economia editorial team 6 Jan 2017 10:37am

2016 in review: movers and shakers

The Donald has made our list again, obviously, but there were other big name signings in business and the profession that will affect 2017. These people have an uphill struggle in this climate, but if they win they’ve proved their mettle

Caption: Ed Balls resurfaced in spectacular fashion as a contestant on the BBC TV hit Strictly Come Dancing.

1: Donald Trump (again)

The new president’s protectionist tendencies mean the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal to liberalise trade among the 11 participating countries is dead in the water, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and Europe is in doubt. The European Central Bank’s vice-president, Vítor Constâncio, said Trump’s “America first” rhetoric placed an “abnormal degree of uncertainty” on the world economy. Republicans in Congress have been laying the groundwork for a tax-code overhaul – Trump proposes to cut the business tax rate from 35% to 15% and install a corporate tax repatriation plan to lure back the $2.5trn Capital Economics estimates is stashed overseas. He has also promised to dismantle the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Perhaps most alarmed are climate change campaigners. Trump has called global warming a hoax and wants to cancel the 2015 Paris Agreement. Instead, he plans to develop cheap coal, shale and oil.

2: The overseers

As London welcomed the first Muslim mayor of an EU capital city, there was coming and going among the top echelons elsewhere. Jon Thompson succeeded Lin Homer as chief executive of HMRC, while Edward Troup became executive chair. At the Office of Tax Simplification, Paul Morton became its new tax director, replacing the admired John Whiting who retired after six years in the role. The Financial Reporting Council appointed Tracy Vegro as executive director of strategy and resources, reporting to Stephen Haddrill. She will be responsible for ensuring it delivers against its objectives as it takes on the new role of the Competent Authority for Audit. In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission named Wesley Bricker interim chief accountant while James Schnurr recovers from an accident.

3: Big Four get bigger

Bob Moritz

In the jostle to be the biggest of the Big Four, there were appointments galore. At KPMG, Adrian Stone replaced Tony Cates as head of audit; Catherine Burnet took over as head of its Scottish practice; Michelle Quest became its UK head of tax, pensions and legal services while Sarah Willows became CFO and head of operations. PwC said goodbye to its global chairman Dennis Nally – lifelong PwCer Bob Moritz took on that role. Also among the grande fromages, Kevin Ellis replaced Ian Powell. Deloitte promoted 80 new partners in its UK business in 2016 to strengthen its regional network and Matt Ellis became its new managing partner for tax in the UK and Switzerland. EY signalled its intent to become a bigger player in the global life sciences sector by appointing Pamela Spence, while Boaz Goren was appointed executive director to boost the firm’s tax controversy and risk management team.

4: Theresa May vs Jeremy Corbyn

Theresa May became the Conservative Party leader and Britain’s 76th prime minister in July 2016. We’re not much closer to knowing what her agenda means for business, so close has she kept her cards to her chest. We do know “Brexit means Brexit” and our old friend Michel Barnier has been appointed by the European Commission as chief negotiator responsible for leading discussions with the UK over its exit. May must have thought her luck was in as her opposition appeared to implode. A Labour leadership contest was triggered after Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigned en masse but the party leader increased his mandate after beating challenger Owen Smith. Don’t rule Labour out just yet though. As George Eaton said in the New Statesman, “landing blows over Brexit is no longer merely a duty but a pleasure” for Corbyn.

5: Brazil nuts

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff was removed from office following an impeachment vote in the Senate amid a deep recession and a corruption scandal involving the state-controlled oil company Petrobras. The BRIC country had a difficult 12 months, despite hosting the Olympic Games. This year, president Michel Temer needs to assure investors Brazil is still open for business, but a series of municipal elections at the end of 2016 revealed restless voters were willing to gamble on unconventional newcomers in a bid to upset the political elite. Sound familiar?

6: The professionals

There were big changes at ICAEW. Vernon Soare became chief operating officer in May while Hilary Lindsay became only ICAEW’s second woman president in June. Paul Aplin was elected the next vice-president and Andie Wang became regional director in Greater China. At CABA, which provides support for members of the ICAEW community, Susan Field became president. Ken McHattie was appointed president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, replacing Jim Pettigrew. The International Accounting Standards Board reappointed Takatsugu Ochi for a second three-year term. Labour MEP Richard Howitt, meanwhile, was appointed as the new CEO of the International Integrated Reporting Council to replace Paul Druckman, who moved to the FRC board.

7: A resurrection

Ed Balls

The former shadow chancellor gave us all hope. Humiliated after losing his seat to Conservative candidate Andrea Jenkyns in 2015, Ed Balls disappeared. He resurfaced in spectacular fashion as a contestant on the BBC TV hit Strictly Come Dancing, where he won over the public as well as former political adversaries. His wife, MP Yvette Cooper, said: “He’s enjoying it, we’re all enjoying watching. It is just bringing joy to everyone in the most bizarre and surreal way.”

8: Gulp, another referendum

Italy’s corporate leaders were rooting for a victory for Matteo Renzi, the business-friendly prime minister who sought the public’s approval for his ambitious reforms to strip the Senate
of many of its legislative powers and modernise Italy’s rusty institutional framework. Were Italians to vote against the reform, the premier said he would step down from office ahead of the 2018 general election. So what did the public do? Voted no, of course, prompting populist groups such as the Five Star movement to call for a snap election.

9: The contenders

The mid-market is in robust shape as it seeks to exploit opportunities outside the audit sector. BDO flexed its muscles in 2016: Paul Eagland replaced Simon Michaels as managing partner. Over at Mazars, Michael Tripp, former group CEOof Ecclesiastical Insurance, was appointed to lead the financial services arm. Grant Thornton appointed Andy Morgan as its new head of corporate finance advisory, while corporate finance partner Laurence Sacker stepped into veteran Ladislav Hornan’s shoes as the new managing partner of UHY Hacker Young. PKF Littlejohn continued its confident growth trajectory: when Catherine Heyes became a partner she brought the total number of partners in the firm to 36. And RSM promoted a record 19 new partners across the UK.

10: Meaning business

Delivering the railway Britain needs for the future is a tall order, and one Jeremy Westlake will continue to wrestle with after being appointed CFO of Network Rail. At toy train-maker Hornby, new CEO Steve Cooke will try and turn the £6m-loss business around, while David Stickland joined Addison Lee as CFO as it seeks to regain ground lost to Uber. To the high street, where Kevin O’Byrne had barely warmed his slippers as CEO of Poundland before he was poached by Sainsbury’s to become CFO. And in telecoms Simon Lowth was appointed group FD and executive board director at BT to replace Tony Chanmugam, who switched his focus to integrating EE into BT. Laird CFO Tony Quinlan was promoted to CEO in September, proving the path from finance function to big boss is still wide open. And as government contracts and spending continue to be scrutinised, Tim Weller was appointed CFO of the maligned G4S. Finally, where will Ruby McGregor-Smith go next, after stepping down as CEO of Mitie on 12 December?