10 Black Icons of Accountancy and Finance - Black History Month03 Oct, 20231-2 minutes
In this blog, you will learn:
- 10 black Accountants who changed UK history
- The impact they had on the accountancy and finance sector
- What we can learn from them
- How to find and apply for the best accountancy and finance jobs
October is Black History Month, a national celebration that highlights, celebrates and educates people about the accomplishments of black people in history and culture. Black History Month is a time to remember the contributions that black people have made and continue to make to the accounting and finance industry to make it a better place to work and thrive.
The accounting sector is typically accused of having ingrained stereotypes, assumptions, and discriminatory practices that limit opportunities for black Accountants. Despite changes in attitude and improvements in the accountancy industry to welcome individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, it’s been a slow process.
Accountancy Daily’s survey of ethnic diversity within the UK accountancy profession revealed there were only 17 black partners in the top 8 firms despite signs of increasing black, Asian and minority ethnic representation among staff.
It is important to recognise the strides made by overlooked and forgotten black pioneers who have made an impact in the finance sector and continue to inspire us. Honouring Black History will bring awareness to the many contributions and accomplishments that black people have made throughout history despite overt racism among other barriers.
This blog highlights the achievements of 10 important black figures who changed the history of the accountancy and finance sector and paved the way for others to pursue careers in the industry.
The Reynolds family dynasty in accounting goes back to the 1950s. Lancelot Reynolds was the first known black Accountant in the UK. Born in Jamaica, his journey in accountancy started at the Jamaica Omnibus Services.
He left the Caribbean in 1956 and moved to the UK, to pursue his career and complete his qualifications in accounting. Lancelot went on to pass all of his accounting qualifications in the UK and served his five-year articles at a small, family-run firm. He was the first black man at the firm, and Lancelot encountered racism, discrimination and segregation from employees.
Because he was black the employees held a vote asking everyone to decide whether Lancelot should be allowed to work at the firm. All of the men - including partners and those in senior roles - voted no, but every woman voted yes, giving him the majority vote.
This was the beginning of a successful career for Lancelot. In time he would rise to achieve great status in the accountancy profession and be awarded the Order of Distinction for his efforts.
He was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales and Fellow of the Institute of Taxation (UK). Lancelot remained in England for a while and worked for the Chartered Accountants firms of T.H. How and Company and Price Waterhouse and Company.
When he returned to Jamaica in 1965, Lancelot joined one of the ‘big four’ accountancy firms Deloitte and Touché as an Audit Supervisor and rose to partner in just 5 years to become the Audit Manager.
In 1973, he went to the Jamaica National Building Society and was the Financial Controller, Assistant General Manager, and then the General Manager, a position from which he retired in 1999.
Lancelot also served as President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica (ICAJ) from 1991-1993.
Donald S Reynolds CA, FCPA, Dip Tax, was an Accountant and the Managing Director of the leading accountancy firm, Arthur Andersen (SA), and the brother of Lancelot Reynolds. Donald earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics at the University of West Indies and majored in accounting.
He started in accountancy in Jamaica working for KPMG, one of the ‘big four’ accountancy firms. In 1965 Donald moved to London, to pursue further studies, which led to his certification as a Chartered Accountant. He spent 4 years working for the same family firm as his brother Donald and discovered that black Accountants were very much in the minority in the UK and experienced prejudice from clients. He had not experienced discrimination or racism in Jamaica based on the colour of his skin, but he refused to let it affect him.
Donald was a fellow of both the Jamaican and English and Welsh Institutes of Chartered Accountants, and an Audit Senior at Thomas H. How and Company and Peat Marwick Mitchell and Company in London, England.
Donald was a co-founder of the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants and was President of the Southern African Institute of Accountants. He was elected President of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) from 1974-1976. He was also elected President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) from 1979-1981.
Donald returned to Jamaica in 1971, and his experience and knowledge in the field allowed him to become a partner at Deloitte and Touche in 1977, eventually rising to Country Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board. He played a key role when establishing the Accounting and Finance syllabus at the University of the West Indies, where he was a Council member and Head of the Department of Accounting at the University.
Donald served as President of ICAJ from 1987-1989 and received ICAJ’s Distinguished Member Award in 2010, in recognition of his contribution to the development of the Institute and the accountancy profession in Jamaica.
Since retiring in 2006, Donald has used his time to benefit a number of charities, including the North Street United Education Development Foundation, which offers university and high school scholarships to marginalised children in West Kingston, Jamaica.
Donna E. Reynolds FCA, FCPA, Dip Tax was believed to be the first black Chartered Accountant in the UK. Daughter of Lancelot Reynolds, and niece of Donald Reynolds, Donna followed in her family's footsteps.
