- Murray Harrington’s own motivations for studying accounting were more about family tradition – many family members were accountants – but his career is a good example of where the profession can lead.
- The diverse career will help him engage with and understand members in a wide range of different roles.
- “Hopefully, I can look at a lot of members and say, ‘Yes, I can empathise and I can understand where you might be coming from because I might have been in your shoes in some way, shape or form’,” he says.
Incoming president of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand for 2023, Murray Harrington FCA has big plans for his one-year term. He aims to attract more people to accounting and wants to position the 135,000-strong membership body as advisers of choice on environment, social and governance (ESG) issues.
He believes the biggest challenge facing the profession is attracting new people. “There’s the perception that we’re in the backroom doing some boring stuff, debits and credits.”
Engaging people in their formative years – such as in the classroom setting – is something he has seen first-hand with his 15-year-old son, who has decided to study accounting next year. “He said to me in the car the other day, ‘The only reason I don’t want to do it is everyone says it’s boring, Dad’. We are currently struggling to get people into the profession and there’s a perception issue. In reality, as my son knows, it’s an attractive profession,” he says.
“How do we demonstrate you can have a really diverse career? You’re not sitting in the backroom counting pieces of paper. You’re travelling around the world, engaging with people and you can have many, many careers within the profession if you’ve got the ticket of chartered accountant,” says Harrington, adding the career now encompasses areas such as cybersecurity and data.
An empathetic ear
Harrington’s own motivations for studying accounting were more about family tradition – many family members were accountants – but his career is a good example of where the profession can lead.
After graduating from the University of Otago, he qualified as a CA then worked in 17 different countries all over the world for Mobil Corporation, Arthur Andersen, as a PwC partner and as chief executive of a lease management tech company. Most recently he has been working in private equity. He also holds a number of governance roles and has or has had private company investments.
“None of that would have happened for me if I wasn’t a chartered accountant,” he says.
Outside of work Harrington spends time supporting his two children’s cricket, dancing and hockey, and keeps fit with his partner by taking highintensity interval training classes.
The diverse career will help him engage with and understand members in a wide range of different roles.
“Hopefully, I can look at a lot of members and say, ‘Yes, I can empathise and I can understand where you might be coming from because I might have been in your shoes in some way, shape or form’,” he says.
Picture: As president of CA ANZ, Murray Harrington FCA wants to promote the wide-ranging career opportunities available to chartered accountants. Image credit: Nic Walker
“Hopefully, I can look at a lot of members and say, ‘Yes, I can empathise and I can understand where you might be coming from because I might have been in your shoes in some way, shape or form’”
Understanding member needs
Christchurch-based Harrington also understands what different members need from CA ANZ, be they in private practice, corporate or government.
Some, such as partners and staff members of the major accounting firms won’t need the organisation from day-today because their firms will have their own in-house training, so Harrington will engage with them in other ways.
Small practices, however, rely on CA ANZ for training and advice, such as if they are having a problem with a client.
As businesses focus more on ESG issues, this also provides an opportunity for the profession. “Not only is there an opportunity to engage commercially in each of those areas and probably make money but it’s also a necessary thing in terms of the way the world’s going.”
Other professions such as engineering and law are also eyeing the opportunity to become advisers on ESG, but Harrington says accountants have an advantage in having the right skill set and professional frameworks.
“We’ve got a professional conduct system. We’ve got a qualification. We’ve got disciplines. We’ve got standards and codes of ethics, and all that sort of stuff that we can add to our existing portfolio of services,” he says.
“We need to be taking a role in providing assurance and audit-type services in particular around some of these sorts of things for reporting and also looking at how people and organisations can continuously improve.”
Representing members’ interests
Before being appointed president, taking over from 2022 president Kate Boorer, Harrington had already been representing members’ interests as CA ANZ’s New Zealand vice president. CA ANZ operates under a best practice governance model overseen by a council, board of directors and the executive team.
As president, Harrington will sit atop the council, which is elected to represent members’ interests and to ensure the voice of members is heard at an organisational level. He will continue to have a seat on the board, which develops and oversees long-term strategy and performance, including key policy and operational issues.
If he has any time after all that, he plans to do a bit more mountain biking around Christchurch and Central Otago.
Harrington says he steps into the president’s role with CA ANZ in good health and aims to make a small but meaningful contribution for the next president to pick up the baton.
“You’re just really there to hopefully lead that for the next person because the presidential role is only a one-year gig. You’re not going to change the world and I don’t believe you should try to,” he says. “You want to make a little bit of an impact and then leave a better place for the next person.”
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand welcomes the new president for 2023, Murray Harrington FCA.Read more