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Why accountancy will withstand the pandemic

Philip Fisher reminds us that accountancy is one of the best professions from which to view the pandemic and economic crisis.

21st Sep 2020
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Woman commutes to work on London Bridge

It is very easy to fall into a deep depression over the state of the nation’s health and the risks to ourselves, our families and our businesses.

Indeed, this column has been a prime merchant of doom and gloom for far too long and I fear that there is every chance it will continue to report more bad news than good in the coming months.

For the last six months, we have been forced to endure lockdown accompanied by the prospect of illnesses of those close to us and maybe even worse.

It is now beginning to look as if the pandemic is coming back with a vengeance, threatening our lives and our livelihoods once again and, despite some particularly far-fetched suggestions from the Prime Minister, with no hope of imminent escape on the horizon.

However, we are accountants, we are hardy and we are actually very lucky.

There are two different ways in which we can benchmark our own experiences against those of others.

First the historical approach. No Briton under the age of 80 will be able to remember what it was like to live through a World War.

By way of comparison, this writer’s venerable grandmother lived through two of them plus the deadly Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. Her friends and family members faced horrors that none of us can imagine on the front lines twice within a quarter of a century.

At least when we lock ourselves away today, it is unlikely that bombs are going to rain down spreading mayhem, though we do need to take care to escape the invisible killer.

Looking at our own times, it is easy to despair when you discover that sickness rates are rising fast, with the likelihood of exponential increases just around the corner, at a time when many businesses are beginning to enter at least the first stages of what was looking like a recovery.

With the ending of furlough next month, it is almost certain that levels of redundancies will go through the roof, while some business owners including our clients will finally accept the inevitable and close down forever.

This tale of woe does not even take into account the impact that a hard exit from Europe, which our Prime Minister promised would never happen, arrives at the end of the year.

When compared with 90% of the population, accountants have it good. While some accountants may be obliged to accept lower salaries or reduced profits for a year or two, most of us have large portfolios of clients and many of those will survive and prosper before too long.

Where so many workers, for example in construction, healthcare and retail, have been forced to risk their health travelling on public transport and attending their places of business on a daily basis, we can work from home. Indeed, we have belatedly discovered that this is a far more effective mode of operation than working from offices and paying very expensive rents.

With some streamlining, the combination of these factors should mean that our businesses return to a new but highly profitable version of normal earlier than almost any others.

Going a step further, very few accountants are likely to find themselves homeless as a result of the economic disaster that the pandemic has caused, while even those that find themselves out of work are likely to get new employment relatively easily, certainly when compared to those in so many other industries, let alone any students who graduated from university this summer or are likely to do so in the next year or two.

This may not yet be a cause for celebration but perhaps it is time to realise that our glasses are very much more than half full and look forward with a justifiable degree of hope as well as our natural prudent trepidation.

Replies (1)

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By Russell51
22nd Sep 2020 09:38

Thank you for this. I'm sure there's plenty of readers that have personally suffered this year, but as a profession we are incredibly fortunate. That puts us in a great position to help others to recover.

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