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The credit men of the United States constitute a large and important group of the business men of this country. The art of successfully extending credit is crystallizing into a profession. Public accountants believe that they can be of great service to credit men, and it is the purpose of this article to look into the matter informatively, to the end that the reader may perceive how best the public accountant may serve and generally assist credit men.
In order to get a correct understanding of how credit men view the public accountants, the writer of this paper communicated with the president and secretary of each credit men's association of the United States — at least with all those reported in the Bulletin, the organ of the National Association of Credit Men. About 175 letters were sent out, of which the following is a copy :
For the purpose of contributing to and probably creating additional sources of information for the credit man, THE JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTANCY of New York has requested the signer to write a paper on The Relation of the Public Accountant to the Credit Man. In order that the paper may be of much practical value, you are courteously requested to express your opinion briefly as to how best the accountant may assist and serve the credit man.
The number of answers received was surprising and the tenor of these answers most interesting. To the 175 letters sent out, sixty-two replies have been received. About ten courteously excused themselves from answering on the ground that they were not competent to do so. The remaining fifty-two replies were carefully diagrammed and a digest made of them. Each opinion was treated as a unit. For example, if the credit man replied that in his opinion the accountant could best serve him by getting out a correct balance sheet of the firm desiring credit, this opinion is treated as a unit in this digest and the results incorporated herein. It so happened, as might be expected, that the consensus of opinion was in favor of a certified balance sheet; but there are other thoughts outlined by the credit men, and if we accountants have considered them before, we might well be reminded of them again, because they are not only interesting, but useful.
The same general principles of business activities, business experience, or the lack of it, are applicable to all parts of the United States. Thus one man in South Dakota writes that, speaking from the experience of the firm with which he is associated, they have not found the services of a public accountant useful, because the individuals and firms with whom they do business are as a rule too small to need an accountant. Practically the same thing was written by a Tennessee credit man. It may be suggested, though, to both these gentlemen, that if some of our enterprising accountants had an opportunity to open up and examine this subject for such small merchants, they might view it differently. If, as has been well defined, "a public accountant is a person skilled in the affairs of commerce and finance and particularly in the accounts relating thereto," it would seem that he would be most helpful to the credit man.
Whatever accountants themselves may think about their scope of usefulness to the credit man and what part of their duties would be most useful to him, the following list illustrates what credit men think:
The representatives of twenty-four credit men's associations thought that the accountant's services could best be used by getting him to certify to the debtor's balance sheet.
Next, the representatives of twenty-one credit men's associations thought that the accountant could best serve the credit man by devising appropriate systems of account.
The others replied that the accountants would be of value for the following functions : Business advisor
receivable and disclosing contingent liabilities 8