Giants like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young were applauded alongside trainee and newly-qualified accountants at last night's Accountancy Age Awards for Excellence. The headline award - Accountancy Age Personality of the Year - went to Paul van Buitenen, the accountant who blew the whistle on reporting irregularities at the European Commission. He won with the overwhelming backing of readers for his courage. The awards, relaunched after a two-year gap, to commemorate Accountancy Age's 30th year, were held last night in London's Natural History Museum. In the only awards that reflect accounting excellence in both practice and business, categories included small, medium and large firms of the year to finance director and business reports and accounts of the year. In business, Graham Howe, deputy chief executive and group finance director of Orange, took the accolade of financial director of the year. A founder director of Orange, Howe has overseen growth in turnover of 52% in the six months to June 1999 and a leap in operating profit from £2m to £37m in the same period. In July this year he stewarded Orange's $996m issue - at the time the largest issue in euros. In the finance team category, Selfridges' recently in-sourced finance team, led by finance director Peter Williams, drew plaudits for its role in the store's regeneration. Redesigned management accounting systems, new treasury, tax and public reporting functions and due diligence work for the store's flotation have played a part of the team's success. Judging the large firm of the year proved difficult, with PwC and Ernst & Young winning the accolade jointly. PwC was commended for its impressive 20% growth and for its success in consolidating two firms into one global professional services giant. Ernst & Young was praised for a 19% gain in fee income, for its partnership with Microsoft to develop e-commerce solutions and for producing an annual report setting out clear objectives for the firm. Douglas Broom, Accountancy Age editor and chairman of the judges, said: 'We were very impressed by both the quality and quantity of the entries. It seems that accountants in business and practice have lost none of their enthusiasm for the Accountancy Age awards in spite of our two-year break. What was noticeable about so many of the entries this year was the focus on meeting the needs of customers and clients. It all goes to reinforce the impression that I have that accountants are far ahead of any other profession in being the people who really make a difference in modern business.' Full details, page 26. LIST OF WINNERS Accountancy Age Personality of the Year: Paul van Buitenen Large Firm: Ernst & Young PricewaterhouseCoopers (tied) Medium Firm: Mazars Neville Russell Small Firm: Wingrave Yeats Finance Team: Selfridges Financial Director: Graham Howe, Orange Business Reports and Accounts: Merchant Group for Geest Accounting Software: Off-the-Shelf: TAS Software for NatWest Book-Keeper Accounting Software: Mid-Range: Exchequer Software for Exchequer Enterprise Accounting Software: Enterprise Systems: QSP for QSP Financials Public Sector Achievement: Malcolm Clarkson, Customs & Excise Recruitment Advertisement: WJP Recruitment for Teachers Assurance ACCA New Accountant: Nicola Clough, Eastern Power & Energy Trading CIMA New Accountant: Colin Tse, Nortel Networks CIPFA New Accountant: Sharon Martin, District Audit ICAEW New Accountant: Victoria Fryer, Naylor Wintersgill ICAS New Accountant: Sarah Rosemary Kidd, WD Johnston & Carmichael Trainee Accountant: Ben Stagg, UNIAC.
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