The accounting industry has changed irreversibly since the pandemic. Here’s how.
Long before COVID-19 made its presence felt, changes were already afoot across the accounting industry. New technologies and cultural shifts were taking shape, with client demands, efficiencies and industry trends fuelling the transformation.
By the beginning of 2020, new technologies like cloud platforms, robotic processes and automation were already saving firms time and money.
And then our lives were gripped by a pandemic like nothing ever seen in living memory.
Out of crisis comes opportunity
The pandemic has been a bumpy ride but as the ‘new normal’ has set in, accounting professionals have grasped new opportunities that have arisen.
Across the economy, some businesses have either needed to temporarily or permanently close, while others have used various government COVID-19 support initiatives. Of these, many are now seeking assistance from tax professionals, particularly with self-assessment deadlines looming. There’s always plenty of work!
A shift to the cloud
“I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non-connected computers is byzantine by comparison.” - Steve Jobs, late CEO and Chairman of Apple.
Technology is one of the biggest forces of change in the accounting sector, with cloud accounting software a key driver.
With new UK GDPR legislation coming into effect in spring 2018, firms needed to evaluate and streamline their processes whilst embracing new tech. Gone are the days when filing cabinets and bits of paper on desks will cut it. Instead, client data needs to be securely and easily accessible in one place – and cloud technology fits the fill perfectly.
Cloud-based software like Xero has transformed the handling of much of the day-to-day bookkeeping and admin tasks accountants deal with. This automation has not only freed up time and resource but also reduced the risk of human error.
The chance to pivot and adapt
Social distancing, furlough, working from home directives and various other government stipulations soon came into force, meaning firms had to quickly adapt. Technology again not only made this possible, but actually meant that accounting firms could be more flexible. For instance, thanks to the likes of Zoom and Teams, clients no longer have to be local. Additional services can also be offered remotely (like R&D tax relief!)
Working in real time
Manual filing and pieces of paper don’t update themselves in real time. But let’s face it, before the pandemic many accounting firms liked the “old school” approach and were reluctant to change. Covid, however, rather forced their hand.
Cloud accounting in particular has meant that businesses can monitor their tax and financial transactions in real time. Accountants and bookkeepers can work more proactively, helping clients to foresee any issues before they arise. This “birds-eye view”, also brings improved financial forecasting and collaboration between accountants and their clients.
The gig economy boom
“As of July 2021, there are approximately 4.3 million self-employed workers in the United Kingdom, up from just 3.2 million in December 2000.” - Statista.
Self-employment has been steadily increasing over the last 20 years which is good news for the accountancy industry as competitiveness bites. Many firms have been looking to cut costs and overheads, instead turning to self-employed accountants for a fraction of the price of inhouse employees. It’s a no-strings relationship that means maintaining high standards and a diverse range of services for clients whilst also trimming the fat.
Working from both home and office (hybrid working)
Hybrid working is a phrase that was much less familiar prior to 2020. When lockdowns kicked in, homeworking amongst accountants became routine. But now life’s looking rather more normal, many firms have seen the benefits of a part-home, part-office working life. It’s clearly here to stay too.
Hybrid working offers flexibility for both businesses and their employees the ultimate flexibility. It has typically meant a better, more balanced homelife for staff and reduced absenteeism. Firms are also finding they don’t need large, expensive offices in urban locations, instead choosing smaller, cheaper spots and hotdesking.
Opening up communication channels
Businesses and individuals don’t just need the usual tax and finance type things from their accountants; trust is also massively important. After all, not only are accountants in the ideal position to offer business advise and tax reduction support, they’re also in many ways a shoulder to cry on. Remember those tearful phone calls from self-employed traders who can’t pay their self-assessment, or the panicky client looking for reassurance on pretty much everything? Usually at the eleventh hour too.
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” - Peter Drucker
Good communication is vital in building successful working relationships between accountant and client. Where in-person meetings, emails and phone calls used to be the go-to method of contact, since the pandemic it’s been all about video calls, webinars and social media. It’s quick, convenient and inexpensive, improving communication and building trust.
The opportunity to specialise, casting the client net wider
With many accountants now working full time from home, or under hybrid conditions, the geographical location of clients has become less important. Where before clients were more likely to be local, the world is now their oyster. Yes, this makes an already competitive market even more busy, but it’s also the perfect chance for firms to cast the net wider.
Less tied by geographical location (and with a pressing urge to constantly be more competitive), the pandemic has presented a great chance to specialise. For instance, accountants may decide to target start-up businesses, or partner with R&D tax consultants.
This article was brought to you by Myriad Associates
Myriad Associates specialise in the field of R&D Tax Credits. Well renowned for their robust relationship with HMRC and top-rated customer service, the team enjoys a 100% success record in achieving maximum R&D tax relief for clients spanning a broad range of industries.
Why not see how Myriad Associates can work alongside you in getting the R&D Tax Credits they deserve.
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