Saturday 20 September 2008

Will we see the end of ageism?

When I was a simple Finance Director I'd face an audit every year.

You say there's £258,784.18 in the bank; naturally we'll write to Lloyds just to confirm that balance.

We see that you claim to have 30 company cars; let's pick these three at random and actually look at them.

According to the accounts your clients owe the company £2,396,148.69. It's OK if we write to the top five just to get their confirmation, isn't it?

This invoice for a new computer. Which one, exactly, is it? And who authorised its purchase?

And your balance sheet claims that there's £3,253.26 in the petty cash box (this was an ad agency!); you don't mind if we count it right now, do you?

Etc. Etc. Etc.

The problem as I see it is that the people running all too many of today's financial institutions remind me more of the copywriters and art directors with whom I used to work rather than my fellow finance guys. Now those creative types were very nice people and, despite what some may think, earned their money through hard graft. But I'd never dream of trusting them with the company's money.

How on earth can anyone audit the fearsomely complicated financial products that are now falling to bits all around us? Actually, Enron showed that we couldn't.

It's time for a return to simplicity. To the days when one had to save for a few years before (perhaps) being offered a mortgage of 2.5 times evidenced income. And perhaps it's time for the banks to keep on board some of the oldsters who remember previous hard times.

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