会计人员形象重塑(双语)

来源:Economia 时间:2016-09-23 作者:Jacob Soll编辑:无忧草
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导读:会计人员既可以作为面临诸多难题的审计者,政府标准的制定者,也可以成为行业的专家。

编者按:会计经济生活中一个不可或缺的角色,在不同的历史时期,或者不同的经济发展阶段,会计扮演的角色是有所不同的。那么,会计的角色到底是怎样的呢?答案不仅说明了我们对会计的认识,同时也为会计未来的发展指明了方向。本文中指出,会计人员既可以作为面临诸多难题的审计者,政府标准的制定者,也可以成为行业的专家。会计的未来到底如何发展呢?来看看本期的文章吧!

English version:

Accountants must rebrand themselves

Jacob Soll,20July 2016

Professor Jacob Soll delves into the profession’s past and makes the case for why accountants must rebrand themselves as accounting leaders.

Accountants are at the front line of every major issue,from the Greek debt crisis and the decline of the Chinese stock market to income inequality and the growing risks of unpayable pensions and off-shore banking.From the great crash of 2008to the ongoing European debt crisis and,indeed,to the simmering public finance crises in the US and China and the enormous debates about income inequality,it’s hard to think of a leading voice from accounting in government debate,in the press,or on television –from sensationalist news to the BBC.

To the public,accountants have been all but invisible.Financial experts know the roles accountants play,from their difficult tasks as auditors to standard setters in government and also professionally,such as that of ICAEW.But to the outside world,even to those in business,politics and education,accountants do not have the reputation of being public leaders.

Given the central role accountants play in managing almost all institutions,and,indeed,the wealth of huge swathes of individuals,it’s fair to say that this image problem is something of a crisis for the profession.Readers of this magazine might disagree,but consider this –for obvious reasons,this poses an enormous problem,for when they wield their skills with prudence,accountants are the most qualified to present and analyse financial data.They can analyse and explain financial information and help understand the stakes of questions that involve valuation of assets and liabilities.The press,politicians and citizens groups use terms like public debt without any understanding of how public debt works.And it’s always staggering to hear on the news,“And now,for the numbers”,only to hear a few stock market figures.

“If the profession is to survive the coming onslaught of digital,AI-driven accounting,then it must make its case professionally,morally and culturally.”

These are not the most important numbers.The real numbers are accrual accounting numbers,and we almost never hear them.If we were to talk about the numbers in say,California,in real accounting terms,it would be more than disconcerting as accrual accounting seems to play no role in calculating state finance.Without serious accountants,public debt is dangerously forgotten or misrepresented and the risks posed by certain standards on the private balance sheets of zombie banks and companies are reasons that in the US,Greece and Germany,as well as China and many other countries,economies are in disarray and public trust has evaporated.

In short,this means that part of our ongoing cascade of economic crises –and they are not stopping any time soon –is related to our inability to have serious,effective public discussions about how to account for both private and public finance.I’m sure that readers of economia would agree on this score.What I believe,and what the data from my research shows,is that this problem is related to the lack of visibility of accountants in political and public life.We might be used to this situation,but it was not always so.

The founder of Price Waterhouse in the US,Arthur Lowes Dickinson,was both an accounting leader and a public figure.The model of a gentleman accountant,Dickinson was knighted by George V in 1919after going to Britain to work in the London office of Price Waterhouse &Co.,and then for the British government during the First World War.Dickinson saw the accountant as impartial referee between business and government,dedicated to numbers and order.

It was a stance not always easy to maintain,particularly in the rough and tumble of the New World.Dickinson found American business unpredictable,fast-paced and unregulated.“Annual audits which in England are always the backbone of a business are few in number,”he complained,“and the largest of them being dependent on the caprice of a few individuals cannot be considered certain.”

Dickinson soon discovered that American clients did not know “good from bad”audits.But he wanted a British model.He did not think that accountants should focus on how to run businesses but that,first and foremost,they should focus on producing a “bare statement of facts”.Dickinson made it his quest to provide the finest audits possible.

The tradition of accountants as public servants,or at the very least as impartial referees,who sought leading roles in political and financial culture continued after the Great Depression and Second World War.Figures such as George May and Lord Henry Benson worked with governments to manage accounting standards and build institutions like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Their goals were to protect the independence of the profession and to make sure it had a place at the table of policymaking.Leading partners in US auditing firms worried that the government would take too large a role in regulating financial markets and stifle financial independence and innovation.There was a concern on the part of the auditing companies –which had since the mid-19th century provided the US government with its audits and standards –that compulsory audits would eliminate the role of the public accountant with a government inquisitor.

