. ‘There is always a suspicion that there are hidden agendas and I welcome the debate. I spent a lot of time at the Tax Faculty and in education and training talking to members, and there was a lot of openness and debate there.’

This openness has been boosted by technological advances that will also play their role in modernising the organisation.

Wyman believes using technology such as the Internet to communicate with District Society members will be crucial. The institute is, after all, supposed to be there for its membership.

But, will his plans pacify disillusioned members who have accused council of not representing their interests?

Such talk has been dismissed in council meetings as ‘Neanderthal thinking’, which is delaying reform.

But with Wyman installed as the third president in four years from the Big Five, the polemic over council reflecting the membership base is sure to hot-up. A more sensible choice for vice-president would perhaps have been Andrew Shelley – a council member with his feet planted firmly in the business camp.

It is a view with which Wyman sympathises.

‘I think it would be hugely beneficial for there to be a senior business member who was one of the office holders every five years.

‘But it is also terribly important to get the right people. I think it would be better if, instead of me, there was a business member with all the right skills,’ he explains.

Current vice-president Michael Groom does bring small practitioner and business experience to the presidential party and Wyman says that by the time he takes office, there could be other senior members from outside the Big Five.

‘Where the particular president or three office holders come from is not that important if you’ve got all that behind you,’ he adds.

Looking forward, however, Wyman sees things becoming clearer. The current furore over the Big Five exodus to ICAS – including most recently some of PwC’s intake – while worrying, does not sound the death knell for the English ICA, he believes.

‘The institute is not doomed,’ he says. ‘Things are immensely competitive. Training for chartered accountants is hugely expensive. If we aren’t competitive in terms of cost-effectiveness then yes we will be doomed because people won’t want to train with us.’

While the latest episode ironically occurred in the same week he was elected, Wyman sees PwC’s defection as damaging but not terminal.

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