Born and raised in Central Jamaica, she dropped out of school when she was 11 to work at her uncle’s general store. Donna regretted not furthering her education so at 16, she moved away from home and pursued an accounting profession in Kingston. When Donna was 19, she was hired as an accounting clerk at the West Indies Brewery Company.
Donna moved to England, and studied accountancy at the University of Canterbury. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1994 at the same firm her father and uncle worked at during their time in the UK.
Donna continued to work in audit becoming a Senior Audit Manager. Like her father and uncle, Donna experienced racism and prejudice as well as sexism from clients who thought she couldn’t be in a senior position as a black woman and preferred to converse with a white male trainee. Although the level of prejudice against black Accountants was more obvious during her father and uncle’s time in the UK, in the 1990s, it was still present. Donna now specialises in training materials and systems implementation.
Unlike her father and uncle, Donna remained in the UK despite plans to return to Jamaica. She believes people of colour must be resilient within the UK accountancy industry to succeed.
At the University of the West Indies, Donna is an Emeritus Professor and holds a PhD in taxation. The International Accounting Research Network (IARN) chose her as its first-ever black member.
She served as the Chair of the Caribbean Accounting Research Network, the President of the Caribbean Tax Institute, and the Past President of both the Caribbean Business Management Association and the Caribbean Financial Management Association. Donna has also written extensively in the accountancy, taxation, and business field.
Enoch Adeyemi is a Fellow Chartered and Certified Accountant (FCCA) whose mission is to promote inclusivity in the workplace. Originally from Nigeria, Enoch came to the UK in 2003 to study accountancy. Enoch holds a Bachelor's degree in Accounting from the University of Liverpool and further pursued his academic journey and completed a Masters degree in Finance from the University of Stirling.
Enoch began studying for the ACCA Qualification because of its global recognition, not least in Nigeria. He qualified in 2011 and in 2014 he became a panel member at ACCA, where he represented members in the Edinburgh region and organised events for networking.
After five years at Kames Capital, he moved to Lloyds Banking Group to work in the bank’s financial reporting team. From there, he went on to Royal Bank of Scotland and then Sainsbury’s Bank as a regulatory reporting Accountant.
In 2016, he founded and became the CEO of Black Professionals Scotland an organisation that empowers Scotland-based Black ethnic minority professionals with skills and information to be the best they can within their chosen careers. He leads a team of almost 20 passionate and dedicated individuals to bring real change to the lived experiences of Black students and professionals in Scotland. Enoch is also Co-Founder of Black Scottish Adventurers.
Most recently, in 2023, Enoch became the Chair and Co-Founder of Black Alliance Scotland. He is also the Co-Founder of Visit Nigeria Now, a Travel and Tourism brand promoting local businesses and providing tourism strategies for the government.
Temi is a UK-qualified Chartered Accountant with over 15 years' experience in Internal Audit and Controls, Financial Crime Compliance and a core focus in the Financial Services industry, managing client projects across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Temi grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to the UK when she was 12. She wanted to be a Chartered Accountant from the age of 12 and holds a BA (Hon) degree in Accounting from the University of Manchester, UK.
Temi is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Information Systems Audit CISA, Certified Internal Auditor CIA and recently completed the Harvard Leadership and Management Program.
When she started at Ernst and Young (EY), one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms, Temi was one of over 250 new joiners, and besides herself, there was only one other African employee. She spent 6 years in the role in London, and is now an Associate Director in Forensic Risk Alliance’s (FRA) Dubai office. Working in Dubai, Temi has experienced stereotypical and racist behaviour made against her but has continued to persevere.
Deborah Harris FCA
Deborah Harris is a Fellow Chartered Accountant. She studied Civil Engineering and before graduation she researched 5 possible careers, until she settled on audit. She completed her ACA training at PwC, one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms and then went into corporate finance and investment banking roles. She now has over a decade of experience in financial services, investment banking and technology venture capital.
With over a decade of experience, Deborah has been on the main London Society of Chartered Accountants (LSCA) committee since 2013. She is passionate about authentic ethical leadership and in 2022, Deborah was appointed as the first Black President of the London Society of Chartered Accountants in its 150-year history.
Deborah sponsors InspiringTomorrow, an initiative that mentors Black students and women undergraduates with a passion for STEM, and then gives them opportunities to meet and learn from senior leaders in their career. For the past 6 years, the mini-mentoring sessions have led to many participants getting a better understanding of accountancy as a valued career.
Emmanuel is a fully qualified Financial Advisor through the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), media personality, wealth-building entrepreneur and international speaker. He grew up in Tower Hamlets East London and has a BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance from the University of Greenwich.
