Ending the Clichés about the Accounting Profession

Turtleneck accountants haven’t had their last word. They might work in the shadow of clichés, but if we are to believe the main stakeholders, they are the players of the utmost importance within organizations, regardless of the size or the sector of activity.

The brown stockings, the fact of being boring… “Several clichés persist,” Antonello Callimaci starts off, director of the bachelor’s program in accounting sciences at UQAM’s School of Management Sciences. “But I know some who run the marathon. I’m a motocross enthusiast myself. We all have a parallel life!”

On the other hand, the image which has done the most harm to the accounting profession is that of the accountant in a suit, doing nothing but sitting behind his desk crunching numbers. “The accountant has, however, a critical importance in the company he works for,” the professor says. “He is not afraid of ‘getting his hands dirty’ by confronting reality.”

In all decisions

Thanks to his rational approach and his analyses, the accountant allows the organization to make decisions of high importance whose consequences affect both human resources and marketing as well as logistical decisions. Antonello Callimaci is insistent, “The accountant is involved in every facet of the company. And many CPAs hold key positions.” They are behind every decision, because every decision affects the company’s financial statements in one way or another.

“The accountant cannot stay sitting behind his desk. He goes out into the field,” he adds. The professor even compares him to a Formula 1 driver. Despite his specialty, he is also a good mechanic, able to get his hands dirty so he can have an opinion about his car’s mechanics, and thus be aware of what it takes to improve his performance. “Decisions cannot be made behind closed doors,” says Antonello Callimaci. Hence the importance for the accountant to leave the office and numbers and be as interested in foreign investments as in the design of a product, for example. In short, he does a lot more than bookkeeping, a task long ago delegated to accounting technicians.

And what about the cliché that he loves math? “It’s not calculating variables that matters,” explains Antonello Callimaci, “it’s the link between these variables.” In other words, a good mind for deduction is more important than the ability to make calculations.

All industries are hungry

Whether an NPO, a start-up or a multinational, every company needs accountants to be viable. “Thinking that accountants are new in certain sectors – that’s also a cliché!,” exclaims Antonello Callimaci. “The have always been everywhere.” It doesn’t matter where the company is in its development, the accountant is essential. “Even when things are going well, you still need an accountant!”

According to the professor, this view that an accountant cannot be progressive also needs to end. “If there is one thing that the anti-establishment movement needs, it’s a lot of accountants!,” he says. He gives an example that the accountant’s approach is very useful to demonstrate what behaviours are the best for the planet or to denounce inequality in the distribution of wealth. It’s enough to demolish the tenacious image of a character in a three-piece suit, visor cap and elastics around the sleeves!

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