|When Richard Denton finished his secondary education in the 1940s he responded to two job vacancies advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald, one at an accounting firm and the other as a wool broker.
The wool broker never responded to his application but the accountant did, so Denton started work at R.A. Irish and Michelmore Chartered accountants.
It began a 50 year career in which he was President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, lived in New York as chairman of a major accounting firm, served on the board of around 25 different companies and was recognised with an Order of Australia.
Denton, who passed away in December 2021 at the age of 93, always said that he was born at the most fortuitous of times.
“I was too young to feel the impact of the Depression, I was too young to go to the Second World War and then too old to be caught in the Draft for the Vietnam War,” he wrote in some memoirs for his family.
“1928 was a golden year.”
A golden it may have been, but Denton’s family struggled financially after his father came back from World War One.
“On at least one occasion our family had to do a ‘midnight flit’ because they had fallen behind in the rent, and they had to disappear because they just couldn’t pay what was owed,” he wrote.
There was, however, plenty of love and music in the house and encouragement for Richard, the youngest son who progressed rapidly through gifted and talented streams of NSW public education.
It was during his high school years that Denton met Pattie, his future wife, through fellowship at the Presbyterian Church in Kogarah.
At Irish and Michelmore he came under the mentorship of Sir Ronald Irish, who had Denton’s skull examined by a phrenologist who declared him “a bright young spark if ever I have seen one.”
Sir Ronald also operated a college for accountants, York College, and Denton was able to study there for free where he learned the bedrock of chartered accounting.
At around this time the Chartered Institute created the Chartered Clerks Union, and Denton took on a role as a trustee.
He did so on the understanding that it wouldn’t take much of his time, but in reality it began a lifelong association with the Institute which ultimately saw him serve as President and become a Life Member.
From Sir Ronald Irish’s mentorship and example, Denton also became involved as a company director with various corporates, which was unusual in the day for an accountant.
One of these was with French oil company Elf Acquitaine, which had a presence in Australia in the 1970s when it was considering investment in Bass Strait.
This began a long association with France, which Denton visited on more than 20 occasions, and led him to declare himself “very much a Franchophile.”
His involvement with the Chartered Institute peaked with an international event to celebrate the Jubilee Year in 1978, at a major international conference held in Perth.
Here, he made several speeches which he later said “were among the best efforts I managed to put together in my professional life.”
It was also a time of great change in the profession, and important reforms were put into motion such as the Professional Year, Continuing Education and impetus for Taxation Reform.
In 1980, Denton was recognised for his contribution to the accounting profession as an Officer of the Order of Australia.
His career also culminated in a period in New York, where he was international chairman of Deloittes, which he had joined through a series of firm mergers.
Denton always liked to say that he was the “only Australian ever to become full time chairman of one of the Big 8 now Big 4 accounting firms.”
Returning to Australia in 1987 he retired from Deloittes and focused on company directorships with private and government enterprises.
“All in all it has been a fulfilling experience,” Denton wrote recently in an email to his niece, signing off as he always did as “Gramps AO FCA.”
Richard Norman Hamilton Denton
Being a "bright young spark" who became a leader of his profession
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