When he was 22, he became a Financial Adviser at Barclays Bank, quickly ascending to become one of the UK’s top ranked financial advisors/managers. Emmanuel has over 15 years of experience in the banking and advising sector having worked for Natwest, HBOS and Barclays, before going independent.
Six years ago, Emmanuel founded the Eman Effect an educational company that provides its customers with the knowledge they need. He launched his business at the UK Black Business Show to tackle not only the money aspect of finance but the wellbeing that contributes, including looking at stress and anxiety that comes from a poor financial situation. Emmanuel later held his own paid financial seminar and hosted a panel of black financial professionals.
Following his success, Emmanuel has featured in the Telegraph and as the co-host and authority on educational financial programmes such as Channel 4′s ‘Save Well, Spend Better’ in 2019 and Your Money And Your Life, on BBC One in June 2020.
Ololade Adesanya is a Chartered Accountant, Director in Deloitte’s Risk Advisory practice and Financial Services Controls Advisory Lead and current President of the ICAEW West of England. She is also the Vice President for the ICAEW West of England, Chairs the Race Steering Committee for the EY’s UK Financial Services business and is a member of EY’s Gender Advisory Board.
Ololade qualified as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), studied Law and Economics at Queen Mary and went on to do a Masters' Degree in Law. She has over 15 years experience working with firms mainly in the financial services industry but also across other industries including the public sector. Various leadership roles have given Ololade exposure to balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders, leading high performing and diverse teams, as well as interacting with Board and Senior Management across several organisations.
Ololade wants to see more diversity in the accounting profession at all levels and role models, and a greater representation of black women who have progressed in the accounting industry as working parents. She chairs EY’s UKFS Race Steering Committee which advises the Senior Leadership Team on issues of race.
Ololade encourages everyone to play a role in building a diverse pipeline of talent. At Deloitte, they award bursaries to university students from under-represented ethnicities to support their ambitions for successful careers.
Ololade was inspired by a black female partner and fellow working mum to continue working to her career trajectory. This visibility and role model allowed Ololade to believe and prove that a professional career in accounting is possible as a black woman and a working mother.
Vincent grew up and lives in North London and is of Nigerian heritage. He is now a multi-award winning accountant, currently working as Manager in Grant Thornton UK LLP’s Corporate Finance Team, after spending a year working on special projects with Grant Thornton UK LLP (one of the world’s largest advisory firms) C-Suite, a unique and unprecedented role.
Vincent is also the co-founder and Chair of his firm’s largest D&I network, the Ethnicity Network, aiming to increase representation at the top level and reduce his firm’s ethnicity pay gap. He was selected to serve on his firm’s inaugural Inclusion Advisory Board, advising the C-suite on operational and strategic decisions.
Vincent co-founded The Open Private School, a charity which seeks to provide state school educated students with the opportunity to learn from the best talent in their chosen career path and be upskilled in the areas that matter. Vincent is also a NED at Capital City College Group, London’s largest further education college group, providing exceptional education and training to over 28,000 students and is a school governor at Crowlands Primary School.
Since 2019, Vincent has been a One Young World Ambassador, recognised as one of the world’s pre-eminent young leaders working to drive forward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and since 2023, has been a Fellow at the Aspen Institute UK, an international institute for future leaders and a VocL future voice, solving the UK’s biggest challenges in business.
Vincent is a board advisor at the Black Talent Charter, improving black representation across professional services and a Steering Committee member at TNON, supporting 130 businesses senior leaders in the UK.
Passionate about diversity, inclusion and resilience, Vincent has often spoke publicly on these topics, winning multiple awards for his work.
Most recently he was named the UK’s Number 1 Rising Star in professional services at the Black British Business Awards.
Stewart Cumberbatch was born in Birmingham and is of Caribbean descent. His grandparents moved from Barbados to the UK as part of the Windrush generation in the 1950s and 1960s for a better life. He graduated from Loughborough University in 2001 and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2004. Stewart was the first in his family to go into higher education.
He has a strong interest in diversity and inclusion in the workplace and has mentored individuals from a black and ethnic minority background both within and outside of the firm. When he started at Deloitte in the early 2000s, Stewart was one of the few black senior leaders in the audit practice, and one of a small number black people in the company.
Today, there are more black role models at Deloitte, after they increased their focus on supporting black colleagues through their Black Action Plan. The plan consists of five key commitments aligned to the firm’s global shared values of fostering inclusion as well as improving their ethnicity pay gap.
After nearly 21 years at Deloitte, Stewart became a partner in 2022. He is also a member of Deloitte’s Ethnicity Council and was previously President of the Birmingham Chartered Accountants Student Society between 2012 and 2015.
For more insights. check out how the accountancy industry can address diversity or how to choose an accountancy practice that’s right for you.
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