MAKING SENSE of numerical data is something that accountants are familiar with, every day we draw meaning from information in order to support our clients and businesses.
However it seems that as a profession our attention to detail means that we have lost sight of what is important and this could undermine the reputation of the profession itself.
Every year a report called Key Facts and Trends in the Accountancy Profession is compiled using information provided by accounting bodies and firms by the FRC. The report contains lots of detailed information on the income of the accounting bodies, fee income of firms and some interesting details about student and members over a number of years.
What’s more interesting is what is missing from the report; there is no information about the number of minority ethnic individual, average salary or the types of jobs that accountants are doing.
This may seem like specific information that may be difficult to retrieve until you consider that the report contains statistical information on the length of time students have been registered in each body and the age profile of members of the accounting bodies. Even if you don’t care about minority ethnic groups, is there any excuse for not knowing the number of female accountants in the UK?
Some of the information within also reflects outdated trends: audit firms are giving a great deal of attention despite the report revealing that more than twice as many accountants work in industry as in public practice. This speaks to a very small audience.
This is important because if we are unable to make use of our own data in a meaningful way, this undermines our credibility to sell our ability to do so for others or to empathise with the business world. Knowledge based industries are increasingly recognising the competitive value of their people, business schools teach this as part of a successful competitive strategy , in this regard the accountancy profession appears out of touch with leading businesses because the key trends in the accounting profession do not reflect the concerns of business leaders.
Tell a more rounded story
The profession needs to do a better job in telling its story to its members and to the world. The first step of this journey is to increase transparency in order to get a clear idea of where we are now in order to identify where we want to go.
A failure to do will increasingly isolate accountants from the businesses that they support. Eventually this will impede the ability of accountants to serve businesses and will discourage talented individuals from joining the profession.
Jonathan Lamptey is a chartered accountant and director of business consultancy Finance for Non Finance
Contact him at Jonathan@financefornonfinance.co.uk
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