Kevin Stevenson AM
The extensive developments in accounting standard setting over the last forty years are due, in no small part to the career-long involvement of Kevin Michael Stevenson AM. As an acknowledged leading authority in the global development of accounting standards Kevin Stevenson has been at the forefront of the evolution of accounting thought for much of his working life. Kevin initially joined the firm of Fell and Starkey (later Ernst & Young) before moving to the Australian Accounting Research Foundation (AARF) as an accounting research assistant responsible for the development of accounting and auditing standards on behalf of the Australian accounting bodies. He subsequently held the position of Technical Director and finally Director. In his ten years of service he oversaw major expansion both in the size and output of the AARF. He left the Foundation in 1989 with a reputation as an internationally recognised research and development organisation. Kevin re-entered professional practice as a partner with Coopers & Lybrand in 1989 and later established a successful boutique consultancy practice, Stevenson McGregor in 1999. He returned to standard setting in 2001 as the inaugural Director of Technical Activities for the International Accounting Standards Board in London. In this position he contributed immensely to the development of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) and was first chair of the International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee. After returning to Melbourne as a senior partner in the Global Capital Markets Group with PricewaterhouseCoopers, he was appointed, in 2009, to the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB). As the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the AASB, Kevin Stevenson provides high profile leadership for the Australian and international accounting profession using his encyclopaedic knowledge of, and experience in, the accounting standards setting process combined with a commitment to achieving financial truth in the public interest. He has also directed special attention to developing the authority and competency of the regional Asian-Oceanian Standard-Setters Group. The great improvements in financial reporting in Australia can be directly attributed to the research undertaken by the AARF and AASB staff that he recruited, encouraged and mentored. Among the notable achievements has been the valuable work undertaken for current cost accounting, the development of the conceptual framework and the production of many discussion papers, exposure drafts and standards using a transparent and public due process. The outcomes of Kevin's influence have been tangible. Australia currently has a reporting regime that uses the single set of standards across all sectors – the sector neutral approach. This means all Australian governments now produce financial statements in conformity with the IFRSs. Corporate reporting has similarly also improved immeasurably under the contemporary IFRS-based financial accounting reporting regime. The chief qualities displayed by Kevin Stevenson throughout his career have been a clarity and independence of thought and an insistence on conceptual consistency when approaching technical issues
The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame honours Kevin Michael Stevenson as an administrator, mentor and standard-setter. In doing so it recognises his immense contribution to standard-setting and acknowledges his international stature in this field.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne in 1970, Kevin Stevenson joined the then firm of Fell & Starkey (antecedent of the present-day Ernst & Young), first working in audit then establishing their technical research department. He completed a Master of Business Administration from the Melbourne Business School in 1976 completing a topical thesis on current cost accounting.
In November 1976 Kevin joined the Australian Accounting Research Foundation (AARF) as an 'Accounting Research Assistant' to the Director, Dr Bruno Feller, and subsequently becoming Technical Director and Director following Feller's retirement in 1979. The Foundation Chairman, John Hilliard, recollected that "…some people [on the Executive] thought Kevin was too young and needed to serve an apprenticeship". Over the next 10 years Kevin's intellectual, managerial and political leadership skills took the AARF organisation from a nondescript corner office in the Australian Society of Accountants' Exhibition Street office with two technical staff to an independent, internationally recognised research and development team with substantial output achievements by the time of his departure in 1989.
Technical outputs from AARF under Kevin's directorship were prolific. The ill-fated 10-year current cost accounting (CCA) project and CCA Working Guide culminated in the publication of the CCA Statement issued as a 'non-mandatory practice statement' in 1983, well after the main players had lost interest. Kevin, who undertook much of the writing and editing throughout, referred to the project as "…AARF's Gallipoli", yet he recognised the strongly fought debates around the technical issues would prove valuable in the subsequent development of the accounting conceptual framework. Other projects including leasing, foreign exchange, consolidations, equity accounting, joint ventures, tax effect accounting and public sector standards plus auditing, showed Kevin as being capable of carrying a heavy and technically demanding workload. The effectiveness of the AARF over this period can be measured by the large number of critics it attracted, and that the profession had 30 accounting standards issued by 1989 against the nine when Kevin first started.
His technical contributions were matched by the management and political skills he displayed in advancing and sustaining the AARF organisation. He recruited an outstanding team of dedicated young people who continue to play important roles in Australian and international accounting development including Warren McGregor, Brigid Curran (nee Hynes), Jan McCahey, Angus Thomson, Paul Sutcliffe, Greg Pound, Clark Anstis, Jim Paul and Colin Parker. Contractors from the profession and academia were also enlisted to supplement AARF resources necessary to deal with constantly changing governance structures, two demanding accounting bodies and the intervention of governments. Burrows records that "agents for change in the Foundation were inflation accounting, government encroachment into accounting standards, litigation involving auditors and Kevin Stevenson', and that it was "Kevin Stevenson who oversaw the body's development from the cottage industry of the 1970s to the well-resourced (in international terms) organisation it had become by the late 1980s."
