The time is ripe for change to the traditional reporting model and this presents a chance for accountants to come to the fore as business partners, according to the new president of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).
Robert Bunting of the US assumed the presidency this month, replacing Juan José Fermín del Valle of Argentina. Göran Tidström of Sweden is deputy president.
Bunting is no stranger to leadership roles, having served as chairman of the board of directors of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) from 2004 to 2005. Prior to that he was chairman and chief executive of large US firm Moss Adams for more than 20 years.
Bunting began his career at Price Waterhouse as an auditor. A fascination with the link between business information and decision making meant that within two years he moved to consulting. Two years later, in 1972, he joined Moss Adams.
The notion of accountants as business partners rather than number crunchers has been promoted vigorously in recent years but Bunting said that aspect of the profession has developed less than he would have expected in his 40-year career.
“In some ways it has developed a lot, for example corporate social reporting. That is a growing part of the accounting profession and one that I am not sure I expected back in 1972,” he said.
“But some of the business reporting related to key performance indicators and new reporting models have been much slower to develop than probably was appropriate. I am really looking forward, before my career is over, to see much more progress in that area.”
The time for change is ripe today because the traditional reporting model is under tremendous pressure, Bunting suggested.
“Because we are in financial crisis people are going to be examining very carefully the reporting supply chain and the content of reports – whether they provide good business decision making and risk management information or not and how they need to change.
“A lot of change comes out of crisis and we may be in a period where we get more traction than perhaps in the past,” he said.
Bunting comes from a small rural US town and this influenced both his decision to enter the accounting profession and involvement in leadership roles.
He told The Accountant that children in his community were raised to find a profession that provides a good living, so when he discovered an aptitude for accounting in a high school bookkeeping class and was told CPAs make an excellent living he investigated the profession further. The small town culture also drew Bunting towards leadership roles.
“In a small town environment everyone has to pitch in or the town doesn’t work,” he explained.
“If you don’t put time into your community, you are not going to have a good community and I view the profession that way. I care about the profession’s reputation, I care about how effective we are and if I really care I have to try to do something about that.”
Next month’s The Accountant will feature a special report on IFAC.