Just over a year ago, I sat down with my partners at The Wow Company over a long lunch to discuss where we thought the accountancy industry was heading. What struck me was how when you look at how we buy services over the last 10-15 years has changed, how little the accountancy industry has changed.
For example, 10 years ago this summer, I went on holiday with a group of friends to the Canary Islands. We all met up one lunchtime and went in to the local branch of Thomas Cook (or someone similar), sat down with the travel agent, flicked though some brochures, filled out a form and booked our holiday. I've been on holiday many times since 2001, but that was the last time I set foot inside a travel agents. How we buy holidays has changed so much since then that I wouldn't even think about going into a shop to book a holiday - it seems silly.
Now I know accountancy is very different to a holiday, but think about how you buy insurance or look for a mortgage and how different that is now compared to 10 years ago. Yet the vast majority of accountants still expect you to travel to their offices, pay for parking, wait for them to finish their last meeting that over-ran - in order to 'consume' their service. Clients put up with this because this is all they've ever know and/or there's never really been an alternative.
How accountancy is consumed has not evolved at such a pace as other services - and it's not just the going to their office thing - I meet many clients that complain that they got suprise bills from their old accountant, that the bills they did expect they didn't understand - and I defy any accountant in practice, myself included, not to begrudgingly nod their head when they read this!
Looking back over the generations at how accountancy has changed: when my late Grandfather was in business, he walked down the High Street to an accountant that his Bank Manager had recommended; my father drove 20 miles to an accountant a family member had recommended; and now the next generation wants something more, a service that's right for them, something radically different. This is where I coined the term 'Accountants for the Facebook Generation'.
In future blog posts, I'll share examples of accountants the world over who are developing models to serve the 'Facebook Generation' and discuss some different approaches that question the accepted norm. I hope you enjoy reading and please let me know if you have any comments or feedback.
About Paul Bulpitt
Co-founder of The Wow Company. Head of Accounting at Xero.