We catch up with Brendan O’Dwyer who recently joined Alliance MBS as Professor in Accounting.
What attracted you to Alliance MBS?
I have previously worked with academics here on various papers, so I knew the research strengths of the school. Manchester has traditionally been very strong in theoretical and qualitative research where you combine qualitative data and theory to gain a deep understanding of structures and processes. This fits perfectly with my research interests. The Accounting and Finance division’s sizeable cluster of like-minded, high-achieving researchers and high-potential emerging scholars were decisive in my decision to join the school.
Tell us more about your specific research areas?
My work cuts across a wide range of areas including: the regulation of the accounting profession, sustainability reporting and assurance; standard setting, corporate and NGO (non-governmental organisation) accounting and accountability; and risk management and control in healthcare organisations. I am also interested in the broadening role of the accounting profession with regards to human rights.
You mentioned you have previously worked with academics here in Manchester?
Yes, I published a paper with Professor Chris Humphrey which studied the emergence of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and its attempts to institutionalise integrated reporting. We are now extending this work as part of an Alliance funded cross-disciplinary research project examining the shifting jurisdictional authority of accounting and finance professionals and professional practice.
A common theme of your research seems to be working with real-life accounting and financial issues?
Absolutely. For example, one study I carried out was with a leading accountancy firm in the Netherlands which examined the processes behind the firm’s move into the non-financial assurance market. It was, to me at least, a fascinating piece of research which unearthed some considerable tensions within the firm. The work came down to understanding exactly what was happening on the ground within the business and theorising around this to help understand the process better. I am currently examining how data analytics and the offshoring of audit work are transforming financial audit within accountancy firms.
Your own background is in accountancy?
Yes, I trained as a Chartered Accountant with the Dublin office of the Big 4 firm Ernst & Young before pursuing an academic career. Partly because of this background I have undertaken a number of senior management roles within academia, and most recently was Head of the Accounting division and subsequently Acting Dean and Dean of Research at the University of Amsterdam Business School.
Tell us about your other roles?
I am a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Strategic Sustainability Committee. I am also currently co-editing special issues of Accounting, Organizations & Society and Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, both of which are due for publication later this year.