Goodbye Accountancy magazine, hello Economia!

Posted by Christie Malry on December 6, 2011 at 9:57 pm

So, the new ICAEW magazine is to be called Economia.

The name is taken from Economia, the lady who acts as the physical manifestation of the ICAEW. And look at the elegant way they've stuck the old bird herself into the logo. The logo is all funkily lower-case too.

Of course, 'economia' is also the Spanish word for 'economy' so should play well internationally too. Although it will also make it much more difficult to find a sensible URL for the new magazine.

The first issue of Economia will be sent to all members in early February.

(OK, so I was beaten to the story by over a week by my old buddy Graham Hambly)

You simply can't redistribute the bosses' pay

Posted by Christie Malry on December 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Let's put a lie to rest, shall we? Encapsulated by this tweet I saw today, but often repeated:

Happily, in among the news stories from five years ago, Accountancy magazine has a table of CEO remuneration last year, so we can have some fun with sums.

Let's take Frank Chapman, CEO of BG Group. He earned £7,451,398 last year. So could he have entertained a "tiny bit of redistribution"? BG Group has 6,172 staff, most of whom work outside the UK. So, even if Frank had decided to work for nothing, the maximum each member of staff could have received would be £1,200 more. And do BG Group employees feel hard done by? One can only presume that they would seek employment elsewhere if they did. The accounts show that total remuneration for employees was $1,126,000,000 which works out at $182,000 per employee. Is that not considered a reasonable salary?

Or, for a more extreme example, look at Justin King at Sainsbury's. He earned £2,601,449 in 2010. Had his pay packet been shared among Sainsbury's 146,900 employees, each could have enjoyed an additional £17.71.

The idea that bosses should earn less so that their employees can earn more  is driven by a combination of envy, idiocy and economic naivety. While bosses do earn a lot, they are responsible for the livelihoods of many thousands of employees. Even if you wanted to redistribute, it would generate such a negligible difference to staff, it would be meaningless.

Accountancy magazine - always last with the news

Posted by Christie Malry on December 3, 2011 at 9:42 am

There's an amusing story in this month's Accountancy magazine.

Congratulations to Anton! Only, erm, he's been chief executive at ICAS since June 2006, so quite why it's taken Accountancy until now to notice this is anyone's guess. I suppose it's possible they intended to report on his appointment as chair of the Global Accounting Alliance and just got confused.

Whatever the reason, this is a humiliating blunder and a huge setback for Accountancy magazine as it seeks to prove itself as relevant to accountants in its penultimate issue as the ICAEW member magazine.


Accountancy magazine isn't going down without a fight

Posted by Christie Malry on October 24, 2011 at 9:47 pm

It looks like Accountancy magazine has started the process of preparing itself for the inevitable oblivion that must surely follow once its subscriber base has been obliterated by the cancellation of the member agreement with ICAEW.

They have launched, which looks to be a pretty acceptable accountancy news site. But there's nothing obviously there that you can't already get from Accountancy Age. And it's unclear what would encourage people to spend £99 a year on a subscription to the printed magazine. Especially given that ICAEW will be sending a free magazine to all members from February. 

What will become of Accountancy magazine?

Posted by Christie Malry on October 5, 2011 at 9:38 am

When I got my accountancy training contract, one of the very first things we did was go on a residential training course to teach us the essentials of accountancy's basics. Things like double-entry book-keeping and the like. And on the first day of that course, the tutor sat us down and earnestly told us that as soon as we got home, we were to subscribe to Accountancy magazine, because it often contained helpful information for passing our exams, as well as essential information for members. Although he did concede that it was a magazine that was generally "so dull, they have to mark the pages - in red and blue - that you should read".

Readers, I did subscribe. And in fact I kept up my subscription until the day the ICAEW struck a deal with the magazine's owners CCH to send it to all ICAEW members for free. But now that's all set to change. Because the contract between ICAEW and CCH is set to expire, and ICAEW hasn't renewed it (instead they jumped into bed with a company called PCP, that also runs the New Statesman), ICAEW will be developing its own magazine, leaving CCH and Accountancy magazine in the lurch.

And in the lurch they are. Because whereas once upon a time they could count upon a good proportion of chartered accountants to subscribe, they're going to struggle to sell annual subscriptions for nearly £80 in a depressed economic climate and with ICAEW sending them their own magazine for nowt. They've started the fightback with a competition to win a 2 night spa holiday which should help them build up a list of members to market to. And they'll try to make Accountancy magazine better. As AccountingWeb notes, they're going to expand the number of channels that you can access the magazine through and bolster the content through drawing upon CCH's other content.

It's a tough ask though. Accountancy Age, which used to run a weekly print edition, is now online only and it does that very well. Social media is transforming the landscape, with the main institutes all running forums and blogs, and AccountingWeb providing an extensive bulletin board service. Hey, there's even this blog. By contrast, up till now, Accountancy magazine's website has been shockingly bad. With only a few months to go, time is most definitely running out if they're to find a way to survive.

What accountants look for in jobs and what jobs look for in accountants

Posted by Christie Malry on March 9, 2011 at 9:45 am

There's an interesting pair of diagrams in the ICAEW/Robert Half Career Benchmarking Survey 2011. Except, they're not presented as a pair and therefore their interest isn't immediately obvious. However they're repackaged and reunited in the March issue of Accountancy magazine, which makes their value much clearer.

