Understanding the roles of management accountants

Ivo de Loo*, Bernard Verstegen, Dirk Swagerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The goal of this paper is to use a coherent conceptual framework to discern variables (triggers) that affect a management accountant's role in an organization, thereby generating a comprehensive empirical picture of the management accountant profession in The Netherlands. Similar research was conducted in 2004, which allows a comparison of the data to see if, and to what extent, developments in the profession have taken place. Design/methodology/approach: Using survey data, groups of management accountants are distinguished based on coherent combinations of activities. Factor and cluster analyses are applied to obtain a segmentation of the data. By doing this, it is established if homogeneous groups of management accountants can be distinguished, how many groups there are and what the characteristics of these groups are in terms of activities. Findings: It was found that controllers either operate as "reporting business analysts" or "business system analysts". Whether someone is found to be a reporting business analyst or business system analyst is among other things affected by personality traits, a person's experience in finance and accounting, the financial status of an organization and changes in laws and regulations. Research limitations/implications: The conceptual framework proposed integrates several previous studies on the roles of management accountants. It allows an analysis of their activities, yielding an empirically founded classification of management accountants in groups. In addition, possible factors underlying this classification can be discerned. As this is a generally applicable framework, it can, at a later stage, be used to make a comparison between countries, for instance in Europe. Practical implications: The resulting picture of the management accountant profession provides information on how to form or even design the financial function in an organization. Apparently, the developments in the profession reflect changes in the business environment and society as a whole, as it seems that internal analysis and risk management have become more fundamental to the profession. Originality/value: This research uses an original framework covering several previous studies to generate a comprehensive empirical picture of the management accountant profession in The Netherlands. The framework is used to track changes over a three-year period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-313
Number of pages27
JournalEuropean Business Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2011


  • Accountants
  • Control
  • The Netherlands


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