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Anstee resignation: Wanted - A man of the people. By Dan Martin

7th Jul 2006
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After three controversial years as chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW), Eric Anstee announced his resignation this week. Dan Martin spoke to AccountingWEB members for their views on Anstee's reign and the challenges ahead for his successor.

Former finance director at Old Mutual, Eric Anstee became the ICAEW's first-ever CEO in 2003. In a change to the old secretary general role, he was appointed with the aim of providing a more pro-active leadership than in the past.

Taking up this mantle, Anstee adopted a more high profile role within the organisation and its activities. He was a central figure in publicity campaigns and used press statements to drum up support for initiatives such as practice assurance and educational reforms.

But the most controversial aspect of his tenure came in 2004 when he launched a campaign to open merger talks with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). After almost a year of promoting consolidation of the profession at a cost of almost £1.5m, the initiative failed to gain the required support of two-thirds of the valid votes cast.

Anstee's record

Eric Anstee's determined and no-nonsense style created much support but also much opposition. That split reaction is reflected in the views of AccountingWEB members.

Many critics of Anstee interpret his attitude and the way he performed in his role as arrogance with a desire for a personal ambition overshadowing what was best for institute members. Among them are sole practitioner Adam Reeves who admits he cannot think of one positive accomplishment achieved by Anstee. "I feel that he is one of those people who wants to make a mark by doing something big," he says. "But I don't feel the big changes he made in way he made them were the right way to go."

"I don't feel the big changes he made in the way he made them were the right way to go."

Adam Reeves, AccountingWEB member

Reeves adds that Anstee's background in big business meant he had a tendancy to focus on the needs of large firms rather than that of their smaller counterparts which make up the majority of Institute members.

Professor Jeff Wooler, vice chancellor of the Irish University Business School, also believes Anstee did not keep the best interests of members in mind saying he acted as if "he and the Council were more important than those they were representing".

Fellow AccountingWEB member Mike Buxton agrees. Accusing Anstee of being a "disaster for the ICAEW and the profession", he says his failures were rooted in "personal ambition and contempt for the ICAEW membership and even the ICAEW Council and Board and for CIMA, ACCA and ICAS CEOs".

Several Institute members and industry commentators have been extremely vocal in their criticism of Anstee's merger attempts, particular the amount of money spent on the campaign. Tax manager Rachel Battersby views this expense as Anstee's "biggest failure".

"A simple email listing the positive benefits and arguments against the potential arguments against would have been far cheaper and easier for busy working practitioners to understand quickly," she says.

Paul Druckman, AccountingWEB member and former ICAEW president, is one of Anstee's supporters. He says his former colleague was "excellent" in the role as well as being "dynamic" and showing "leadership and strength". While he admits his central failure was the lost merger vote, Druckman believes Anstee made several significant achievements.

"He instigated the strategic review which gave the Institute a purpose and vision."

Paul Druckman, AccountingWEB member

"He instigated the strategic review which gave the Institute a purpose and vision; the new role of being CEO was picked up with understanding and made into a success; the new GAA alliance is a real tribute and will show his value in the years to come and the Audit Quality Forum is a massive boost to the profile of the ICAEW with government."

Rachel Battersby, who was critical of the money spent on the merger attempts, believes that "on balance, Anstee made a positive difference to the Institute". She says he paid more attention to the regions and made sure "members actually got something out of the Institute for their subscription fees".

Damien Roche, from the Institute of Technology in Tallaght, Ireland, also has praise for Anstee. "I think Eric Anstee was a superb CEO," he says. "He raised issues which the profession must deal with and not continue to bury its head in the sand. His greatest achievement was starting the process of dialogue with the membership, especially small practitioners and industry members."

The challenges ahead

At the centre of many members' concerns for the future of the Institute are falling student numbers. One of Rachel Battersby's criticism is Anstee's "failure to listen to the requirements of training firms with trainee numbers in decline". She believes that this is one of the most significant challenges ahead for his successor. Wrexham-based sole practitioner Adam Reeves agrees. "We need a steady hand and concentrate on winning the training contracts back to English institutions," he says.

