Shrinking crown

He has ruled the hive. But globalisation means Denny Beresford is becoming a lesser force. He talks to Roger Trapp

For a man who spends his days dealing with the technical details of accounting standards, Denny Beresford has a remarkably affable disposition. Like Sir David Tweedie, his counterpart at the Accounting Standards Board, the chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board of the United States exudes an easy charm that belies the image of the technical specialist as a dull number-cruncher.

Sure, as former academics and senior technical partners with Big Six firms, both men can mix it with lovers of the arcane intricacies of rule- setting when they have to. But their real skills lie in their ability to bring together different factions, and to present complex issues in a way that can be understood even by those not close to the subject.

Mr Beresford, whose 10-year term ends in June, does not even seem worried about the fact that his organisation is no longer so obviously the queen bee of the accountancy world as it was when he took over. Duing this period the ASB has replaced the UK's much-criticised Accounting Standards Committee, and the International Accounting Standards Committee, under the leadership of the former director-general of fair trading, Sir Bryan Carsberg, is raising its profile and becoming more involved in the debate about future standards and guidelines.

Noting that the ASB is - to a certain extent - modelled on his own organisation, Mr Beresford says: "I think when I started we pretty much had the right ideas; we had more developed standards. If everybody wanted to follow us, that was fine." Now, though, globalisation of business has brought greater interest in the international aspects of financial reporting, and FASB (pronounced "Fasbee") certainly does not believe it has all the answers. "Gradually over the past 10 years, we have tended to import good ideas from other parts of the world," he adds.

Though the ASB and IASC are in the forefront of this effort towards internationalisation, others, too, are enjoying a role. Canadian and Australian standard-setters, in particular, have made great contributions in recent years, while there is growing interest from the authorities in developing countries and emerging economies. Even so, the extent to which FASB is still seen as the home of the experts may be shown by the almost weekly visits it hosts from groups from countries as far apart as Malaysia, Poland and China. It even currently has somebody on secondment from the Chinese finance ministry.

Sharing people is just one of the ways in which the rule-makers are grappling with the complex modern business world. There is also co-operation on projects. For instance, FASB has embarked on a joint project with its Canadian counterpart on segment reporting. It has also just issued a revised standard on the issue of earnings per share, while the IASC has come up with its first standard in the area. Some may feel that this goes against the aim of - as Mr Beresford puts it - "not reinventing the wheel too many times", but it can help build a consensus.

Standard setters' activities tend to be fairly controversial wherever they are based, and being able to point to another group coming to the same conclusions can help win over doubters. Nevertheless, there is a tendency for many groups involved with accounts and financial reporting to clamour for change, only to lose some of their fervour once something starts happening. "Everybody is in favour of good financial reporting," says Mr Beresford. "But when you come down to any specific issue, people don't want to change, or don't want to go in the direction you want to."

But surely, in countries with highly developed capital markets, there is no need to have significant numbers of people (FASB has about 50 people working on various issues, compared with 10 to 12 at the ASB and four to five at the IASC) continually looking at standards?

Mr Beresford disagrees, pointing out that the business environment is constantly changing, so that what was not important can become much more so. "For example, derivatives have been around for a while, but they have become much more important over the last five to 10 years. As a result, the old standards didn't deal with them." Tax law is another area in which accounting standards have to respond to changes occurring elsewhere in the economy.

So, as he contemplates returning to the warm winters of his California childhood by starting a new career teaching at the University of Georgia, what does Mr Beresford think will have changed by the time another 10 years have passed?

Though he sees the IASC continuing to be "a helpful umbrella organisation", he does not predict that there will be only one set of standards in the world. Instead, the dominance of the United States' set of regulations and guidelines will increasingly give way to the influence of the likes of Britain's ASB. There will be even more co-operation, and more regular meetings of the type that brought Mr Beresford to London last week. But "there will continue to be some unique issues that will warrant special treatment", he says, pointing out that stock options, for instance, are more of an issue in terms of financial reporting in the US than in Britain

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    BC2

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    (Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

    Finance Officer

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education are seeking a Fi...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice