Warren McGregor’s outstanding service as an accounting standard setter followed a short period in academia at Monash University. An invitation in 1979 to join the Australian Accounting Research Foundation (AARF) as a project manager led to a lifetime involved in advancing intellectual ideas to underpin policy development and accounting standard setting. His capability to develop rigorous argument on conceptual matters demonstrated through his involvement with the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) and the G4+1 group of standard setters, meant he was well placed for appointment in 2001, to the inaugural board of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). The quality of Warren’s contribution at this most senior level is evidenced in the fact that he remained a member until 2011 – the maximum allowable term. Within the IASB’s own boardroom, key attributes Warren brought were strong conceptual thinking, an extensive knowledge of standard setting processes and his own robust technical competencies; the latter exemplified by his contributions to Lease accounting and Insurance accounting over many years. During his time on the board he served as Vice-Chair from 2009 until 2011, Chair of the Strategy Committee from 2001 to 2011 and Chair of the annual World Standards Setter’s meetings from 2002 until 2010. Engaging with the wider standard setting world was crucial throughout this period and Warren led the IASB’s efforts to engage not only with Europe and the European Commission but also the Financial Accounting Standards Board in the US and the Accounting Standards Board of Japan. As an international standard setter and advocate for the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), he played a key role encouraging Australia as an early-mover in 2005 in the transition to the international reporting framework. He has also been heavily involved in the Asia Oceania region and, through the establishment of the Asian-Oceanian Standard Setters Group helped to create a regional voice in the IFRS development process. His involvement with standard setting at the local and global level was premised on a strong commitment to the development of a conceptual framework for financial reporting. His early work in Australia on this involved composing tight definitions of the elements of financial reports which provided a platform for practitioners to analyse and report transactions for which an accounting standard did not exist. This provided the groundwork for the first international conceptual framework document. He was the principal author of the first Conceptual Framework issued by the IASC in 1989. Warren continues to offer contributions on technical and other matters to the Australian and international standard setters. He continues to undertake consulting roles within the Australian business community, as principal of Stevenson McGregor.
The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame honours Warren McGregor as an eminent leader in promoting and enabling high quality financial reporting for global capital markets. In so doing it recognises him as a leading standard setter and acknowledges his international stature in this field.
Raised in Wangaratta, Victoria, Warren McGregor graduated in economics at the honours and masters level from Monash University and initially embarked on a career in academia at Monash. An approach from the Australian Accounting Research Foundation (AARF) in 1979 to join as a project manager presaged a lifetime of work in accounting standard setting and policy development. At AARF he progressed to Technical Director and eventually CEO. Warren has made a distinguished contribution both in Australia and internationally. His capability and experience were acknowledged by his appointment to the inaugural Board of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) when it was established in 2001 and his reappointment until he reached the maximum period allowed. Many individuals, including Warren, had contributed to the ambition of establishing an international board that would have as its mission the development of common standards for the world economy. Warren was 1 of 14 members appointed at that time, and was relied on within that group to bring strong conceptual thinking and wide experience of standard setting to discussion and decision making. The success of the Board and the leadership and commitment given by those who were its foundation members is reflected in close to 120 countries now adopting International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as their own.
During the period 2001-2011 the Board was faced with resolving some very challenging technical issues. Warren chaired the Board’s efforts to progress the contentious topics of Leases and Insurance. It is testament to his capability to listen to the viewpoints of industry participants and other commentators and learn from them. And to his perseverance, that he was able to develop a consensus within the Board that enabled reporting requirements in these areas to evolve to the point where there was widespread stakeholder acceptance.
Warren’s contribution to the Board’s success was broader than in determining technical matters. The Board needed to lean into the politics of Europe and other pressures that accompany attempts to change accounting practices in highly controversial areas. In the 10 years of his service to the Board his contributions included leadership roles on strategy and stakeholder engagement, including the role of Acting Vice Chairman from 2009 to 2011, Chairman of the Board’s strategy committee from 2001 to 2011 and Chairman of the Board’s annual World Standard Setters meetings from 2002 to 2010. These efforts saw him play influential roles in establishing the 2005 ‘IFRS stable platform’ to enable successful implementation of significant change, especially in Europe, and agreements for common work efforts between the Federal Accounting Standards Board and IASB and separately the Accounting Standards Board of Japan and the IASB.
With Warren’s support, following soon after Europe in 2005, Australia was an early-mover in transitioning to adopt IFRS standards as its own reporting framework. He had been involved in driving the shift in focus in Australia to international standards a decade earlier, through engagement with the International Accounting Standards Committee and the G4+1 group of national standard setters. Much of his focus at this time had been in driving the IASB’s predecessor, the IASC, towards high quality standards that could provide a platform for consistent and reliable financial reporting at a global level. Indeed much of the initial work undertaken by the IASB was heavily drawn from the materials published by the G4+1.
Warren’s contribution at the IASB flowed directly to benefit the Australian accounting profession and capital market. But he made every effort to ensure it was not just a one-way flow. Throughout his tenure he connected regularly with national standard setting bodies, especially in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, and with company and industry representatives, sharing the Board’s thinking on topics and seeking feedback on these and other matters on the minds of those ‘on the ground’. His outreach to the preparer community was particularly well received as they felt he genuinely listened and explored issues in their discussions with him, rather than presenting in ‘tell’ mode. His contributions in Board meetings, particularly on Insurance and Financial Instruments topics also reflected his learning from these discussions. His efforts to engage the national standard setting bodies in the ASEANZ region provided them with a platform and experience to engage directly with the IASB. This ultimately led to the Asian-Oceanian Standards Setters Group being established, which now offers a regional voice on IFRS developments that provides balance to the European and North American perspectives.
In addition to Warren’s contribution to the Australian accounting profession through his IASB involvement, it is important to also acknowledge some very direct contributions. In the 1980s Warren championed the development of a conceptual framework for financial reporting. Establishing definitions and recognition criteria for the elements of financial statements provided a platform for practitioners to analyse and report transactions and events for which specific accounting standards did not exist, in a consistent and relevant way. Even though proposals to give it high profile within the extant accounting literature were met with resistance from industry and parts of the accounting profession, it quickly became the key point of reference for all practitioners. Also, the development of this framework changed the way accounting was taught in university programs. This effort became the groundwork for the first international conceptual framework for which Warren was the initial author for the IASC and which was issued in 1989. His commitment to the importance of a strong conceptual basis for accounting remains today. Since retiring from the Board he has continued to provide wise counsel to the IASB on this topic through formal commentaries and otherwise.
Unusually, Warren’s engagement spans the public and private sectors. As CEO of AARF from 1989 to 1999, he placed priority on enabling the Public Sector Accounting Standards Board to continue their efforts to develop a framework for accounting by each tier of government and by other entities operating in the sector. In later years, Warren also took a strong interest in the work of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board.
As an individual he has contributed strongly in both ‘front of house’ and ‘behind the scenes’ roles. In debates at public meetings of the IASB and in public forums he has ‘pinned his tartan’ to the importance of reporting unbiased and relevant information to facilitate effective decision making in capital markets. However, he was equally comfortable in undertaking the heavy lifting that underpins the important activity of standard setting. Some of his notable (and memorable!) contributions to the standard setting and financial reporting literature include AARF Discussion Paper No. 5, 1980 titled Accounting for Research and Development Costs; principal authorship of the IASC’s Conceptual Framework, 1989 and the AASB Occasional Paper No 1, Liabilities - the neglected element: a conceptual analysis of the financial reporting of liabilities, October 2013.
Warren continues to offer contributions on technical and other matters to the Australian and international standard setters. His approachable style and reputation for analysing accounting challenges means that many members of the profession have sought guidance and counsel from him over the years as they have endeavoured to apply the literature to their facts and circumstances. He continues to undertake consulting roles within the Australian business community, as a consultant to PwC and principal of StevensonMcGregor.