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article in FT saying accountants are zzzzzzzzzzzz!
02-18-2005, 07:51 PM
Post: #1
article in FT saying accountants are zzzzzzzzzzzz!
No more Mr Nice tedious Guy
By Sathnam Sanghera

Doctors have ER. Lawyers have Ally McBeal. Accountants, however, have to do with humiliating bit parts such as Keith in The Office - a fat lump who, in his career appraisal, identifies his strength as "accounts" and his weakness as "eczema".


They have always been portrayed badly on TV. Monty Python had Mr Anchovy, an accountant and would-be lion tamer, described as "an extremely dull fellow, unimaginative, timid, easily dominated". Cheers had "boring" Norm, a fat lump who, when asked how life was treating him, replied "Like it caught me sleeping with its wife."

But now the number-crunchers are fighting back. Allen Blewitt, chief executive of ACCA, the international accountancy body, has created Loot, a slick new TV drama that, for once, doesn't portray accountants as timid, spineless and deathly tedious.

He came up with the concept a decade ago but met with resistance from broadcasters until the Enron and Worldcom scandals when, he says, accountancy became "glamorous". Australia's ABC produced a pilot last year, with former pop star Jason Donovan starring in the central role of forensic accountant Jon Peregrine.

The other day I went to watch the 90-minute episode at ACCA's headquarters in London. From the outset it was apparent that Jon Peregrine, a "financial sleuth and general business rebel", was going to be unlike any accountant seen on TV before. He wasn't fat. He wasn't socially retarded. And he even had a little fashion sense when not walking around topless in his flat, his jacket of choice was a rather swish leather number.

The plot unravelled rapidly Peregrine takes it personally when a dodgy initial public offering catches out thousands of small investors and triggers the suicide of his brother-in-law. Together with his genius computer hacking assistant, he won't rest until he finds out who is responsible.

With no Swiss bank account safe, no tax haven secure, tracking down that kind of money can buy you some seriously powerful enemies. And it's not as if Peregrine had a lot of friends to start with. At the same time, he is distracted by another case a high-profile underworld business figure is missing and Peregrine has been hired by his ex-wife Cynthia to find him ...

Not following? Frankly, neither was I. This synopsis is actually taken from the back of aDVD of Loot, obtained from an Australian website. Donovan, who is playing Caractacus Potts in a West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, also struggled he confessed in an interview that it took him "around 30 times reading the script to get it".

But Loot does not fail for this reason. It fails for another reason it is impossible to take Jon Peregrine seriously. And this is not the fault of Blewitt, the scriptwriter, th e producers or Donovan. It is the fault of history.

Accountants have been the butt of jokes for so long (Heard the one about the extrovert accountant? He stares at your shoes . . . ) that they have become intrinsically comic. Making one an action hero, as Blewitt has done, is like making Caractacus Potts a protagonist in a thriller. It is almost impossible to suspend one's disbelief.

I found myself giggling at all the wrong moments when Peregrine had a gun pointed at him and remarked "We're not cops, we're accountants"; when the gun-toter responded by asking "You want to tell me what brings an accountant down here?"; when another character remarked "I'm in insolvency, I'm not a hero".

And I suspect that broadcasters being approached by Loot's producers to turn this "gritty, fast-paced" drama into a regular TV series will have a similar reaction. There's more chance of a Hollywood studio commissioning a movie about accelerated asset depreciation, with Nicole Kidman starring as an auditor.

Doubtless, accountancy trade bodies will be disappointed if this turns out to be the case. They have been trying to glamorise their much-maligned profession for decades in an effort to attract more graduates. A major TV series showing accountancy in a positive light would have been the most useful contribution made since an American trade body suggested the profession bolster its image by changing the word "accountant" to "cognitor".

But they should not despair. If Loot doesn't become accountancy's equivalent of ER or Ally McBeal, they should use its failure as an excuse coolly to re-evaluate the ir PR strategy, looking at their profession as dispassionately as they look at company balance sheets. Doing so, they will discover that accountancy has certain assets and certain liabilities.

Unavoidably, the dullness of the work is a liability. Nowadays, being an accountant involves doing more interesting things than just maintaining and auditing business accounts. But still, this is what most accountants do, most of the time. People like Blewitt are wrong when they say that scandals like Enron have made such work "glamorous". They haven't. They have simply made such work dangerous as well as dull, which is worse than safe and dull.

But accountancy does have assets. First, the work isn't quite as dull as actuarial work. Second, as an accountant you have the potential to earn lots of money. When I look at my friends who have chosen careers in accountancy, the only thing that makes me envy them is that they live in nice parts of London and drive nice sports cars.

Indeed, if accountants want to attract more graduates to their profession, they should give up trying to pretend that what they do is terribly glamorous and exciting. Everyone knows it isn't. Instead, they should publicise the simple fact that when it comes to earning a decent salary, accountants are the ones having the last laugh.

sathnam.sanghera@ft.com
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02-19-2005, 12:09 AM
Post: #2
 
Accountants are definitely not the boring bean counters they are often portrayed as. As with lawyers, they have acquired a range of useful skills through formal education, specific training, and subsequent experience that places them in an incredibly wide range of jobs--jobs that are not only well-paying, but definitely not boring. Forensic accounting, for example, is so absorbingly interesting and even exciting, that it makes Sherlock Holmes being chased around by the Hound of the Baskervilles seem mundane by comparison.

Accountants are involved in a far broader range of activities than just doing your taxes. And if you equate accountancy with book keeping, think again--it's whole different ball game. The forensic accountants, for example, may be engaged in public practice or employed by insurance companies, banks, police forces, government agencies, and many other organizations. They are routinely involved in

- Investigation and analysis of financial evidence

- Development of computerized applications to assist in the analysis and presentation of financial evidence


- Communication of their findings in the form of reports, exhibits and collections of documents


- Assistance in legal proceedings, including testifying in court as an expert witness and preparing visual aids to support trial evidence



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If I could... Then I would... Turn back time!!
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02-25-2005, 09:05 AM
Post: #3
 
Who cares about dirty ol glamour, when you're raking in all the dough. [)]

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