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Comment - The bean identity: Where are all the celebrity accountants?

By Chris Conway*

From Fredrik Eklund in New York to Heston Blumenthal in London, professions such as property experts and chefs fill our TV schedules, but where are all the accountants?

Plenty of professions have household names with their own television shows or newspaper columns, but ask someone to name a famous accountant and they will most likely be stumped.

For example Dr. Travis Stork can often be seen dishing out medical tips on The Doctors, while viewers are regularly invited into Nigella's kitchen. There are even whole television series dedicated to particular career paths such as Suits, which follows the ups and downs of the legal profession.

But where is the celebrity scene for accountants? After all, a decent account can jazz up your big or small business by helping you claim the right reliefs and boost your profits, so why are there no famous accountants?

Professional accountancy bodies such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) have around 327,000 members in the UK and Republic of Ireland, according to the Financial Reporting Council.

One issue may be that the accountancy profession faced criticism in the aftermath of the financial crisis when the government had to bailout several banks. Many questioned who was monitoring their balance sheets at the time.

A report by the ACCA in 2014 suggested the profession must do more to demonstrate their value.

The research cited the Enron scandal and old-fashioned stereotypes as sources of concern.

Despite their lack of media attention, accountants are regularly in the top ten most trusted professions.

A poll by the Association of Accounting Technicians placed accountants in tenth place when it comes to the most trusted, below doctors, nurses, teachers and firemen.

In comparison, footballers, estate agents, journalists, salesmen and lawyers all made the top least respected professions, yet all these fill up the celebrity scene.

So what is holding the accountancy profession back?

The accountancy profession suffers from an image issue stemming from the rather unfair label of bean counters, which may influence the public and media response.

This is an old fashioned view of the way accountants used to work in stuffy offices shuffling paperwork around to ensure every penny is accounted for when balancing the books.

A study in 2014 from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and Nottingham Business School found this perception means entrepreneurs could be put off by the sector.

The profession has actually moved on from the high street accountant, helped by the extra access and value provided by the internet, lower costs and technology, creating a whole new era of accountants.

Hopefully in a near future, accountants of the 21st century will be seen on the red carpet next to lawyers, scientists and teachers. After all, now is the time for accountants to shine in the spotlight, we just need to grab it.

*Chris Conway is managing director of Accounts and Legal

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