Professional Insecurity, Accountant Identity and the Erosion of Accountancy's Jurisdictional Boundaries

40 Pages Posted: 10 May 2004

See all articles by Yves Gendron

Yves Gendron

Université Laval

Roy Suddaby

Peter B Gustavson School of Business


This paper examines attitudes about professionalism in accounting shortly before the debacles of Enron and Andersen. Interviews with experienced Canadian Chartered Accountants (CAs) conducted mostly in late 2000 and early 2001 indicate significant doubts about the notion of auditor independence and a relatively high degree of uncertainty about the future of the profession. Accountants also expressed significant difficulties in describing the basic features of what it meant to be a professional accountant. Based on these observations we introduce and detail the construct of professional insecurity. Relying on Giddens' theoretical developments on the role of trust and systems of expertise in today's society, we reflect about the significance and implications of CAs' professional insecurity, particularly in terms of its impact on accountancy's ability to secure its jurisdictional boundaries. Our thesis is that the difficulties that accountants experienced in their day-to-day life in sustaining a coherent sense of self-identity were particularly stressful to them given people's fundamental need for coherence, and significantly affected the capacities of their profession to hold jurisdiction.

Keywords: Accounting profession, Auditor independence, Professional identity, Professional insecurity, Systems of expertise

JEL Classification: M41, M47, M49

Suggested Citation

Gendron, Yves and Suddaby, Roy Robert, Professional Insecurity, Accountant Identity and the Erosion of Accountancy's Jurisdictional Boundaries. Available at SSRN:

Yves Gendron (Contact Author)

Université Laval ( email )

Faculte des sciences de l'administration
2325 rue de la Terrasse, Local 2636
Quebec City, Quebec G1V 0A6
418-656-2131 ext. 2431 (Phone)
418-656-7746 (Fax)

Roy Robert Suddaby

Peter B Gustavson School of Business ( email )

Victoria, British Columbia
250-721-6401 (Phone)

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