Data: What millennial clients want

Practice correspondent
Sift Media
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Seventy percent of the 600,000 start ups launched in The UK in 2015 were millennials in the 18-34 demographic, according to Xero's chief marketing officer Andy Lark.
"Sixty percent of them are growers - they want to conquer the world - and importantly, 76% rely on their accountant," said Lark, in his adventurously named Xerocon session, "How to make love".
How these millennial entrepreneurs expected their accountant to behave has changed, added Lark. These clients are extremely impatient. Paul Bulpitt, founder of The Wow Company and Xero UK's head of accounting, also noted the change in how clients interact and want to be interacted with. "With something like auto enrolment, for instance, they just want the pain taken away - they don't want to talk about it, they just want it fixed."
Unsurprisingly, how an accountant deployed tech also formed a critical part of appealing to the start up generation. "The accountant's role when dealing with this new generation of client is to be a technology leader, to be iconic in IT, so clients look at how you work and say 'How did you do that?'," said Jessica Pillow, managing director at the Practice Excellence Award winning firm Pillow may."
The key to understanding this new millennial client's needs, said Lark, is data. Lark spoke at length about how sensors have transformed how data is transmitted. Fifty percent of all data is now created through automatic sensors, picking up information and remotely transmitting it.

All businesses now are like data beacons and through embracing data accountants can become a more proactive adviser. "By monitoring [clients' business data] remotely, you can spot an issue and address it before the client notices it." Or as Lark put it, "Phone your client and say, 'Hey, your cash flow sucks and payroll is next week, we need to make a few phone calls'."

How clients find their accountants has also changed dramatically, according to Lark.  "Searches for accounting services on Google increased 47% last year and one in three will do that search on mobile. This is categorically the last generation that fundamentally associates computing with a keyboard and a mouse."

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10th Feb 2016 20:17

Are there actually clients (sorry, data beacons) out there who are unaware:

A) if their cash flow sucks, and
B) when their payroll is

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You'd be surprised.

I'm a millennial, and if I was to start a business tomorrow I would rely on my accountant for EVERYTHING. 

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10th Feb 2016 20:40

In direct contrast
To yesterday's latest tax news "making tax digital, the known unknowns" where the consensus was that the chances are accountants will have to get back to basics and re do much of what has already been input by the client, but today, accountants are going to be left behind by a new generation of technical whizz kids. I know which one I think most likely!

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11th Feb 2016 12:38

This is all fine and dandy providing..

That both parties are on the same page/spreadsheet regarding what is expected and what it costs.

The payroll/cashflow example is interesting.  To make that call, the accountant would need access to reliable data in real time.  Is this provided by Mr Millennial, or is the accountant acting as the regular bookkeeper? 

The problem is if you go down the 'value billing' route the client is unlikely to attach much value to the 'nannying' element and the accountant ends up doing more low value work for fewer clients.

Don't get me wrong, I favour the more work for fewer clients model, but on the basis that it is all billable at the same rate.

It is funny that some weeks we are being told that "compliance is dead", and we must 'add value'.  Then the following week here we are back in the bookkeeper's shoes.

I think that the answer is that the Millennials are not fundamentally different to previous generations of entrepreneurs.  I don't think that the Richard Bransons and Alan Sugars were/are anything but impatient and aggressive.  If you are keen on your business and see it as your life's work, then you expect everyone to be equally enthusiastic, t'was always thus.

Compliance is dead, long live compliance!

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Yeah, if anything people my age are ripe for compliance work

This is all very unscientific, but this all based on my own experience and having a few friends my age that started businesses. Compliance isn't going anywhere, because Millennials are seriously bamboozled by the tax system.

I know my one friend that freelances was amazed - AMAZED - when her accountant manage to lower what she owed the revenue in tax. She told me about it as if her accountant had a superpower.

 What'll change, probably, is how compliance is done. Greater automation and all that.

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11th Feb 2016 22:50

Can't agree more Francois

Sounds very familiar to me...!

Value in compliance is far from gone. If anything it may increase.

Allowances, rates, insights, timing...the list goes on. It's an art and a science for some of those that are purchasing. It also is the bedrock of trust.

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Next week, or in 3 months?
After almost 30 years in practice, working with small business owners, I can assure Mr Lark that all of them would know that next week was payday. And 99% would know if they were going to have enough cash.

Now, knowing they might have a problem with payroll in 3 months time, that's different.

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