PracticeAccounting FirmsView from the board: bean and gone

View from the board: bean and gone

There was a time when the word beancounter, though rude and horrible, was a pretty fair description of the largely functional job many accountants did

But, as I have frequently said, that situation simply isn’t the case any
more.

The role of many accountants is now exciting, business-focused, commercial
and operational. Businesses have realised how critical it is that they have a
good number of strong partners in their finance function. CEOs have realised
that without an FD who works alongside them, challenging and questioning their
decisions, their organisations will suffer.

This has become even more apparent in the world of private equity, where the
owners need to see they have an FD who is able to keep the CEO on the straight
and narrow. As a shareholder, you want to know the business is being managed
robustly, and that means you want the reassurance that a financial viewpoint is
being considered alongside the operational one.

I’m not saying the role of a beancounter has died, or that the concept that
accountants add up the money is entirely outdated. The market needs excellent
technical accountants, and businesses know they are worth their weight in gold.
Now the majority are working in commercial, added-value roles, driving an
improved top and bottom line performance.

It’s a shame, then, that the world has such a false impression of people with
a career in finance. It’s also a shame these people are so pejoratively
stereotyped by a name they were given decades ago. It’s high time someone came
up with a new name for accountants: that dispels the myth that all they do is
count; that recognises the commercial value many accountants add to business;
that demonstrates that accountants are not boring simply by virtue of the job
they do.

I’d like to throw the challenge down to the finance world. I’d love to see an
Accountancy Age competition to come up with the best word its readers can find
to describe themselves as a group.

I’d also love the ICAEW and CIMA to club together to buy me a case of 1975
Grand Cru St Estephe in gratitude for shifting public perception of accountants
into a better place. But I suspect I’ll have to settle for coming up with a name
myself, and then trying to promote it. Any suggestions gratefully received, but
until someone comes up with something better, from now on you are all the hot
sum-mers. Or the business balancers. Or the value-adders.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &
Berndtson

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