Even the name has acquired a make-over. They started off as just Bookkeepers or Accountants. Also referred to as Number Crunchers or Bean Counters! No more, they are now among the whiz kids capable of great wizardry, even sinking a company single-handedly!
Decades ago, they were the back-room boys rarely venturing out! They were also keepers of secrets of how much money the company, mostly the boss was making or even losing, having only the ear of the boss. For others, they were dull beings pouring over books, rarely taking a look at the outside world. They were even afraid to venture outside the safe zone worrying about revealing the secrets of business and the bosses also kept an eye on them to see whether they were talking furtively with strangers or worse, competitors!
The rules have changed especially for the biggies with their web-sites even revealing the details of whole operations, plans, required Stock Exchange filings on a regular basis to publicize any major event & the financial impact on their companies. The finance professionals have now upped the ante & sit confidently answering questions as a matter of right!
The pendulum has obviously to swing the other way to find equilibrium, having been kept down for so long! One company in Asia made one of the biggest defaults on loans with over Ten billion dollars of debt as the CFO played one bank against another to ensnare the billions. In times of sea of liquidity, like what led to the recent Collateralized Debt Obligations that attracted even staid bankers, many competed with one another to beat his arbitrary deadlines to plough in the money. Obviously, the CFO got over the top and was considered having a Midas touch, feted & applauded by those who benefited. In no time, the castle made of clay crumbled with easy come, easy go policy, all getting drunk & dancing away till the music played! A classic example of Accountant (whiz kid) getting high & punching much above his height!
There are other examples of those getting overboard. One solid company in Singapore lost over 100 million when the Accountant went to Casino in Australia on a weekly basis! Another made off with tens of millions from an iconic company in its field splurging in properties. These are classic cases of lack of oversight that emboldened the back room boys to have a field day out in the open! Earlier times, even when the cage door was open, most preferred to stay indoors to avoid the limelight!
The basic issue is clout & glamour of those involved. Those who are supposed to watch-over these misdeeds are loath to question these whiz-kids who can throw in enough jargon to side-step the issues. When they are paid by the buckets, obviously they should be smart! The irony, we still have those who are still called bookkeepers who take care of the pennies & are kicked around by the bosses and outside watch-dogs! Mostly, they stick by the word of law but hardly appreciated with even words or otherwise! They also cover the entire gamut of bookkeeping, accounting, finance & even whatever is thrown at them without the benefit of high flying outside advisors that the big corporations employ as a matter of course!
It boils down to character in the end!