These arguments,however,lost relevance in the chaotic aftermath of 1929with confidence in the crippled financial sector at an all-time low.Realising regulation was inevitable,George O May hoped that helping to reform and regulate the market would continue to ensure the trusted,independent role of auditors.In his view,respected,private accountants could lead the regulatory charge of the government with the public interest at the forefront of their work.And so volunteer accountants designed the SEC filing forms for financial statements,and wrote the official guide for auditing.May himself helped write the fundamental rules of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles,still known as GAAP.

While accountants still play leading roles not only in standard setting but also in the crafting of legislation,their work most often goes unseen,at least to most of the world.Think of the historic work of Ian Caruthers in defining and helping implement IPSAS standards.Along with Caruthers,figures including Ian Ball have made major pronouncements,and institutions such as ICAEW have recommended accrual accounting in managing such crises,while also working to create the unprecedentedly fine UK balance sheet.

But accounting leaders are rarely given a true hearing in the press or in government negotiations.This should be big news to all who believe in good government and stable economies,but it remains mostly unknown.When financial crises are discussed,accountants are rarely cited in the general press;and when large negotiations take place over such events as the Greek debt crisis,accountants do not have the audible voices they wielded in the Great Depression.

Even more troublesome,accountants are no longer seen by the public as essential and impartial referees,but rather as the henchmen to financiers who make the “big deals”.As Harvard Business School’s Karthik Ramanna pointed out in The New York Times,there is troubling evidence of accounting standards setters working in the interests of the financial sector and not of the public and investors.This leads to bigger questions about how to impartially fund and staff accounting standards boards.These are hard questions,without easy answers.Societies as a whole must grapple with such essential challenges,and yet the public has no idea of their very existence.

It is my belief that the time is now for the accounting industry to enter into the fray,as Benson and May did,to begin to referee what has become an intractable,ulcerous crisis in Europe.The same could be said for public finance as well as public and private balance sheet standards in the US.

We need the Big Four to finance not only the work of accounting leaders,but to sponsor their voices and work and help rebrand the image of the accountant as someone equal to,if not technically superior to,an economist.Only the leaders of the accounting industry have the funds and muscle to push through reform that is absolutely necessary to the health and sustainability of nations.When an influential US Comptroller General such as David Walker tells the president and Congress that the lack of accrual accounting is sinking the financial management of the US government,we need the leaders of the Big Four to back up such statements with serious publicity and lobbying campaigns.

How can the profession change that?First,it needs to look to its history.Dickinson,Benson and May are good places to start.Their stories need to be taught in accounting schools.And a new sort of accounting education needs to emerge,not simply to produce great technicians –we are doing that –but to also create accounting leaders who can take part in societal and international debate at all levels.A class of accounting leaders must be supported and pipelined.For all this,accountants need to be versed in rhetoric,culture,law,history and religion.

They need breadth and ambition to act as moral leaders to help nations such as Greece,and even Germany and the US,face their massive challenges.This means broadening the training in many accounting schools.My research shows that this is key.To lead,accountants need more complex cultural tools.

On another front,the accounting profession must take very seriously the decline of accounting journalism.Until very recently,major publications such as The Times of London and the Financial Times had talented accounting journalists who looked into standards,politics and the accounting industry.These independent,well-informed voices have disappeared to the detriment of not only the profession,but also to the very wellbeing of democracy.In the long run,the industry benefits from smart,independent and influential voices –as do all societal institutions.If the profession is to survive the coming onslaught of digital,AI-driven accounting,then it must make its case professionally,morally and culturally.

What seems essential now is not only that accounting teachers and professionals work together to rebuild both the brand,presence and very nature of the business,but to create an inventory of both short-comings and opportunities.I have hoped that my book,The Reckoning,would serve as a starting point for this but,so far,it has been seen simply as a celebration of the profession.And it is.But it is also an historical overview of the fall of the profession from its previous heights.

To reclaim its traditional position of leadership,the accounting profession needs its own reckoning:an audit of its place and effectiveness in a world financial society that most agree is now sick and increasingly dysfunctional.I have celebrated what accountants have done.But history shows that now,the responsibility of doing more and serving the public good is on the shoulders of a venerable but too-often marginalised profession.