International issues also feature in members' wants for the future.

In April 2006, the ICAEW joined up with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland and six accounting organisations from the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to form the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA). As well as promoting international accountancy cooperation, the move was seen as an attempt by the ICAEW to lure new members amid the rapid expansion of rival organisation the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Paul Druckman believes promoting the Institute's global position will be a key challenge for Anstee's replacement. He says his successor needs to "draw in the members by making sure they understand the whole picture of the position of the Institute in the UK and globally and to achieve success in the drive for our position in the global and UK position whilst maintaining the quality and prestige of the qualifications".

Mike Buxton also includes global concerns in his view of the challenges ahead. He believes the Institute needs to expand the work of the GAA and "to consider accountancy relations with Europe including the 23 EU countries east of Moorgate Place".

The Institute significantly redesigned its website earlier this year, albeit with some initial teething problems. This was welcomed by many members but Buxton believes that adding content in several languages other than English would be very welcome.

"Clients, employers and shareholders deserve courtesy and at least competence."

Mike Buxton, AccountingWEB member

In addition, Buxton says: "I am not at all sure that multiple qualifications are a good idea for members but inexpensive quality internet/CD training and updates covering all accounting, law, tax and MBA style content would, I think, be useful. Clients, employers and shareholders deserve courtesy and at least competence."

Jeff Wooller says the new chief executive's first task should be to reduce the Council down to a "reasonable" size. "New Council recruits should be cut down by 50% until such time as numbers are reduced to around 36," he says.

Damien Roche believes the merger issue is something which still needs to be addressed. "The merger must be revisited as accountancy like law and medicine will benefit from becoming a coherent not fragmented profession," he comments.

Successor qualities

In its job advertisement for Anstee's successor, the ICAEW calls for a "first class communicator and influencer" who has experience of "corporate expansion" and "exposure to government and the public sector. Other qualities which the Institute requires are "vision, charisma, energy, internationalism and intellectual strength".

Good communication is also the key requirement of AccountingWEB members. Paul Druckman says the successful candidate should have a strong "ability to get on with people", while Jeff Wooller believes he should be a "man of the people".

Backing the ICAEW's move from a secretary general to chief executive, Rachel Battersby says "a business background and marketing experience are now essential for the Institute's leader".

"Diplomacy and tact" are qualities Adam Reeves believes the new CEO should possess while Mike Buxton says "patience, flexibility, honesty, loyalty" are vitally important.

What do you think? How do you rate Eric Anstee's performance as ICAEW CEO? Do you think he was a success? What key challenges does his replacement face and what qualities should the successful candidate possess? Share your views by clicking the 'post a comment' button below.


Replies (15)

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By AnonymousUser
11th Jul 2006 14:42

Any comment(s)?

Thanks for the info but I have yet to see the magazine: however, I will be delighted (though amazed) if it answers many, if any, of Ken's 10 questions (including, who leaked the story to the Independent and why?).


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By AnonymousUser
13th Jul 2006 18:20

Merge-- no splinter!!
Reading this article it is clear that very few members are happy belonging to the ICAEW.

IMHO it is much too cumbersone and tries to be all things for all people.

It cannot be regulator, the trade organisation (requiring membership fees, mainly from the larger firms,for finance) and expert witness.

It needs to decide what it wants to be, and for whom (the demands of the Big 4 (or 7 or 8) are vastly different from those of the average practitioner.

Until it decides on what the ICAEW is trying to be, and for whom, it is always going to be the failure for everyone demonstrated by the commnents around this article.

Jeff Lampert

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By carnmores
12th Jul 2006 22:52

An apology to Dan first
sorry i didnt get back to you when you phoned did not realise you were going to press so quickly.

by and large i think Anstee has been a force for good, if nothing else he has asked us important questions. i think that he came up with the best solutions.

i respect other peoples right to disagre, but no more misuse of staistics please, to counter the argument that the votes in favour of his plans were too small the actual number of votes against were very small.

a lot of people say they made a conscious decision not to vote, they should have spoiled their ballot paper in my view.

we all have a lot to think about, i have very serious complaints of the ICAEW a jobsworth bunch of ..... but Anstee goes with thanks from me.

my final word, do we really expect the CE to answer emails from all and sundry i think and hope not (especially not this one please)

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By AnonymousUser
10th Jul 2006 20:24

Another view
I see that comments by Dr Damien Roche have now been added to the main piece.

