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Hug an accountant for Christmas

Media release 1 December 2008

Hug an accountant for Christmas

If you want to make an accountant feel good this Christmas, give them a hug and tell them you understand.

Because an international survey shows New Zealand’s finance and accounting professional think other people see them as untrustworthy, boring and rich.

However, the accountants themselves think they are professional, trustworthy and commercially aware high-achievers – but not rich at all.

The insight into accountants’ identity crisis come from a survey by international recruitment specialist Robert Half International, covering more than 3500 finance and accounting professionals in 14 countries, including 228 in New Zealand.

The Robert Half International 2008 Financial Directions Survey asked finance and accounting professionals how they saw themselves, and how they thought other people saw them. The results show that in New Zealand, and several other countries, they feel misunderstood.

Sixty-eight per cent of New Zealand’s accountants describe themselves and their colleagues as professional – but only 58% think other people believe they are professional. And 50% of accountants think they are trustworthy – but less than 24% of them think the public trust them.

Unsurprisingly, accountants find themselves quite interesting, with only 9% saying they and their colleagues are boring. But they’re having a hard time convincing the rest of us – 39% think other people find them boring.

Twenty-eight per cent of accountants think they and their colleagues are commercially aware, and 22% of them think they are high achievers. But only 15% and 10% respectively believe they have convinced the public of this.

And while 25% of New Zealand accountants surveyed by Robert Half say other people think they’re rich, only 3% of them actually feel rich.

But there is one area where accountants believe the public have got them right – 3% of them think they are perceived as one-dimensional, and 3% of them agree that, actually, they are.

Robert Half senior manager Megan Alexander says the results show there is a gap between the reality of modern finance and accounting and public perceptions of the profession.

“There is still this view out there of accountants as introverted bean-counters, who spend all their time dealing with numbers and seldom talking to people,” Ms Alexander says.

“But the reality is that accounting and finance now covers a wide diversity of roles, which goes from the traditional ‘bean-counter’ all the way through to financial investigation, business analysis and planning and company leadership.

“All our research shows that two of the most highly prized qualities of high-achieving finance professionals are good communications skills and effective leadership styles. Individuals armed with great technical skill and great interpersonal skills have no trouble at all building dynamic, exciting careers.”

As for wealth, Ms Alexander says finance and accounting is a well-remunerated profession. But are they rich? “I guess that depends on your definition of rich.”


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