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A stroll through history: Heroes and rogues of accounting

1 November, 2016

A stroll through history: Heroes and rogues of accounting

University of Waikato Accounting Professor Grant Samkin insists that “nobody ever wrote a TV show about accountants”, because it’s “too boring”. But he does an excellent job of disproving that staid image of the profession through his own diverse body of research.

Professor Samkin will give his inaugural professorial lecture to university staff and members of the public on Tuesday, 15 November. The title is ‘Moving beyond the green and purple: People I’ve known and places we’re going’.

Professor Samkin was born in India where his father worked in the tea plantations. As a child, his family followed the tea trail to England and then Uganda, before finally settling in South Africa. He initially visited New Zealand to play club rugby, before emigrating here in 1997.

Although he entered the profession almost by accident, Professor Samkin has been a chartered accountant for the past 26 years, and an academic for the past 17. He lives in Mount Maunganui and lectures at Waikato Management School on the university’s Hamilton campus.

A major theme of his research is non-financial, narrative reporting – how commercial and public organisations use annual reports to not only report on their financial performance to shareholders, but also as a public relations tool to present themselves in the best possible light and respond to media criticism.

“It’s very interesting to examine the stories that organisations tell about themselves, because you get a much better sense of what they’re about than you do through the financial back-end numbers,” says Professor Samkin.

He is currently developing a new accounting framework that will help external stakeholders measure a company’s performance against biodiversity and natural capital targets.

“If New Zealand wants to maintain its clean, green image, there needs to be a much greater focus on how organisations can have a potentially massive impact on our environment, our society and people’s lives. They need to be more transparent and accountable to the public about what they’re doing,” he says.

“For example, a big fisheries company might claim they have a strong commitment to the environment and biodiversity, but I’d be very surprised if their annual report mentioned the negative impact of their activities on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List species, such as the Hector’s dolphin.”

He has also researched topics such as corporate social responsibility disclosures during the global financial crisis, the use of Z-scores to predict the collapse of finance companies, and whether schools should teach financial literacy skills so that students gain the skills to run a small business. He also enjoys writing about historical characters from the early 19th century, and contemporary figures, who have had accounting roles.

Professor Samkin has a Doctor of Accounting Science from the University of South Africa, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching. He is a co-author of all six editions of the market-leading textbook New Zealand Financial Accounting.

Professor Samkin’s Inaugural Professorial Lecture will be held at the University’s Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, starting at 5.15pm. It is free and open to the public. Parking is free after 4.30pm in the University’s Gate 1 carpark.

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