Back to the Future in the world of accountancy

Back To The Future
By Michael McGlinchey, CA Today

21 October 2015

With celebrations taking place to mark Back to the Future Day, we look back to what the world of accountancy and finance was like in 1985 - when Marty McFly began his epic big screen journey – and what it is like now.

Never mind the hover boards and self-tying sneakers, Marty McFly’s epic journey in the sci-fi classic Back to the Future has generated passionate discussion among horizon scanners in all subjects over the years.

Now, as we pass 16:30 (UK time) on 21 October, 2015 - the critical date and time in the movie when Marty made his jaunt from 1985 into a changed world – we check out what the world of accountancy looked like then and now – courtesy of The CA magazine archive and CA Today online news.

While Doc Brown’s sleek De Lorean car went from prized possession to museum piece, there were at least some things which perhaps more aptly hinted at the shape of things to come in 1985.


1985 - An advert from Bank of Scotland in The CA  promoted home office banking but to apply you had to send in a freepost written application. If you paid by card in those days you had to pop your card in a paper swipe machine which produced a hard copy of the transaction.

Scan of CA Magazine article from 1985

2015 – Where do we start? Electronic transactions large and small are the norm and for many a trip to the bank is a rare thing,  if something that is required at all. Chip and pin is being superseded by contactless.


1985 - The Big Four as we know them now did not exist. Peats and KMG were talking about it but at the time the complexities were too great.  Even Deloitte and Price Waterhouse were considering a merger.

2015 – PwC overtakes Deloitte as the biggest accountancy firm in the world, after reporting its strongest revenue growth in eight years of US$35.4bn.  Deloitte announced global revenues of US$35.2bn, while EY reported global revenues of US$28.7bn. KPMG is expected to announce its results in December.


1985 – A management accountant in Aberdeen and Glasgow could expect to be paid about £15,000 per annum.

2015 - Today you could expect to receive between 60,000 and 80,000.

Finding a job

1985 - There was no jobs board in the magazine back then. To apply for a job you could complete a form within the Accountants Magazine and send it in to a consultant.

2015 - Today we have a dedicated jobs channel for members and a variety of tools for progressing your career.


1985 - The ICAS Dinner was held at the now-extinct Albany Hotel in Glasgow on 25 November.

2015 - This year the CA Dinner takes place on 27 November in Glasgow - the same day as the ICAS Conference.

* Research by Iain Hardie, ICAS Head of Business Services.


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