Obituary: Lord Hirshfield
Thursday 30 December 1993
DESMOND HIRSHFIELD, the founding Chairman of the Trades Union Unit Trust, had a long involvement in public life including undertaking roles such as Deputy Chairman of the Northampton New Town Development Corporation and serving on the Salary Review Body and the Committee on Consumer Credit. Hirshfield was a chartered account by profession, and was President of Horwath and Horwath International, the 10th largest international firm of accountants and consultants.
In 1939 Hirshfield joined the accountancy firm Hesketh Hardy which, after he became a partner, was renamed Hesketh Hardy Hirshfield. This firm acted as auditor to several leading trade unions and to the Labour Party in the Sixties and Seventies. This gave Hirshfield the contacts to form in 1961 the Trades Union Unit Trust, which for the first time provided a mechanism for trade unions to invest in equities, as distinct from gilt-edged securities; under Hirshfield's chairmanship the unions themselves were able to influence the direction of these equity investments.
During the same period , he was responsible for the formation of the Foundation on Automation and Employment, which anticipated by two decades the decline in employment resulting partly from the advent of modern electronics and increasingly efficient methods of production - and he made some attempt to address the consequences.
During this era Hirshfield was responsible for producing a blueprint for the administration of Harold Wilson's private office as leader of the opposition which was too radical for acceptance at the time.
He was appointed in 1972 by the Conservative government to report on the monopolistic pricing practices of the nationalised steel industry particularly those of private sector firms, an inquiry where he insisted on rapid presentations and judgements.
Meanwhile, anticipating a trend for medium-sized accountancy firms, in 1962 Hesketh Hardy Hirshfield became international. It was the first member firm of Horwath & Horwath International outside North America. Through this alignment, Horwath & Horwath (UK) Ltd, a consultancy firm specialising in the hotel and tourism industries, was formed, and Hirshfield became its chairman. At the beginning of 1975 it merged with Stoy Hayward, another firm of chartered accountants. Hirshfield threw himself into his professional life with renewed vigour and zeal, becoming President of Horwath & Horwath International in 1978, and International President in 1984.
As President of Horwath & Horwath International Hirshfield helped to expand the organisation until it had member firms in 70 countries, many of which he visited personally. A superb chairman and an excellent speaker, he usedhis dry wit effectively on both formal and informal occasions.
He refused to be deterred by medical warnings from enjoying an active life and the evening before he died he enjoyed to the full a party for his grand-nephew's wedding.
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