What is the most-radical example of a disrupting service / model in the accounting business services industry?

What I mean by disrupted is that someone has at some point taken such a radically different approach, to deliver the same service that the old way of doing things was abandoned.

One comparable example (though not a business service):

The invention of the electric light bulb. This was a technology, which completely disrupted the lighting market. However, I assume that if Thomas Edison would have walked around from house to house to and attempted selling a light-bulb together with some sort of membership in the local grid, then his marketing efforts would have failed because they would not have believed that it was possible. His advantage was that he could show people that it worked and thereby immediately gaining trust.

Was there any time in U.S. history in which accounting/finance/banking took a sharp turn? Did this occur, for instance, during or as a result of the Great Depression? Was the collapse of the "Big Eight" accounting firms into the "Big Four" following the demise of Arthur Andersen such a watershed event?

  • Why the close votes
    – Russell
    Oct 30, 2012 at 0:40
  • 3
    This question is only marginally related to history. On top of that, it seems to be soliciting lists, which is not what we try to do. On top of that, it's pretty broad overall. If you would like to try to modify it, we can keep it here. Otherwise I think I'd be inclined to go along with the votes to close it. Oct 30, 2012 at 3:39
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    @StevenDrennon It's borderline...I'll stay neutral on this one. :)
    – Russell
    Oct 30, 2012 at 7:01
  • @David To "disrupt the market" means to (temporarily) stop all the service buying/selling activity; for example if you'd convert accounting from a business-to-business service to a state-sponsored, government-regulated program. Instead, do you want to ask about business-to-business services which were revolutionized in the course of history, and in which marketing efforts played the main part? (Note they could have been revolutionized because of external causes, without any marketing)
    – kubanczyk
    Oct 30, 2012 at 9:56
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    Seems more like you could look at the textiles market, if you think of industrialization removing the process of creating linens and other textiles from the "cottage manufacturers" its similar to a disruption you describe.
    – MichaelF
    Oct 30, 2012 at 12:09

2 Answers 2


The 1929 stock market crash (and the excesses, bordering on illegality that led to it) led to the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934, following the onset of the Great Depression in the early 1930s.


There were Congressional acts, those of 1933 and 1934 that changed the way that companies accounted for, and more importantly reported their financial results. The Act of 1933 dealt mainly with beefed up reporting requirements. The Act of 1934 established the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to enforce the 1933 Act. It also gave the SEC to regulate the offering and sale of securities such as stocks and bonds. As such, the oversight of the SEC greatly reduced (although it did not totally eliminate) a number of "shady" practices perpetrated by companies and stock brokers on unsuspecting investors. As such, 1933-34 represents a watershed for corporate accounting to investors.

The reduction of the "Big 8" accounting firms to the "Big 4," culminating in the collapse of Arthur Andersen (earlier the fifth) in 2002, due to the Enron scandal, may have been the harbinger of the new 1930s. It created a shortage of "large" accounting behemouths, but contributed to the rise of a group of smaller, hopefully more effective accounting firms.

One book (written by yours truly) that discusses the original 1929 stock market crash, the 1930s Depression, and the possibility of a new crash (like the one that took place in 2008), and a possible return to the modern 1930s is http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Approach-Graham-Investing-Finance/dp/0471584150/


The mass internal accounting structures which developed with modern firms in the 1930s and 1940s disrupted small manufacture, and radically changed the pool of accounting profession and labour opportunities. So "the firm" as in the modern firm in Fordism, including its corresponding departmental structure in government, caused a rupture in the supply of accountancy services—but this happened under an increasing market for accounting services and was tied with increasing personal accounting complexity.

Similarly with the development of outsourced accounting specialist firms since the change in Fordism in the 1970s. ( http://www.ey.com/GL/en/About-us/Our-people-and-culture/Our-history/About-EY---Key-Facts-and-Figures---History---Timeline )

Accountancy as a professional service is tied into firm and state-as-capitalist structures.

Accounting history is a specialist sub-area, normally supervised under academic accounting. It is both quite productive, and quite exciting as a discipline, it deals with the formal subsumption of value: how production gets turned into profits.

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