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Battlefield lessons for the institutes

One thing that all the accountants seem to have in common is an undying passion for their profession. That much was clear as we read the hundreds and hundreds of comments made by readers who kindly took the time to respond to our survey questionnaire. Some were virtually unprintable!

It is, as Robert Bruce points out on page 20, very much a case of the heart and the head. One might easily come to the conclusion that the heart tells members to be faithful to their institute and their training, while the head says that consolidation is inevitable in an age of globalisation. Then again, the heart might well conclude that bitter institute rivalries and snobbery are a costly diversion that the profession can ill-afford, while the head comes to the inescapable conclusion that mergers rarely work.

But there maybe a model that’s worth thinking about, and a few people we spoke to alluded to it, but didn’t quite make the final step. Think of Oxford or Cambridge. Great institutions in their own right – but, in fact, collections of colleges, each with their own identity and purpose. No doubt there is fierce rivalry between Balliol College and Christ Church, but when they get right down to it, they’ll happily share an Oxford boat and beat Cambridge. Likewise in the Army: when 42 Commando and 3 Para stop fighting each other in the local pub they make a formidable opponent to Her Majesty’s enemies.

So a mechanism that puts diversity at the heart of unity might just be the way that the super-institute can get maximum strength out of everyone’s different skills. When they’re not being beastly to each other, Britain’s accountants can take on the world.

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