CEO Interview

Clive Viegas Bennett: achieving success during a long and diverse career

Following his winning of the Lifetime Achievement award at the International Accounting Forum and Awards 2022, Clive Viegas Bennett took time to speak to Joe Pickard, Editor, The Accountant about his celebrated career

Joe Pickard: What does winning the IAFA 2022 Lifetime Achievement award mean to you?

Clive Viegas Bennett: It was both a surprise and an honour to receive this prestigious award.

Zoya Malik’s introduction, describing in detail my long and unusually diverse career, made me realise I was being awarded for my whole career, not just the last quarter in the accounting industry. At that moment, looking back at my various achievements over the decades, I felt proud and, oddly, moved.

 JP: What was critical for your success in merging MGI and CPA Associates International?

CVB: There were three main success factors. First was the choice of merger partner. CPAAI was an ideal fit for MGI to help us consolidate our market position globally and in North America. Second was a very clear and comprehensive merger agreement and implementation plan. The final success factor was the energy and enthusiasm of our global team, regional directors and the co-chairs of our international board.

JP: What was the biggest challenge to overcome in completing the merger?

CVB: As with many mergers, cultural gaps – mostly at governance level – needed hard work, diplomacy and sometimes tough persuasion to bridge. I can honestly say that these differences have disappeared and the merger is no longer a political issue within the organisation.

JP: What have been the biggest developments in the accountancy profession during your career?

CVB: The biggest developments since I first entered the sector in 2010, are game-changing or, rather, profession-changing technological advances, the massive increase in audit regulation, which I believe is an increasingly desperate attempt to paper over deep structural flaws and, more recently, fast and profound changes in the structure of work and the workplace, in parallel with a huge shortage of talent. I think that accountancy and other processional services are at a crisis point.

JP: What have been your career highlights?

CVB: In my first career, in the House of Commons, it was leading the Environment Select Committee enquiry into radioactive waste and drafting its influential report. In my second career, in shipping, it was turning around a struggling company in Lisbon into one of the top five shipping agencies in the country.

In career number three, it was the highly successful launch of a new executive search company, ultimately winning a major recruitment and HR consultancy contract for BMW. Finally, in accounting, it was the transformation of MGI Worldwide into a network and our merger with CPAAI.

 JP: What advice would you offer to young accountants entering the profession?

CVB: First, it would be to value the important and highly transferrable technical skills you will develop, but at the same time to make sure you also invest in wider business and interpersonal capabilities.

Second, it is to keep your ideas completely open about where you can seek new challenges over the course of your career. There is no longer an assumption that you will stay in the same firm, or even the same sector, for all your professional life. My own career as a non-accountant is testimony to that.