They show what accountants of increasing experience are looking for in jobs:

And what employers are looking for when they recruit accountants of increasing experience:

They're interesting for their differences.  Accountants think that analytical skills are important for senior positions. But after a few years, the importance of analytical skills falls off a cliff for employers - they merely want leaders and influencers.

And look at the poor showing of presentation skills! Given the very high number of excrutiatingly bad presentations I have had to suffer at the hands of senior managers at various institutions, I must strongly disagree with employers here.

Are we really unconcerned that 'risk and decision making skills' isn't higher up the charts?

What is going on at ICAEW's website?

Posted by Christie Malry on February 8, 2011 at 9:07 am

A few days back, ICAEW mentioned on Twitter that they had gotten a new website.  By and large it looks quite a lot like I remember the last one looking. The main differences are that:

  • finally, only about ten years after they should have done, they've fixed their URL problem. Seasoned chartered accountants will remember that ICAEW URLs used to be about three times longer than any other company's URLs. Well, now they're at least legible, if a bit long.
  • they seem to have introduced some social media concepts - you can now rate pages or tweet about individual pages right from within the website.

Unfortunately, there still seem to be some teething problems.  Pages that have been advertised as recently as February's Accountancy magazine no longer work - for example, at least at the time of writing. This can happen from Google searches too. So a search for VAT might yield this page, which (again, at the time of writing) leads to the dreaded 404 page.

There's also something very odd happening on their press releases page. The newsroom has stories for 2010, 2009 and 2008 but nothing for 2011. In fact, it has no 'Latest news' at all. There's nothing that is 'most viewed' and nothing under the 'Editor's choice'.  The 'Opinion' articles all give you the dreaded 404 page.  It tells you to "check back soon" without giving you any confidence that there's any point. At least they have some BBC news in the sidebar ("Ex tells of Raoul Moat gun terror"). But the rest of it's an absolute shambles.

There are some files you can find via Google search that look like they're not supposed to be there.  Then there's a recurrence of their pubic rash problem (e.g. here) we reported earlier before.  Add to that some curious results from the "Most viewed" pages (e.g. one page which tells you that the most viewed page is "Pakistan", "Pakistan", "Pakistan", "Pakistan"... all of which link to exactly the same page) and you're left wondering whether the ICAEW checked whether the website cake was fully cooked before taking it out of the oven.  At the moment it's most certainly half-baked.

What are your favourite ICAEW website howlers? Add them in the comments.

Accountancy magazine misses the point on gender equality

Posted by Christie Malry on February 7, 2011 at 9:04 am

In the February issue of Accountancy magazine, there's an article in the Institute pages about the ICAEW's submission to the government's investigation into the lack of women in boardrooms.

Now, there are some obvious, bad reasons why women aren't able to get onto company boards.  Maybe they aren't part of the "old boys" network.  Or perhaps they're felt to not fit in with the other old, mostly white, men who are already on the board. We already have laws that should eliminate this sort of unacceptable discrimination.

In addition to these, there are also some sensible reasons why women aren't getting onto boards.  Perhaps they don't want to. Or maybe it's down to taking a break to have children, which either disrupts their career progression or delays it while their male colleagues pull ahead. It's a fair question whether there are changes that can be made to reduce the impact of some of these factors.

It's a delicate subject which requires delicate handling.  So the choice of photograph to accompany the article is really very unfortunate.  They seem to have picked gone for a picture of a girl with the prettiest face and largest norks they can find. Yes, she is a girl; she looks like she's about 20 years old. And, rather than wearing the traditional office attire that's required of men - well starched shirt with double cuff shirt, windsor-knot tie, and sober suit - she seems to be wearing some sort of t-shirt.

There are some serious issues to be debated here. But the choice of picture completely trivialises the issue.  All it does is reinforce the stereotype that women on boards are there to provide some sort of eye candy for lecherous old men. Accountancy magazine really does need to do a lot better.

When is an accountant not an accountant?

Posted by Christie Malry on July 2, 2010 at 10:41 am

An all too familiar tale from our friends at Accountancy Age:

A London accountant has been jailed for eight years for stealing £11m in income tax and Value Added Tax by manipulating both his clients’ and his own tax returns.

Christos Charalambous, 58, of Palmers Green, London was found guilty on six counts of cheating the public purse at Blackfriars Crown Court following a trial that lasted seven weeks.

On passing sentence, His Honour Judge Richardson said: "The offences are more serious as you were a chartered accountant. HM Revenue & Customs ought to be able to trust you as should your clients.

Only, as the article doesn't make clear, Charalambous was a chartered accountant until the ICAEW hoofed him out for failing to assist HMRC with their enquiries into his dirty dealings.  They then made him promise not to pass himself off as an ICAEW member.

Now, this was a challenge I couldn't resist.  Could I locate the disciplinary notice in among my piles of past Accountancy magazines?  You betcha, from May 2006:

Christos Charalambous getting pwned

But doesn't this story suggest, yet again, that we should reserve the title "accountant" for those who are paid-up, professionally qualified accountants, not just anyone who happens to sell accountancy services?

And if you haven't yet contributed to "What is an accountant?", please visit them and submit something.

Interesting comment from Accountancy Magazine June 2010 #2

Posted by Christie Malry on June 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

More good stuff from this month's Accountancy magazine.  This is a quote from the ICAEW's Ian Young, on p.35:

"If you're a police constable, you think everyone's a villain.  But most of us aren't.  HMRC believes most agents are up to no good.  That's not helpful."