Interview with Ladislav Hornan, CBCC President and BCSA Chairman, former Hacker Young Managing Partner

On his arrival to the UK in 1968, being a refugee, his beginnings and career journey, getting ‘the passport to future success’, charitable work, and so much more...

Please briefly introduce yourself.    


You came to the UK in 1968 as a refugee from the communist Czechoslovakia with literally nothing. How did this experience shape you?

I didn’t know the term refugee then and I think it currently has a different meaning anyway. But yes, I was, or better said an immigrant. However, I never suffered any hardship as such. But I realised very quickly what it took to make a good life in the ‘West’.

I arrived before 21 August 1968 on a working holiday, staying with my  relatives in Hampstead, and decided not to come back. Then the UK was extremely good to the Czechs. Overnight I was given a permission to stay permanently, to work, to claim benefits, which I never did. Shortly afterwards I joined an English family who looked after me extremely well. Having British education was quite important, so the family put me immediately into a college. But as I did not complete my ‘maturita’ (secondary school leaving exam), I couldn’t go to university, and I had to do it all over again. I came from a reasonably high-profile family and my life was mapped out, very predictable. All that was gone overnight. In Prague I was enjoying a good life, but in the UK, I had to knuckle down and work. However, I never felt like a refugee. I may have been an immigrant but not an economic one.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?   

When you are given or see opportunities, take them. A positive approach to life even if it can be somewhat scary at the start. So be brave, but not foolish.

Did you always want to become a Chartered Accountant?

In Prague I was building model planes , and I would have loved to be a pilot. In England I applied to Hamble flying school but unfortunately, they couldn’t accept me as I was not a British citizen. I knew I wanted to be in business; I was toying with the idea to become an economist, but I’d never be good as the Brits. I chose accountancy as I knew that if successful, there could be a good living. During the studies money was bad though – that is now much better. This qualification is like a passport to future success. It’s a beginning, not the end and it’s about what you do with it. After my studies I got offers from some big accountancy firms  e.g. EY, PwC, etc. but I was made a partner in Hacker Young two years after I qualified where I stayed until my retirement. I think back then it was probably easier to get a job than these days. But now, there is a shortage of people in this field.

Cooking goulash & dumplings!

Cooking goulash & dumplings!

When you look back, what do you consider your biggest achievement? Both personal and professional? 

Personally – I was lucky enough to bring up two great sons and now have a lovely younger daughter - she is doing well too.

Professionally – getting qualified as Chartered Accountant and then being lucky to lead a large international accounting firm for over two decades.

Some time ago you retired but you keep active workwise, are you a person who can never stop?

I retired because it was stipulated in my partnership agreement. I established a fixed retirement age to give younger partners opportunity to progress. Yes, I am still as busy as before because some former clients and friends approached me for help. These are predominantly consultancy roles in different fields. They know what I can do for them as a professional. One thing is different though: I don’t have my own PA anymore, so I have to do many extra things myself! I always enjoyed what I did so I am happy.

You are also President of the CBCC and Chairman of the BCSA. By being involved, what is your goal there?

I came to the UK as a young man, and I grew up amongst senior and notable people whose mantra was to contribute through voluntary work as well as by providing funds where needed. This was part of British culture. BCSA and CBCC were not my first voluntary work projects - I was involved in charitable work just after I qualified as Chartered Accountant and well before it was possible to help the Czech and Slovak Civil Society. Chartered Accountants have always been in demand by the not-for-profit sector.

Please define yourself in three words.

We are defined by what we do more than what we say. It’s for others to say.

What do you do in your spare time? 

As my life was very, very active, I like to chill (mostly with a glass or two of wine). But I always enjoyed travelling and still do. I have visited some 60 countries around the world (some of them many times). I made effort to meet local people, learn about the local history, culture, economy and business practices. I was very privileged to be able to experience all this, mostly through my work.


I can relax and leave everything behind. But I had to go out of the UK as I knew if I had stayed, I would not have been able to leave the business. Due to the amount of travel I did professionally, I tend to spend my holidays in the same places. So my holidays are rather settled.

Last word?

I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life but now I am beginning to worry more and more for my family, seeing what is now happening in the world.

I also worry about the world as what we see now, we have not seen for five decades. It’s a fault of modern politicians and one day they may totally mess it up unless we get intelligent leaders who seem to be currently in short supply.

By Tereza Urbankova, member of the CBCC Executive Committee

Interview with Ladislav Hornan, CBCC President and BCSA Chairman, former Hacker Young Managing Partner

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