Is Dr Roche aware that Anstee and Morris have buried their heads in sand by deliberately not answering "critical" e-mails? Anstee and Morris have shown titanic incompetence in the Durgan debacle; who, in the profession, does not remember that Durgan bought EMI for £1?

Is Dr Roche aware that CIPFA have put any merger on hold for 5 years and that there is no current appetite for merger by the other CCAB bodies and, if my understanding is correct, what is the current situation of his correspondence with Austen Mitchell MP on compulsory merger of CCAB and possibly other bodies?

Dr Roche is well qualified by examination (though not an ICAEW member), experience and research to comment on mergers and I look forward to his further comments.

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By AnonymousUser
13th Jul 2006 11:56

Handsome is as ....
Today, Peter Wyman CBE has a letter published in A-A under the heading "Perfect timing" which relates to Anstee's resignation.

Peter says:

(a) Anstee leaves the institute in FAR BETTER shape than when he [Anstee] took up his position.

The only current count reports (a few minutes ago) that he leaves it in WORSE shape not BETTER shape and certainly not FAR BETTER shape.

I repeat, the Durgan debacle demonstrates titanic incompetence (by Anstee and Morris) and it also smacks of intrigue and malpractice.
Who leaked the story and why.

(b)Peter also says there is a smooth recruitment process to appoint Anstee's successor.

What rubbish. Among Council,there are those for Izza and those who are not.

Finally, like Anstee, Peter cannot count; since when has January been 6 months before September, or 3 months before June.

Then, Peter was proud to announce he chaired the selection panel which recruited Anstee. Well at least he may be honest in that respect though he is at best careless in much else.

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By AnonymousUser
13th Jul 2006 12:44

Eric Anstee's Legacy
I am replying as requested to Mike Buxton's email. It is very disappointing that an attempt to merge 3 of the CCAB bodies has led to considerable ill will towards ICAEW.The proposed name change certainly confused matters and Scottish and Irish nationalism may insist on regional institutes remaining for Scotland and Ireland.

Perhaps the way forward is for the CCAB itself to become the vehicle for merger discussions. CCAB should rename itself The Institutes of Chartered Accountants Consulative Group ICACG , reflecting the fact that all 6 member bodies hold a Royal Charter. In this forum, the benefits of consolidation could then be discussed frankly by all 6 bodies without the resentment caused by what appeared to be an ICAEW takover.

Anstee promoted the emergence of a coherent profession but I agree that his communicative approach caused great difficulty. The proposed name change was very unfortunate as it angered both ICAI and ICAS and derailed any possible merger.

The next email will deal with Dr Austin Mitchells' response to my views on statutory regulation of the accountancy profession and legal protection of the term accountant.

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By AnonymousUser
13th Jul 2006 13:03

Statutory regulation of the accountancy profession
I received anumber of replies from Dr Austin Mitchell MP PhD. First of all, he is against any government led proposal that the 6 CCAB bodies should merge as he feels a merged enitity would have even more power than the bodies currently enjoy. He is also vehemently against any legal protection of the term accountant as he feels there are thousands of business graduates well equipped to peform accounting duties and protection of the term accountant would add to the exclusivity of the CCAB bodies.

He is against any form of statutory regulation again on the grounds that the CCAB bodies already in his view have too much power. He referred me to the website which he sponsors and which is highly critical of CCAB.

Readers may be aware that IAASA in Ireland is progressing the legal protection of the term accountant. Submissions have been received from the major accountancy institutes including CIMA and all, to my knowledge, are in favour of such legal protection in the public interest. The submissions will be placed on their website at a future date.

IAASA established a forum for prescribed bodies and this forum which has 9 member bodies and not CCAB-I advises the Irish government on auditing and accountancy matters.

The CCAB in the UK should fulfill a similar advisory role to HM Government via the POB of the FRC.

