The art of meeting acountants

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The Independent Online
Chartered accountants have a well-worn reputation for being boring social inadequates, the sad anoraks of the financial world. Ernst &Young, the firm that is sponsoring the highly acclaimed Cezanne-fest at the Tate Gallery, has done nothing to dispel this notion by producing a memo for partners and managers on how to handle guests at receptions held by the firm. Accountancy Age, the weekly trade mag for bean counters, wickedly reproduced these extracts:

"Section E: Techniques for `attacking' a stranger.

1 Approach with confidence and a smile and be attentive to what your guest is saying. Remember you are in the driving seat. The guest wants to be looked after and to meet people from E&Y as well as his particular host/s. So you are likely to get a friendly reception - after all you are paying for the drinks, the show etc!

2 Introduce yourself - your name and what you do in E&Y - and ask who they are.

3 When introducing people to each other, say one person's name when you are facing the other person to whom you are introducing him, not the name of the person who you are facing - he knows his own name!

4 Be prepared with a few opening gambits or questions to try to get the guest talking - everyone likes to talk.

a `Who do you know at E&Y?' (This will help you to get hosts talking to their special guests - see F).

b `I know X from your firm/chambers.'

c `Do you know a lot about the French Impressionists?'

d `Have you been round the exhibition yet?' (If the answer is `No' this may give you the ideal means of extracting yourself from someone in due course if they have not been round - see F).

e `What do you do when you are not at the office or looking at the paintings?'

f `Do you play any sport? (Probably not the question for an over-70-year old or a man with a stick!)

g Have you worked with E&Y recently?'

Section F: Techniques for passing a guest on after you have spent a reasonable time ensuring that they are happy.

(You must avoid spending all your time with either your best chum or with the bore of the evening. However, you should not leave anyone on his own to enable you to pursue your own agenda):

a `I mustn't monopolise you; let me introduce you to this group over here.'

b If you have established the guest's E&Y contact as X and that he has not met him yet - `Ah! I see X over there, I am sure he will want to have a word with you.'

e `Have you been round the exhibition yet? Now would probably be a good time as the queue seems to have nearly disappeared.' "

If you are going anywhere near the Tate, You Have Been Warned.

Meanwhile, get that Abbey habit - for missing the plot. Yesterday those irrepressible guys in Abbey National's press office were trumpeting their forthcoming briefing on pension splitting and divorce as ``the most wonderful press launch in the world''.

The trouble is, Lord Mackay, the Lord Chancellor has already booted out plans to introduce pension splitting in the forthcoming Family Law Bill. An Abbey spokesman yesterday admitted that Lord Mackay's move meant the press launch "would not have quite the same impact. But ultimately a service will still be required".

A cock-up on the Internet yesterday caused red faces at the Treasury and pandemonium amongst City economists before it was sorted out. The Treasury published the minutes of January's meeting between the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England on the Internet as well as in the traditional paper format. Unfortunately, the Internet version missed out all the comments made by Eddie George. Excited economists immediately assumed it meant Ken Clarke was going to ignore the Bank of England's views on inflation, with massive implications for interest rate policy and the rest. The mistake in the on-line version was soon traced to a Treasury mechanism called the "automatic paragraph re-numbering system". George Orwell would have been proud.