中文版:

会计师必须重塑自我形象

雅各布·斯科尔(Jacob Soll)教授致力于去探索行业过往,并且以为何会计师必须重塑他们作为会计行业领袖的自身形象作为课题专项研究。

从希腊债务危机、中国股市下跌,再到收入不均衡现象、无法支付养老金风险的增长和离岸金融业务,会计师都是站在所有重大事件的第一线。从2008年的金融危机到最近的欧债危机,甚至是近期在美国和中国不断升温的公共财政危机以及由于收入不均衡引起的大规模争论中,人们反而很难在政府辩论、纸媒或是电视上想到一个来自会计领的领袖声音——无论是从偏驳的新闻言论还是BBC上。

对于公众而言,会计师们从来都是存在却又不可见的。金融专家们知道会计师所扮演的角色,从面临诸多难题的审计者,到政府标准的制定者,再到行业的专家,比如ICAEW。但对于非行业内部的人们,甚至是对于那些从事商业、政治和教育方面的人士们而言,会计师们也从未拥有过作为公众领袖的声望。

会计师在几乎所有机构及大量个人的财富管理中扮演着重要的角色,因此这种形象问题可以说是这个行业面临的某种危机。这本杂志的读者可能不同意这是一种危机,但思考一下这一忽略所带来的一个巨大的问题:会计师会谨慎的运用自己的技能,由于这一明显的原因会计师是最有资格展示和分析财务数据的。他们可以分析和解释财务信息,并有助于客户了解有关资产负债估值问题的风险。新闻界、政界人士和市民团体经常使用像公共债务这样的词语,却根本不了解公共债务是如何运作的。而我们也总能震惊的在新闻中听到“现在是数据时间”,却只听见几个股票市场数字。

“如果这个行业想要在数字化和人工智能会计的冲击下存活下来,那么它必须更加注重它的专业性,道德性和文化性。”

这些都不是最重要的数据,真正的数据是权责发生制会计数据,而我们几乎从未听闻过它们。如果我们用真正的会计术语谈论数据,以加利福尼亚州为例,它将令人不安,因为权责发生制会计似乎在计算州财政上没有发挥作用。没有真正的会计,公共债务将被遗忘或曲解,而空壳银行和企业的私人资产负债表所造成的风险,正是使美国、希腊、德国以及中国和其他许多国家经济混乱和公众信任消失殆尽的原因。

总之,这说明由于我们无法对私人和公共财政的财务工作进行认真有效的公众讨论,使得其成为了我们正在经历的长期经济危机的一部分原因。我相信《economia》的读者会在这一点上同意我。我相信同时我的研究数据也说明了这个问题是与会计师在政治和公众生活中缺乏认知度有关。我们可能习惯了这种情况,但并不能总是这样。

美国普华会计师事务所的创始人阿瑟·洛斯·迪金森爵士(Arthur Lowes Dickinson)不仅是一个会计行业领袖,同时也是一位公众人物。因为迪金森绅士般的会计工作模式,于一战期间先后服务于普华永道伦敦办公室和英国政府,并在1919年被乔治五世封为爵士。迪金森爵士将会计看作是企业与政府间注重数字与准则的公平裁决者。

而这个立场并不总能轻松维持,特别是在新世界的坎坷和混乱中。迪金森发现美国商业有不可预测、快节奏和不受管制的特性。“在英国能被称为业务骨干的年度审计师数量很少,”他抱怨道,“他们中绝大部分又依赖于少数人的决策,从而增加了不确定性。”

迪金森很快发现,美国客户并不了解“从劣变优”的审计师。但他同时希望实现他的英国模式。他不认为会计人员应该专注于如何经营企业,但首先,他们应该致力于提供一个“完全的事实陈述”式的报表。迪金森把提供最好的审计作为他的追求。

在大萧条和第二次世界大战之后,会计师作为公务员或至少是作为公平裁决者,在政治和金融文化中寻求领导角色的传统一直在继续。著名人物如乔治·梅(George May)和亨利·本森(Henry Benson)勋爵曾为政府管理会计标准,并建立类似美国证券交易委员会(SEC)的机构。

他们的目标是保护该行业的独立性,并确保它在政策制定中占有一席之地。美国审计公司的主要合伙人们担心政府在调节金融市场中过度参与,从而扼杀金融独立性和创新性。自19世纪中期向美国政府提供审计服务及其标准以来,部分审计公司担心强制性审核将使公共会计师被政府检察官替代。

然而,这些论点在1929年美国金融行业创下前所未有低点的灾难性后果中便不再成立了。乔治·O·梅(George O May)意识到监管是不可或缺的,他希望通过改革和规范金融市场来帮助维护审计师可信、独立的角色。在他看来,受人尊敬的私人会计师在他们的工作的最前沿可以承担起政府对公众利益的监管责任。因此,美国证券交易委员会的志愿会计师对财务报表进行归档并撰写官方审计指南。同时梅本人还帮助编写被称为一般公认会计原则(GAAP)的基本规则。

