Numbercrunching can be a dangerous business

An alternative for this week’s front page could have been: “I’m an accountant, get me out of here”. Tracing the flow of money around the world is a very specialised job that is no longer the preserve of Interpol and the CIA.

Globalisation, and the demand for the UK’s top forensic and asset-tracing experts, has seen accountants placed into some very strange, dangerous situations. 

On that basis, there is every chance that senior finance professionals will have to bite the bullet, if you pardon the pun, and press flesh with characters that aren’t so much interested in handing you a shoebox of receipts, as a horse’s head.

There are ways to mitigate the situation. Global firms are sophisticated and experienced enough to know exactly what they’re letting staff into: Accountancy Age hopes that they make the risk situation as clear as possible to them.

Many, of course, will quite enjoy the excitement. Perhaps the accounting institutes should push the BBC to commission a Spooks-style series focusing on forensic accountants? Unfortunately, an attempt by then-ACCA chief Allen Blewitt to launch such a series in Australia failed to take off.

The image of accountants as mere number-crunchers could not be shaken off, no doubt. So for those bemoaning the influx of shoeboxes as the self-assessment deadline looms, be grateful this is the biggest of your worries.

Stress takes its toll

Ironically, “worrying” is a much more insidious problem for accounting and finance professionals than being terminated by a Russian hitman.

Our story on page 6 reveals the dangers that stress can cause. The charity support group for ICAEW members, the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA), told Accountancy Age that it had recruited a specialist team of ten to handle an influx of calls for help.

The calls have come from younger accountants, who have spent the last two years taking on more work, longer hours – coupled with lower job security. The average age of accountants contacting CABA has fallen to 48, from 64.

Real-life examples are included in the analysis, which show that the pressure to perform in the accounting profession has never been greater. The big firms may have support mechanisms in place, but not all can afford that luxury.

So as we approach the festive period, Accountancy Age urges managers to be mindful that stresses and strains don’t just affect those making the big deals. Everyone has their problems.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and last but not least – be careful out there.


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