In 1989 Kevin handed over the AARF to his deputy Warren McGregor and joined the then Coopers & Lybrand as their National Technical Partner. He later served as the Senior Technical Partner in the merged firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). As the Victorian Regional Industry Partner and National Partner for Government and Services Industries he was heavily involved in advising government during the major privatisation activities from 1995 to 1998. Never far from his standard-setting background, Kevin continued to organise annual conferences through the Coopers & Lybrand Accounting and Education Foundation on public interest topics bringing together academics, practitioners and public servants. With Peter Brownell and Bob Officer, he established the Coopers & Lybrand Visiting Professor Programme to assist universities to develop their research skills. He was the first non-academic elected to the board of what was the then Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand (now Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ)).
In 1999 with Warren McGregor, Kevin established the boutique advisory firm of Stevenson McGregor to provide high level advice to international clients and governments thereby utilising their unrivalled knowledge of the international accounting scene. This included working with the Asian Development Bank supported by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) to establish the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Nepal (ICAN). The firm ceased to exist in 2001 when Warren McGregor was appointed as the Australian board representative to the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) in London. Soon after, Kevin was appointed Director of Technical Activities at the IASB. Between 2002 and 2005 Kevin led the technical division of the IASB. He was the Foundation Chairman of the International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee (IFRIC), dealing with the jurisdictional issues arising from the implementation of IFRSs. He contributed to international developments around IFRS versus US GAAP, conceptual frameworks, measurement, business combinations, structured finance and entities, revenue recognition and lease accounting. He was also exposed to the political interventions in accounting standard-setting at the international level. His activities included management of IASB's 2005 Platform, significant involvement in all IFRSs and International Accounting Standards on issue and all but a few IFRICs, origination of the current conceptual framework project, management of the convergence process, management of the agenda and proceedings of the IASB's Advisory Council, liaison with world standard-setters, IASB/Federal Accounting Standards Board coordination, chairman of the Share-Based Payments Steering Committee, Coordinator of the IASB's Analysts Advisory Committee and participation in financial instruments round-tables.
On his return to Melbourne in 2005 he re-joined PwC as the Senior Partner, Melbourne for their Global Capital Markets Group in a corporate advisory role. From 1 July, 2009, he was appointed by the Australian government as the Chairman and CEO of the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB), and is a Member of the New Zealand Accounting Standards Board and a Member of the Financial Reporting Council. In these roles he is responsible to the government for the application of the IFRSs in Australia thereby playing a central role in the accountability and transparency of entities producing general-purpose financial reports.
Kevin was involved in the establishment and development of the Asian-Oceanian Standard-Setters Group (AOSSG) which provides an important forum for the (currently) 26 member jurisdictions from the region, and maintains a close relation with the IFRS Foundation, the IASB and other international bodies. As current Chair and CEO of the AASB, he has fostered cooperation between the AOSSG working groups by providing technical input to the Accounting Standards Advisory Forum (ASAF) of the IASB. He recently promoted the formation of a Centre of Excellence in Nepal through the Nepal Accounting Standards Board. As one of the 12 national standard-setters appointed to ASAF, which commenced in April 2013, he is directly involved in current IASB agenda discussions, including those on the revision of the conceptual framework.
Kevin is a Fellow of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia and CPA Australia, a member of AFAANZ, and an Honorary Fellow at Monash University and the Department of Accounting, the University of Melbourne, his alma mater.
His awards/citations include:
- Business Review Weekly's "Accountant of the Year 1988" for contribution to standard-setting. (1988)
- The Australian Financial Review's "Accountant of the Decade 1989" for his contribution to standard-setting. (1989)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia Meritorious Service Award (2001) for contribution to practice.
- University of Melbourne Medal (2006) for delivering the University of Melbourne/CPA annual research lecture.
- Chamber of Commerce Exhibition (final year B.Com.) and Sir Alex Fitzgerald Exhibition (final year MBA), The University of Melbourne.
Hans Hoogervorst, Chairman of the IASB, has endorsed Kevin's involvement in promoting IFRSs in the following terms:
"Kevin Stevenson has given an enormous contribution to the advancement of IFRS. His thought leadership and diplomatic skills are widely appreciated by our constituents in the Asia-Oceanian region. As a Chairman of the AOSSG, Kevin was able to bring and hold together very effectively a large and very diverse group of constituents. Kevin's deep knowledge of IFRS and his enthusiastic willingness to share it with others are the secrets to his success."
Responding to the frustrations of getting countries to adopt the international standards, Kevin often relies on a metaphor – "we are all on board a train heading towards global reporting on the economics of reporting entities; it is just where we choose to get on board that differs". He is an outstanding conductor. He is also an Australian accounting standard setter without peer. His contribution and involvement runs very deep and is unmatched in this country.