Dave Groves, chief commercial officer at IRIS Software Group, explores some of the current trends that are playing on accountants’ minds.
With the frantic pace of regulatory change, the revolution in accounting technology and a shortage of new talent, there’s plenty to disturb an accountant’s peaceful slumber.
So what is causing those sleepless nights?
Legislation driven technology
The last few years have seen an upheaval in accounting legislation, with new laws coming in and old ones updated, and the speed of transition is a challenge for even the most experienced firms.
As is the need to adopt technology to manage this legislation.
Historically, accountants could choose which technology to use, but initiatives such as the HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) are driving cloud-based software adoption in the accountancy space.
The best approach is to see the digital future as an opportunity. Clients will increasingly need advice on MTD, and other legislative changes, as well as the software to support them. In a survey of accountancy professionals, 39% already claim to spend time educating clients in digital bookkeeping.
Practices with digital-ready systems and the skill sets to match can add value to their client service provision.
Accountancy skills gap
Another cause of headaches is the lack of new talent entering the profession. The decline in the availability of accountancy candidates continues, and skilled professionals looking for new roles are snapped up quickly.
A perfect storm of trends is seeing firms battling to hire and retain good talent. Smaller, more specialised practices are attracting talent away from traditional practices, and technology is removing the barriers for accountants looking to set up on their own.
Indeed 44% of accountancy professionals think the UK market will continue to consolidate into smaller numbers of practices overall.
However, many firms could overcome their skills gap by reviewing existing talent, and training rather than hiring. Employees are often keen to learn and explore new roles during their careers.
At the same time, the role of the accountant is evolving. Professionals are moving from back-office number-crunching to front-facing, advisory roles in order to compete for business in a customer-centric world.
However, a fifth of accountants surveyed expressed concern about structuring their practice for both compliance and advisory services.
Accountancy practices can give themselves the competitive edge as advisors by using their data to monitor trends, identify opportunities for clients and provide better customer service.
For firms competing in a changing landscape, collaboration is key to building a profitable, competitive offering. A firm with tax expertise could work with peers in practices that specialise in insolvency, sustainability or blockchain for instance.
If practices prepare to adopt tools and approaches to place themselves in pole position for today’s business-critical challenges, fewer sleepless nights will naturally come for accountants. And a refreshed, well-slept accountant will be a more effective leader for their practice.