PracticeAccounting FirmsBehind the numbers: greasy pole

Behind the numbers: greasy pole

There was a time when a bit of discipline could make or break an accountant

I’m not talking about physical violence, more that an accountant who had
stayed in a sector, a role or even a location for too long could expect to be
passed over in favour of another, more mobile candidate.

That’s no longer the case. Yes, a spell overseas will enhance any CV but it’s
not a prerequisite. Similarly, where corporate finance experience was often the
best resumé-booster, there’s plenty of other options available these days.

Take for instance the fact that half of the top six accountancy firms are now
run by ex-insolvency practitioners after the recent rash of appointments.

Ernst & Young’s Mark Otty, Deloitte’s John Connolly and KPMG’s John
Griffith-Jones may all be dealmakers at heart (proving that corporate finance
won’t do any harm) but elsewhere the picture is much more interesting.

New BDO managing partner Simon Michaels was previously national head of the
firm’s business restructuring stream. The background of incoming CEO of Grant
Thornton, Scott Barnes, is similar.

New PwC supremo Ian Powell is, according to The Birmingham Post, ‘the man who
“closed down” Rover’.

Is turning to an turnaround specialist a coincidence in these troubled times?
I doubt it. Nevertheless it highlights that, discipline-wise at least,
accountancy is becoming more diverse.
And while it may appear strange to suggest it, even geography is much less of a
consideration these days.

Otty is, of course, South African. The likes of Powell and Barnes may have
led international teams in recent times. But many aspiring partners in the last
few years haven’t looked to move abroad. Many haven’t even opted to stay in
London, believing cities like Bristol offer better access to more interesting
clients.

You could do worse than look to the northwest of England too ­ particularly
if insolvency is your bag. PwC’s Powell cut his teeth here but so did an
astonishing number of industry figures.

Alchemy’s Jon Moulton (fast-emerging as the go-to guy for TV journalists
looking for a credit crunch soundbite), turnaround and football specialists
Trevor Birch and Mark Palios, PKF’s Philip Long, Deloitte’s Nick Dargan, Grant
Thornton’s Malcolm Shearson and Railtrack’s Scott Martin all hail from the
region.

Don’t be constrained by discipline or location. The top brass aren’t.

Damian Wild is editor in chief of Accountancy Age and
blogs at accountancymatters.accountancyage.com

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