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By AnonymousUser
13th Jul 2006 13:12

Dr Roche,

Thank you very much for your interesting responses. I apologise that I referred to Dr Austin Mitchell MP as Austen Mitchell MP.

Anstee(for the painfully obvious reason) was not in favour of merging with ACCA (despite its many similarities with CIMA which he so foolishly denied).


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By AnonymousUser
08th Sep 2006 14:12

Future of the accountancy profession
My view is that the Irish approach to regulation of the accountancy profession is the right way forward. The government in Ireland is about to define the term accountant and legally protect the term. Nine accountancy bodies are precribed in law and these 9 belong to a forum of prescribed bodies which advises the Irish government - not CCAB - on policy matters.
Whether the 9 bodies eventually merge is of benefit to them in terms of economies of scale etc but as the forum speaks as a unified voice to government, the Irish government would have nothing to gain by any such merger.

I recommend that the Rt Hon Alastair Darling MP should follow the Irish example and replace the non statutory POB with a statutory authority like in Ireland ( ). This statutory authority could prescribe bodies in the UK and also proect the title accountant. CCAB would be sidelined and a forum of all the RQBs/RSBs in the UK could be formed.

In this way the public interest would be served by having the term accountant protected and also HM government would have a single united forum advising on policy.
issues. HM government could ordain that all member bodies of this forum could describe their members as chartered ie legally recognised accountants by Royal Charter and statute.

When this is accomplished any merger debate would be held as a discussion among legally protected equals ie chartered accountants and the current hierarchy of qualification debate should be consigned to history.

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By AnonymousUser
08th Jul 2006 12:49

Who else will be counted
Paul(Now the benefits kick in)Druckman says above "his [Anstee's] central failure was the lost merger vote".

Now, it's a bit like: if there is no upper-class, there can be no middle-class and thus no lower-class; then, if that was Anstee's central failure he must have had, per Druckman, at least two other failures.

I would remind Druckman that he wrote to the membership, in his usual impeccable English, and he too was in total support of the merger.

In their current words Druckman and Morris still support Anstee (but who else will be counted), and Anstee joshed in an open letter that he supports transparent justice.

So, they're all open (letter writers) but they can't answer any questions about the Durgan fiasco (which Anstee and Morris presided over) or who, so seriously, disgracefully,and unwisely leaked the story to The Independent.

A merger is on-ice for [at least] five years says CIPFA and there is no other CCAB member who even might merge with the ICAEW.

Anstee and Morris could go now. Council certainly appears to be in a state of in-fighting and disarray and if Izza is a likely replacement for Anstee he could be caretaker CEO for a trial period. Anyone new will do for a temporary figurehead as President.

That above, and an independent investigation by a QC into the Durgan debacle are suggested measures to wipe the ICAEW slate clean.

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By AnonymousUser
10th Jul 2006 09:22

Signing off too
I agree, you use "his" when you mean "our" and "we" when you mean "I" and "its" when you mean "it's" and ,like Morris and Anstee, you do not begin to understand the word "shame". You meant "pity" and I certainly pity you for your inability to make your case or upset mine.

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By pauldruckman
10th Jul 2006 08:47

signing off
Its such a shame we cannot have a sensible dialogue online, but the likes of "just in case" make that impossible.
Signing off......

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By listerramjet
14th Jul 2006 10:37

what on earth
has any of this got to do with Austin Mitchell? He is not a member of any of the institutes that have proposed merger, and nor does his views represent government policy. He is a red herring (no pun intended).

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By AnonymousUser
07th Jul 2006 12:42

Power and absolute power ...
So Mr Paul Druckman does have a voice but only when he chooses. Perhaps, at the very least, he will reply to Ken Frost's unanswered questions (ref AcountingWEB piece of 30/6/06 by John Stokdyk) - but if he cannot dance, like other past ICAEW Presidents and most Council members, he will assuredly don his well-fitting-white-feathered cap and claim diplomatic immunity at the bar.

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By AnonymousUser
07th Jul 2006 15:38

An apology
I now realise my "€" arithmetic was rubbish; but Eric can't count either.

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