Sir Brian Souter: Galvanising a new generation of CAs

Sir Brian Souter
By Sir Brian Souter, ICAS President

31 May 2017

ICAS President Sir Brian Souter promises to pull out all the stops to support and encourage young CAs. 

Forty years ago, as a trainee CA and bus conductor in Glasgow, “Mr President” was not a title in my thoughts. The passengers had other ways of addressing me, which were not so complimentary! 

Becoming president is a great honour, a matter of pride, and an enormous challenge that I don’t feel fully equipped for, but I want to give back to the profession which has given so much to me.

I also want to do all I can to help the next generation of CAs succeed in life and in business, because creating, growing and developing a successful business really excites me. 

One of my aims is to do everything I can to help others be successful on the same journey that I have been so fortunate to experience.

The ICAS pool of talent

“So, what did the CA qualification ever do for you?” asked a bright, young colleague at ICAS. Good question. First and foremost, it gave me the discipline I really needed. It also equipped me with technical skills and methodologies that have been invaluable throughout my business life.

These included: professional scepticism; evidence-based decision-making; the ability to identify trends; and a feel for the right key performance indicators that help you manage, warn of problems and highlight success.

I am determined to achieve as much as I humanly can for the Institute and the members.

It also introduced me to a network of highly talented individuals, many of whom I subsequently recruited – ICAS represents the best pool of talent in the country. 

The current CEO and CFO of Stagecoach are CAs and several ICAS wise owls have sat on our board. A Souter Investments team meeting is like an ICAS member event. I’m surprised that Anton hasn’t asked to include them in his attendance figures!

I am acutely aware that a year as president will be gone before I know it. My distinguished predecessors have warned me well of that. However, I am determined to achieve as much as I humanly can for the Institute and the members in my short 12-month tenure.

Dropping down a ladder to support future CAs

I was also attracted to serve as president of ICAS because it is a compassionate organisation with a strong social conscience. As a young person from a relatively humble background, I only managed to study accountancy at Strathclyde University because I received a bursary from the Carnegie Trust. 

Andrew Carnegie was, of course, a simple weaver’s son from Dunfermline, who emigrated in poverty to America, studied bookkeeping and went on to build an empire in railroads and steel. He was one of the richest men in the world and he became a great philanthropist.

The Carnegie Trust dropped a ladder for me and my career would never have happened without it. Now I want to help make sure that ICAS can drop hundreds of ladders to the socially excluded to support a new generation of CAs, through the truly inspirational work of the ICAS Foundation. 

Like every president before me, my aim is simple: to leave your Institute in even better shape than it is in today.

On 20 June, we are organising a fundraising trip in London with the steam-hauled Belmond British Pullman from Victoria Station to raise money for ICAS Foundation bursaries for young women and men.

I am pleased to say that many big corporates have already pledged significant sums of money and we have a target to raise £250,000.

Like all our presidents, I want to spend time meeting and listening to the views and concerns of our members. 

I’m planning to spend a day every month travelling around the small accountancy firms that are not only the backbone of the Institute but also the backbone of business in nearly every high street in the land. They are the unsung heroes, and they deserve to be recognised and encouraged.

According to Robert Burns, “The Souter” in Tam O’Shanter was a notorious storyteller, so be warned as I circulate in the next 12 months. Through telling my stories of life as a CA, I hope I may encourage and inspire those who follow on the petals and the thorns of the ICAS path.

Like every president before me, my aim is simple: to leave your Institute in even better shape than it is in today.

Sir Brian Souter’s Steam Train Special London, 20 June 2017 – Last few tickets available

If you are interested in finding out how you can make a difference and support the ICAS Foundation by purchasing a ticket for this very special event please contact us. As we only have a very small number of tickets available, they will be sold on a first come basis.


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