Daily Insight: Izza and the Big Four, approaches to diversity … and women in accountancy


A bit of a ‘set-to’ kicks our last Daily Insight of the week. On Thursday, Lib-Dem leader Vince Cable called for the Big Four accounting firms to be broken up in the light of the Carillion debacle. Yesterday, ICAEW chief Michael Izza said that was the wrong approach to resolving the problem of their market dominance.

Izza thinks there should be an inquiry into why other audit firms are not challenging the Big Four in any meaningful sense.

He says: “Until we address the underlying issues dissuading smaller firms from playing a greater part in audit, we will be no closer to a cure.”

This kind of thinking is eminently sensible, and could be applied to lots of other areas of life. Unfortunately, it’s an approach that’s a little less effective at generating exciting headlines.

Diversity and discrimination

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which, among many other things, coincided with the launch of Women in Accountancy (WIA) by chartered accountant Elaine Clark and Accountex event director Zoe Lacey-Cooper. Excellent stuff.

There were lots of other stories focusing on diversity and discrimination. Economia, for instance, reported that there are  a record number of women on FTSE 100 boards. Fast food group McDonald’s , on the other hand, found itself in trouble for its women’s day gesture of upturning its trademark M into a W. Maybe just stick to fast food.

Over at the Financial Times, the group’s Undercover Economist Tim Harford looked at Hollywood’s approach to sexual discrimination and diversity. He pointed to actress Frances McDormand’s call for the “inclusion rider”. That’s where top stars demand diversity and equality in casting otherwise they won’t be in the film. Harford’s piece referred to research that found this about JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit: the book has 1,900 instances of the word “he” and one of “she”. What an illuminating statistic!

IoD chief steps aside

Barbara Judge, chair of the Institute of Directors, has stepped aside from her role amid allegations of racism and bullying. She will contest the allegations, reported in the Times. Meanwhile, an investigation will take place.