虽然会计人员仍然在制定标准和起草立法发挥主导作用,但至少对世界上大多数人来说,会计的工作却往往是不被看见的。就像伊恩·卡拉瑟斯(Ian Caruthers)在帮助规范和实施IPSAS标准工作中做出的历史性贡献。同他一样,还有很多人物包括伊恩·波尔(Ian Ball)在行业内提出重要的声明,也有一些机构例如ICAEW推荐引用了权责发生制会计来应对危机,同时也致力于创造空前优良的英国资产负债表。

但是,很少有会计界领袖真正参与到新闻界争论或政府谈判中来。对于相信良好政府和稳定经济体的人们而言,这是一个令相当震惊的消息,但它对大众来说依然是一个不为人所知的事实。当讨论到金融危机,会计师很少在大众媒体中被引用;在诸如希腊债务危机等大事件的讨论中,民众并没有听到来自于会计领域所发出的声音。

更麻烦的是,会计人员不再被公众视为必要和公正的裁决者,而是作为进行“大交易”金融家的追随者。就像哈佛商学院的卡西克·拉曼纳(Karthik Ramanna)在《纽约时报》中指出,有证据显示会计准则的制定者更倾向于制定有利于金融从业者的利益的条款,而不是考虑大众与广大投资者的利益。这引出了一个更大的问题:会计标准委员会要如何公正地配备资金与人员。这些都是很难解决的问题,也没有简单的答案。整个社会必须一起应对这样关键的挑战,然而事实上公众并不知道这些问题的存在。

我个人的观点是,现在正是会计行业应该进入战局的时刻,就像本森和梅曾经做过的那样,开始裁决欧洲现在存在的棘手的危机。这在处理公共财政以及美国公共和私人资产负债表标准上也同样适用。

我们不仅需要四大成为会计行业的领导,同时也能够支持会计行业的声音和工作,帮助重塑会计人员与经济学家对等的,甚至于是技术上更优秀的形象。只有会计行业的领导者才会有资本和能力来推动改革,这对国家的健康和可持续发展绝对是必不可少的。当一个有影响力的美国总审计长,例如大卫·沃克(David Walker)告知总统和国会,权责发生制的缺乏是导致美国政府的财政管理水平下降的元凶时,我们需要四大这样的领导者,通过严肃认真的公众宣传和游说来支持这种陈述。

那么如何才能使行业进行转变呢?首先,我们着眼于它的历史。迪金森,本森和梅都是好的起始点。他们的故事需要在会计学校中被广泛传授。并且一种新型的会计教育需要适时出现,不仅是像现在这样简单地培养技术过硬的人才,我们也应培养能够参与各等级社会与国际争论的会计行业领导者。必须加大力度扶植会计领导者的培养并形成产业化。要完成这一切,会计人员需要能言善辩,精通文化、法律、历史和宗教。

作为道德领袖,他们需要广度与雄心来帮助诸如希腊,甚至德国和美国这样的国家来迎接他们面临的巨大挑战。这意味着许多会计学校的教育需要持续扩张,我的研究表明,这是一切问题的关键。去领导行业的发展,会计人员需要更复杂的文化工具。

另一方面,会计行业必须重视会计新闻的衰落所带来的影响。直至最近,主要的出版刊物例如伦敦的《泰晤士报》和《金融时报》,都拥有优秀会计记者对行业标准、政治以及会计行业进行过深入的研究报道。这些独立、敏锐的声音的消失不仅仅损害了行业,同时也损伤了民主福祉。从长远来看,这个行业与其他社会机构一样,受益于智慧,独立和有影响力的声音。如果这个行业想要在未来数字化和人工智能会计的冲击下存活下来,那么它必须更加注重它的专业性,道德性和文化性。

目前重要的不仅是会计教师和业内人士一起努力重塑会计的自我形象、存在方式以及行业本身的特质,并且我们还应对过往不足之处与未来长远机遇做出总结。我希望我的著作《The Reckoning》将能作为一个改革的起点,但到目前为止,它仅仅被简单看作是对会计行业的颂扬。我不否认它的确是,但它同样也是对这个曾经处于辉煌中逐渐衰落的行业的历史性概述。

为了恢复它过去的领导地位,会计行业需要对自身进行清算:在一个大多数人认为病态、逐渐失衡的全球金融社会中,审视自己的地位和有效性。我已经赞颂了会计从业者所做的贡献,但历史证明,在这个古老却又常常被边缘化的行业肩上,承担着不断进取和为大众服务的责任。

文章出处:《economia》

《Economia》是专为ICAEW会员提供最新会计及财经资讯的刊物。其在线版本则对社会开放,不但继承了纸质版敏锐的洞察力和犀利的分析力,还添加了覆盖商业、经济、管理、金融、会计等多个领域的即时新闻报道。

ICAEW公众号精心筛选并转载《Economia》文章,旨在为大中华区会员及ACA学员提供最前沿的会计财经资讯。

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