Another night, another party

The DJ was out and about again last night, straining at the seams as it steered editor John Stokdyk through another three courses with the IFA at Clothmaker’s Hall in London.

Though not as big and corporate as the ICAEW’s dinner, the IFA has a knack of assembling quietly high-calibre guest lists for its events. The smaller the crowd also made it easier to get around and meet a few of them. IFA chairman Eric Anstee was one of the first people I bumped into and he explained that the institute has put a lot of effort into gaining professional recognition during the past few years. The networking obviously pays off as the IFA attained full membership of IFAC last year, thanks to support from both the ICAEW (where Anstee used to be chief executive) and CIMA. Welcoming diners into the hall (above), institute president Robin Liddell, meanwhile, said that he qualified with the ICAEW in 1963 and joined ICAS in 1976. Completing the hands-across-the-professions, I had a few words with CIOT president Anthony Thomas and CIPFA’s president Chris Bilsland was also there.

During dinner, I sat next to professor, author and ACCA’s informal man in Europe Robin Jarvis. It’s always fascinating to hear the stories of how people got where they are today - particularly when they end up at livery company dinners hosted by their professional bodies. Jarvis went from a being a management accountant with Marconi’s space division in Essex to controversy as a staff member of the Price Commission during the 1970s. Later he worked for ACCA in Singapore and latterly he acts as a policy advisor for the European Federation of Accountants and Auditors for SMEs (EFAA) and a string of other European technical accounting committees. His stories about discussing IFRS for SMEs with a German rapporteur confirmed some of my favourite assumptions about Eurocrats and the standards process.

“Do standards-setters ever consider the effects of their decisions on actual businesses?” moaned Jarvis, who witnessed the effects of fair valuations and balance sheet reporting of pensions as audit committee chairman at a now defunct south London art college.

On my other side was another academic, Rona O’Brien from the Sheffield Business School. Once again, she had a real feet-on-the-ground view of the profession. “Business and accounting are fascinating because they’re all about people, not the technical theories,” she explained.

When teaching, she tries to connect with students’ inner motivations to encourage them to pursue career options that stimulate and excite them. The most important thing she teaches them comes in a final year session on employability skills that she calls, “Keep your chin up and look me in the eye”.

That really is a radical message for such notoriously introverted profession.

Credit should go to the organisers and the venue for wrapping up coffee and liqueurs by 9.30pm and encouraging guests to schmooze on in the bar for another hour. For those of us with commitments the next day, this was a very welcome innovation. I was back home on the south coast by midnight.

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