Bunhill: Unaccountable

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FAR be it from me to stereotype accountants as nerds, but I must admit to a faint curiosity as to what the top-scoring candidate in the profession's fiendishly difficult final exams can be like. You may be conjuring up a vision of thick-rimmed glasses, polyester flares, nylon shirt, rigid briefcase, a platoon of Biros in the top pocket, perhaps?

The results were out last weekend and David Feldman, a trainee with Stoy Hayward, beat 3,907 other candidates with the highest score. As a result he collects the Peat Prize. He also scooped the Quilter Prize for the best score in the Auditing II paper and the Whinney Prize for Financial Accounting II.

Bunhill, eager on behalf of his readers to measure the nerdishness or otherwise of Feldman, rang him for an interview. He sounded rather an engaging, amiable chap, only too happy to meet. Alas, before we could do so, the Beancounters' Thought Police intervened.

The BTP, also known as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, forbade Feldman to tell me anything apart from his name, rank and serial number. Any further details would break the institute's rules on firms advertising, they said.

The institute - clearly the kind of organisation that would relish using Public Interest Immunity Certificates - refuses to bend the rules one iota. Phil Armitage, director of education and training, rejects my suggestion that the rules are potty, but admits the restriction needs to be looked at.

He won't even divulge the cash value of Feldman's prizes, explaining: 'I don't think we should prejudice his taxation position.' Surely the Institute couldn't be encouraging young Feldman to cheat on his tax?