The new president of the
Federation of European Accountants has chosen ‘evolution to the
next decade’ as the theme for his presidency. Hans van Damme tells
Carolyn Canham about his plans to increase the federation’s work
within Europe and explore new relationships

Hans van Damme, new FEE president

Hans van Damme says a new president cannot bring immediate
revolution because “you step into a development that is ongoing and
there is a lot of reoccurring work”.

This is why he has chosen the term ‘evolution’ to define the
plan for his two-year term as president of the Federation of
European Accountants (Fédération des Experts comptables Européens –

The federation represents 43 professional institutes of
accountants and auditors from 32 European countries, including all
27 EU member states and has a combined membership of more than
500,000 professionals.

Finance background

Van Damme has worked for KPMG and its predecessor firms for more
than 30 years. For most of his career he has served the financial
sector, with mainly banks and leasing companies as clients.

“It is topical and it is not an easy type of industry to be
working in, but it is a challenge,” he explains.

Van Damme has been active with FEE for a number of years in a
number of functions, particularly focusing on financial reporting.
He has also been a member of the supervisory board of the European
Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG).

Some significant issues that arose in the lead up to Van Damme’s
presidency included the decision to enhance EFRAG; the move towards
IFRS in the US; and the political wrangling between Europe and the
IASB in reaction to the financial crisis.

In terms of the latter, Van Damme says FEE has joined most of
the accounting profession in calling for proper due process to be

“Another element that emerged just when I began as deputy
president was that simplification started to be an issue and has
been an issue ever since,” Van Damme adds.

The new president has been heavily involved in the
simplification debate, chairing the working group that dealt with
the initial responses from the accountancy profession.

He says FEE initially had some concerns that the EC would

“We have been dealing with financial reporting standards,
directives, for many years and changing them completely in a very
short timeframe would run the risk of being counter-productive,” he

“The changes that were considered in the Fourth and Seventh
[Company Law] Directives were significant and some of them are
still now being worked on, for example regarding

“We did not see that as a line of thought that would be very
helpful, but at the same time this seems to be the line of thought
that seems to give the highest savings, so it will continue, we
will see it being implemented.”

Van Damme says FEE’s opinion remains that micro-entities should
operate within a fixed reporting framework.

International connections

FEE does not have any regular contact with other regional
accountancy bodies, but this is something Van Damme would like to
see changed.

When he travels to the next IFAC meeting in New York it will be
to maintain contact with the international body and its new chair,
but also to make contact with other regional organisations to
assess what developments are taking place in locations including
the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“I think we should be trying at least to find opportunities to
get in contact with them and see whether there is common ground to
develop,” he explains, adding that this contact will be on an
informal basis.

Other strategies for Van Damme’s term include considering how
FEE can add value to SMPs as the majority of its members come from
smaller firms.

This will include looking at areas such as ethics and financial
reporting in the smaller business arena.

Sustainability will also receive a lot of attention, with the
federation starting this month to advocate accountants’ roles in
embedding sustainability as a core part of strategy and
decision-making (see Take sustainability role or lose it –

On a personal level, Van Damme would like to see the federation
expand its activities and team.

“I feel a lot of repetition is being done at member body level,”
he explains. “I think the emphasis could be placed from a European
perspective and we could disseminate work to the member bodies
after it has been chewed on by FEE.

“If there are new exposure drafts, why should everyone start at
base ground? We could do more work for members in areas of global
interest. They should be looking at the national interest.

“That would involve an expansion of the team to prepare for the
next decade. Over the past four or five years the EC has called far
more upon FEE because we are a true European organisation, and that
is just going to expand. We should be ready for the next step.”