Successful accountants who made a fortune thanks to their trade-Publication
Author: Lidia Snarskaya, PR-Manager, BDO Unicon Outsourcing

There were a number of quite successful accountants who made a fortune thanks to their trade. We hope that this list of successful financiers and founders of business empires will also fill you with inspiration!

Heinrich Schliemann

Self-taught archaeologist who discovered the ancient Troy started his life in poverty: between 14 and 19 years of age, he worked as a shop hand, and later – in a fish market and in the seaport. Ultimately, knowledge of several foreign languages helped the young man to be employed as a translator and later, as an accountant. Schliemann achieved incredible success in finance and business and made a big fortune that ultimately made his archaeological expeditions possible.

Allen Carr

Allen Carr was a quite successful accountant, but apparently, this job was getting on his nerves: he would smoke up to one hundred cigarettes per day in order to de-stress. His strong desire to give up smoking and analytical mindset helped him to develop his own method for quitting smoking. The method proved viable, which enabled the financier to quit his career in accounting and write the most famous book ever about giving up smoking and open a global chain of clinics.

Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden, an accountant in a New-York-based pharmaceutical company, spent her free time at work. But in the laboratory rather than in the accounting office, so that she could experiment with oil formulations trying to make her dream come true – to turn the beauty market upside down. This revolution proved so successful that Arden at the peak of her career used to be considered one of the richest women worldwide; the business that she launched is still alive and prosperous, and Elizabeth Arden brand is still highly popular.

John Rockefeller

The billionaire-to-be was born to a relatively poor family: his father sold herbal elixirs and spent long weeks out of home, while his mother had to observe austerity. It was his father who taught him to bargain, and her mother taught him to scrupulously track and plan expenditures. Young John Rockefeller spent his first income earned for his help to neighbour farmers on an account book where he would record all his incomes and expenses later on. And his first and only official employment was with a small company in Cleveland where Rockefeller started his career as assistant accountant, and left the company as CEO.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild

As a child, Mayer Amschel, a German Jew, was very good in maths, due to which the boy was sent to a Hannover-based bank to study finance at the age of 12. This determined his future: starting from the age of 16, the young Mayer followed in the footsteps of his father (sale of collectors’ coins), then opened an antique shop, and soon became a confidant of a high-profile nobleman, Landgrave Wilhelm IX who would appoint Rothschild as his personal banker and court supplier after a few years. Over the years of service for one of the wealthiest German princes, the financier managed to save and grow both the prince’s welfare, and his own, concurrently founding a banker dynasty.

Walter Diemer

In one form or another, aromatic chewing pellets have been known for quite a while: in 1928, Walter Diemer, an unknown accountant then, successfully worked for a chewing-gum factory. But the taste and other properties of that product were radically different from those familiar to us. It was the inventor accountant who developed a new formulation for the chewing gum making it less sticky and tackier and making its taste last longer. It was Diemer himself who taught the sellers of the new chewing gum to make bubbles from it. Starting as an ordinary accountant, he was gradually promoted to Vice President and member of the Board.

The list of BDO Unicon Outsourcing employees includes people with astounding hobbies – starting from reading ancient Japanese literature in the original to female boxing and cross-country motorcycle racing in far abroad. And yet these people manage to combine such hobbies with successful careers in accounting. Meanwhile, we managed to compile a list of might-have-been accountants who proved unable to combine two occupations:

O. Henry

William Sydney Porter’s life was full of sharp turns. After obtaining his pharmacist licence, he had to go to a rancho in Texas because of tuberculosis, became an accountant and bookkeeper, ended up in jail for embezzlement, took flight and came back to see his dying wife before being back to jail. He brought this melodrama and trick endings into his short stories that won him fame under his pen name O. Henry. 

Alexander Vertinsky

Prior to the stage, the life of this renowned musician, poet, and movie actor looks like a set of career failures. He lost his position of an accountant in Evropeiskaya hotel in Kyiv “due to inaptitude”. Had he demonstrated the same commitment in finance as he subsequently demonstrated in arts, we would have never learnt “how good it is without women and words”.

Mikhail Zoshchenko

Zoshchenko’s life was rough: military service, front line, wounds, heart attack and years of persecution. In order to survive, the writer-to-be would take any work he was offered: he worked as a cobbler, rabbit breeding instructor, and at a certain point, as an assistant accountant of Petersburg naval base. Zoshchenko did not succeed in finance and was reportedly dismissed for embezzlement. 

Symon Petliura

Petliura served as an accountant in Rossiya insurance company for as long as three years and a bit earlier held a similar position in Kyiv in Eastern Transport Partnership, due to which Mikhail Bulgakov would ironically refer to him as to “a famous accountant” in his satire.

There are also might-have-been accountants whose career in finance hardly started before ending. And all for the better.

Robert Plant

From an early age, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin (1968–1980), one of the most successful British rock bands, was keen to become a musician, while the father of the future star wanted his son to make a career in finance. When he was 16, the boy was even enrolled in a bookkeeping training programme, but he took flight in two weeks to devote his life to arts. 

Mick Jagger

Apparently, England abounds in rock’n’roll accountants. At some point, even Mick Jagger, the lead singer of the Rolling Stones, wanted to make a career in finance: for almost a year, he studied in the London School of Economics, but abandoned his studies without waiting until the summer examination period. 

Janet Jackson

Michael Jackson’s younger sister got a degree in finance. In one of her interviews, Janet said that had she not succeeded as a musician, she would have become an accountant. But show business ultimately prevailed.


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