He started his career the year Edward Heath was in government and even the calculator was yet to go mainstream. Yet next month global thought leader Jon Lisby will host the closing panel of one of the leading digital conferences in accountancy. Melissa Porter reports on a story of enterprise and digital reinvention.

The year was 1970. The first UK accounting standards had just been adopted by the UK Standards Committee. It was the year of a surprise Conservative victory for Edward Heath after a general election that defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson.

“I started articles (practical work experience followed by exams which led to recognition as a chartered accountant) instead of what are now training contracts,” says Lisby. “The year before, parents had to pay the firm to take on their children. It wasn’t quite quill pens but not far off,” he laughs. “And no calculators, so much of my early work actually involved checking additions in enormous hand written ledgers.”

Today we’re in a world of cloud computing, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and blockchain technology which is helping with various accountancy tasks from reducing processing time for audits and contracts to allowing real-time access to ledgers, a practice the Big Four (EY, PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG) have already begun to implement.

But Lisby is familiar with transformation. He began articles at Burnett Swayne in 1970 and worked his way up to Managing Partner, later overseeing its sale to Numerica LLP and becoming Numerica’s Managing Partner. When Numerica, a UK Top 15 practice, was acquired by BDO in 2005, Jon accepted an appointment of CEO of Kreston International, which he helped to transform into a branded network.

Yet his career has not been without personal challenges. A diagnosis of terminal leukemia in 2017 caused him to resign, while creating a radical change in lifestyle. He went from travelling 100 days per year on business to spending six months in intensive care in preparation for a stem cell transplant that has delivered the prospect of a full recovery. Due to reduced immunity, he gave up travel but returned to work- reinventing himself through financial consultancy he performed remotely.

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Lisby created the advisory practice, Global Alliance Advisory Services. It was dedicated to supporting international networks and associations with everything from mentoring to strategy development and implementation, legal consultancy, recruitment, mergers, joint ventures and digital consultancy.


The Need for Digital Consultancy Post-Covid

A big part of the advisory services offered has most recently involved digital strategies and consultancy fast-tracked due to Covid-19. “A lot of firms are currently looking at their strategy right now,” says Lisby.

One of Lisby’s partners’ Jeremy Hyman Associates provides IT consultancy, strategy and implementation that is independent of software companies. “They are well placed to identify what the need is and produce a report to outline the options, advantages, drawbacks, and costs. It’s quite a unique service”, says Lisby.

What else does Lisby get up to in a consultancy capacity? “I also do a lot of mentoring with CEOs of international alliances”, said Lisby. “Whatever the current challenges, the chances are I’ve faced something similar in the past, may well have made mistakes in that area and can share my experience of the solutions I had found. I remain convinced that everyone needs a coach or sounding board in whatever position they hold, and I very much enjoy providing this service.”

Jon Lisby is also hosting the closing panel on key takeaways for the day at the Digital Accountancy Forum on 17th June.  He is just one of the high-profile accountancy influencers at the event – and an expert who has seen the profession change while keeping in front of developments. He brings insight and the experience of more than 50 years.

“I’m looking forward to catching up with colleagues in the profession globally,” he says. “It’s a great way to maintain effective working relationships around the world.”

If you would like to attend an event that brings value to the top 100 accounting firms and networks in the world, you can register for The Digital Accountancy Forum here.