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Xero Co-Founder Petitions to Change the Definition of Accountant

A wood desk, a calculator, maybe a pair of big glasses, and perhaps even an abacus or stack of coins. Is that what comes to mind when you hear the word “accountant?” Do you picture someone spending their days isolated and just counting, counting, and counting? Accounting is a profession that has, unfortunately, been typically viewed as conservative, stodgy, and dare I say–boring?

That stereotype may have been true of accountants in the past, but as the world has changed, so have accountants and the accounting profession. Gone are the days of tedious counting and writing in a ledger.

Xero Co-Founder Petitions to Change the Definition of Accountant

Xero, the online accounting software company, recognizes this and is petitioning, via, for the Oxford English Dictionary to update its definition of the word accountant.

The current definition is as follows:



A person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts.

The Proposed Change:

Gary Turner, Co-founder and Managing Director at Xero presents the following updated definition: “Accountant: a person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts”.

In an open letter to the adjudicators of the Oxford English Dictionary, Turner explains how thanks to new technologies, in particular cloud-based software, accountants are better able to analyze data and advise businesses rather than just “crunch the numbers.”

Additionally, he includes statistics from the ICAEW and IFAC that show that businesses value good advice from an accountant over their number crunching abilities:

“Furthermore, when asked about the qualities they value in an accountant, more small business owners cited good business advice (41%) than number crunching skills (34%).”

The definition of accountant should evolve with the times

What We Think:

We have been big fans of Xero for a long time. We are inclined to agree with Turner and the folks at Xero. Accounting has changed. (In fact, we don’t even have an abacus). Cloud-based technology makes it so much easier to be on the same page with our clients and their businesses, and other innovations have freed up some of our time to allow us to do more for businesses than simply keeping track of finances.

Michael Burdick, CEO of Paro also agrees with this change in the nature of accounting. “We’re living during a watershed moment for accounting…It’s the end of accounting as we know it…A new normal will rise from the ashes of the archaic industry, and this revival will lower costs and increase transparency for businesses in every sector.” (Entrepreneur, “The Accounting Industry’s Death is Great News for Your Business”)

We (Lumen Advisory and Finance), at least, are accountants who are excited about this “new normal” and are ready and willing to embrace these changes as they continue to come.

We know that dictionary definitions don’t and can’t always do a word justice. In just a few words, it’s impossible to totally capture all of the shades of meaning that a word has. This is especially true when the word being defined refers to an occupation or a person. For example, you hear it all the time about teachers and how many different roles they play throughout the day. That cannot be all summed up in a small, neat definition.

The same goes for an accountant. A definition could never truly describe all that an accountant is. The current definition, A person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts (Oxford English Dictionary), definitely doesn’t even come close. Turner’s suggested addition of the words “and advise” makes a huge impact. Suddenly, the accountant has an active role in the business more so than just looking at numbers.

New technologies should impact the definition of accountant

What Does this Change Mean for a Business?

With the role of the accountant evolving, and the accountant becoming a trusted business advisor, that makes it even more important to choose the right one for your company. In this day and age, you are looking for more than just a person who can use a calculator well. You want to find someone whom you can trust. Keep in mind their experience (number of years as well as the type of accounting), how well they communicate, and the types of reviews that others have given about them.

So, what about you? Do you agree with the proposed definition change? Has accounting evolved? You can read the entire open letter to the Oxford English Dictionary on the Xero Blog. You can also head on over to to sign the petition for yourself!

Are you interested in learning more about how we are embracing the future of accounting? Contact us at Lumen Advisory and Finance to find out! Big glasses may be cool again, but we know that doesn’t mean that outdated accounting practices are.