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Interview: Glenn Allison

27 Mar 08

The MD of Stewart Milne is to take over strategic leadership of ICAS as its new president

by Robert Outram

Later this month, ICAS president Isobel Sharp hands over to her successor, Glenn Allison. After two years as junior and then senior vice-president, Allison sees the changeover as a question of continuity rather than a change in emphasis for the Institute.

He has been closely involved with the development of the Clearly Ahead strategy, unveiled in October last year.

Allison says: “The key priorities have been set with the Clearly Ahead strategy which was agreed last year. What we have to do now is build on that, so that the objectives that we have set are being delivered, throughout this year and for subsequent years.

“One of our core strengths is education and that will be a significant focus, as will thought leadership and ethics.”

Glenn Allison is managing director with house builders the Stewart Milne Group. Since 1989 he has worked alongside founder, Stewart Milne, to help grow the business from its origins in north-east Scotland to a UK-wide business turning over £348m.

One of the challenges for ICAS is ensuring the Institute remains engaged with its members, including members in business. Allison says: “We must understand how effectively we are delivering a service to our members, and how we are allowing them to grow, develop and achieve what they want to within their careers.

“Personally, as a CA, the support I’ve had from ICAS has helped me to develop my career and has helped me many times over the past twenty years and more.”

He adds: “One of the things that we will be doing is improving our communication networks, communicating with members, so that we can get information and feedback from them regarding what they need from their Institute.”

Another important aspect of the presidential role is working with other accountancy professional bodies, in the UK and around the world.

In some cases ICAS’s sister bodies are also competitors, but Allison stresses that what they have in common is more important. He says: “CCAB [the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies, which brings together the leading UK institutes] is working effectively. We understand that we compete in terms of education, but there are also clear benefits to the profession from working together. We can speak with a stronger voice and get relevant arguments into the right places.”

In the past couple of years ICAS has raised its profile worldwide through leading the “Principles not Rules” campaign, which has galvanised a wide range of support for an accounting regime based on principles and judgement rather than a detailed and unwieldy rule-book.

Allison says: “I believe we have raised a debate that has been picked up and built on in a lot of other areas around the world. It has developed from a concept to something that the standard-setting bodies are now looking at. “Principles not Rules” has moved beyond being an esoteric argument, and the accounting profession is looking at how we can best move it forward.”

Combining the roles of managing director and ICAS president will make for a busy year, but Allison says: “It’s all about being structured and planning things out. Fortunately, we have already built up an appropriate management structure within the business. Both Stewart and I have always been involved with organisations outside the business. For example I have worked with CBI Scotland and Young Enterprise.”

Allison lives in the north-east of Scotland with his wife Sheila and enjoys golf, walking and spending time with his family.

He has two grown up children, Grant and Catherine and says “I am very proud of them both.”

Hopefully even in a presidential year there will still be time for Allison to follow his team, Aberdeen FC – after all, Stewart Milne is also the club’s chairman!



Stewart Milne: ‘A great entrepreneur’

Stewart Milne left school at 15 and trained as an electrician before setting up his own business in 1971. In 1975 he founded the business that is now Stewart Milne Group, focusing on designing and making timber frames for the house building industry. Since 1975 the business has grown from £1m turnover to £348m, while the workforce, initially 30, now numbers over 1,200. In 2007, pre-tax profit was up 50 per cent to £42m.

Milne was awarded the CBE for services to house building in 2007. He has been chairman of Aberdeen Football Club – a passion he shares with his managing director – since 1997.

Glenn Allison, who has been with the business since 1989, says: “The group has evolved; it has changed in terms of what we do and how we do it. Now, it’s a multi-locational, multi-faceted group with a structure of boards running their own businesses. Part of the management team’s role is to ensure that they have the resources they need and that the right people are in place.”

He adds: “What many people don’t appreciate about Stewart is that as well as being a great entrepreneur he is an astute businessman, one of the most astute I’ve come across. He’s good with people and good with the financials. I have learned a tremendous amount from working with him. We have complemented each other, and we bounce ideas off each other.”


Glenn Allison is managing director of the Stewart Milne Group Limited (SMG).

He joined SMG in 1989 and became MD in 2000.

He qualified as a CA in 1979 with Thomson McLintock (now KPMG) in Dundee, then spent five years with Scottish Agricultural Industries plc.

Prior to joining SMG, he was financial director with CALA Homes Scotland.

He served as Grampian Area Chairman of ICAS for seven years and on the Council for six years, and he is a member of the Council of CBI Scotland.

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Interview | Glenn Allison | Stewart Milne

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