In one of my previous lives, pre accountancy, pre coaching, I was a historian. It is a vocational urge that has been whispering away recently as I've pondered on the past times of the profession with my father celebrating his 50th year in accountancy. I thought I'd kick off with my own story of the 'accountancy calling' and over the coming weeks I want to embellish this with anecdotes from my father's era and also hear from you. What do you remember from your days as a trainee? What was different in the profession then? Who were the characters who loomed large? What made you laugh, cry, stay, leave? Here's my story......
It all started in 1955 (no not me, I was just a mere twinkle), my father was 16, ready to leave school with no strong vocation but reasonable academics. After a long summer of playing footy on the bomb sites of Litherland, his mother finally decided it was time he got his first job. Out came the Liverpool Echo and the next thing he knew he was 'third boy on the post' at Chalmers & Wade, Chartered Accountants. He didn't stop there though. When a relative heard that he'd joined a Chartered Accountancy firm, he offered a very swift hoick up the ladder and three weeks later he had an interview with Bretherton Hurst, Chartered Accountants, for the role of articled clerk. Interviewed by JG Hurst senior (not to be confused with JG junior who was in London, this is only 1955), a terrifying figure to the young lad, Joe said yes and brought him into the fold. On the princely wage of 30/- a week (30/- is 30 shillings or £1.50, I'm told, because of course I don't remember), Bretherton Hurst took him right through his articles and beyond qualification to become the first professional in the family.
By now it was the mid 1960s, Bretherton Hurst became Moores Carson & Watson, later part of McClelland Moores, later still part of Arthur Young and Ernst & Young. By his mid twenties, my father was ready for independence and joined up with John Holsgrove to buy CT Young & Co when old Charlie T died. The 1960s and 1970s were flourishing years for the young(ish) partners, which was fortuitous since the the business rapidly became a whole-family concern, with 2 wives and 4 daughters between them, all lending a hand.
And that's where I come in. First there was my mother 'doing the adds' on her portable mini comptometer. She was an early pioneer of flexible working, bringing up three kids and working for the firm from home, clients analysis books propped up on the dining room chair, tapping away ferociously on the adding machine from the sofa. And then there was me, the oldest daughter (of the younger partner). I wasn't allowed on the adding machine, I had to add up all those columns in my head, because of course there were no portable calculators. I soon added analysis to my skills and by the time I was in the sixth form, I worked vacations in the office for 50p (thats 10/-) an hour. I don't remember having any choice in any of this, it was just something we did in our family - I quite enjoyed it (and it beat going up chimneys). One by one my younger sisters followed in my apprenticeship - but strangely I was the only one where it stuck.
Anyway, fast forward. I nearly chose Business Studies/Management Science at University but at the last moment lurched into a medieval history degree. And 3 years later I nearly went into teaching but baulked at the last minute. Instead I invested £200 (all those 50ps added up) in vocational guidance. I spent a day doing IQ tests,psychometric tests, personality assessments and guess what the prognosis was - yes Chartered Accountancy. But still I was strong enough to resist! Why resist? Well, I don't know maybe it seemed too predictable, the eldest daughter following in father's footsteps, I suspect that's where Business Studies would have led me. I think I still had a bit of that adolescent rebellion in me.
Three years working in London followed. Firstly in a series of temping clerical jobs then a couple of year long stints in export at 2 completely separate companies which both happened to go bust (nothing to do with me). But by then the accountancy calling was too strong - Resistance was Futile. I did a quick 6 month stint at the Inland Revenue in Twickenham before starting my long and fond career with Ernst & Young. Why then? What was the lure after all that time? Well, I definitely wanted a professional qualification by then but I think it also had something to do with the redundancies and company liquidations I had been through. I had spent quite a long time with the Peat Marwick receivers (they were quite nice actually). I think eventually it dawned that there might be more to accountancy than adding the long columns and analysing relentless overheads. Something about the people side of the job, teams, relationships, being able to help businesses......
And so it began. 18 years with Ernst & Young. 13 as an auditor. 5 as Resource Director in the audit practise. Now I am a coach, proud of my FCA and still doing my CPE. Who do I coach? Accountants of course! I told you it was my calling.
What's your story then? What's your accountancy footprint? Please post.
Links to the ICAEW webpage on firms' family trees, shows how my firm, Arthur Young (later Ernst & Young) links back to my father's history with Bretherton Hurst and Chalmers & Wade. (Hint: there are actually only 2 different links here - one via Arthur Young and one via Hodgson Impey, oh actually 3 if you add Ernst & Whinney)
Bretherton Hurst - via Moores Carson & Watson https://www.icaew.co.uk/viewer/index.cfm?AUB=TB2I_36883
Chalmers & Wade - via Hodgson Impey https://www.icaew.co.uk/viewer/index.cfm?AUB=TB2I_36983
Moores Carson & Watson https://www.icaew.co.uk/viewer/index.cfm?AUB=TB2I_36883
McClelland Moores https://www.icaew.co.uk/viewer/index.cfm?AUB=TB2I_36883