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Upskill your people to deliver advisory services more effectively
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How to grow your most valuable asset: Your team

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To meet demand for outsourced accounting and advisory services, accountants don’t just need technology, they need skilled people who can make the whole process work.

28th Feb 2023
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Since the pandemic, the movement to outsourced finance services has continued to grow around the world. According to the 2022 CAS Benchmarking Survey from AICPA and CPA.com, practices offering client accounting services (CAS) reported a 16% year-over-year median growth rate, continuing a five-year trend of double digit growth. And 72% of respondents said they had a strong growth pipeline.

The survey found that practices offering these services are implementing a variety of tech solutions to streamline processes and make work more efficient. This includes workflow tools to track and route engagement (85%), budgeting/forecasting software (49%), and data analytics tools (38%), among others. These tools are not just powering CAS offerings, they are empowering accounting professionals to achieve their full potential.

What about your people?

The scale of this opportunity and the availability of so much technology to facilitate new service lines is great news for accounting firms, whether you are launching new CAS offerings to clients for the first time or growing an existing CAS practice. But what about your staff? 

Accounting firms with a strong tech stack are well-positioned to embrace this shift — at least as far as infrastructure is concerned. But with skilled people in short supply, firms may be stretched thin trying to provide additional, enhanced services beyond what is already on your team’s plate. And solving this may not be an easy fix — accounting firms are finding it more difficult to hire right now and increasing headcount comes with increased costs.

With new hires proving difficult, tech solutions can help firms address workload challenges. It’s a win for employees, who now have to spend less time on tedious tasks that could be automated, and a win for the firm, as increased accuracy cuts down on human error.

 But we need to think bigger than just refocusing employees to more high-value tasks. The opportunity to combine tech adoption with skills development that will help grow your team members into more complete advisers who are better equipped to meet the needs of today’s clients.

Embrace digital transformation

As digital tools become more integrated into the way we do business, accounting firms have access to more usable and useful data than ever before. This data makes for a more efficient workflow and creates new opportunities for firms to collaborate with clients, for example to share data-driven insights and suggest strategic shifts.

But digital transformation should also extend beyond services and processes to include the new talent requirements. As new services are offered to clients and/or new tools and solutions are introduced, your firm is going to need to look for different skills from new hires. And what about the upskilling and training opportunities provided for current employees?

The importance of upskilling

Employers in all industries are revising their recruitment and retention strategies in light of the great resignation, or reshuffle as it has now rippled through the profession. Investing in employee training and development has emerged as a key response to this challenge, and staff are proving to be receptive to these initiatives. A 2021 PwC study found that 77% of employees are ready to learn new skills, and 80% are confident they can adapt to new workplace technologies.

If firms fail to invest in upskilling when employees are ready and eager, the chasm between them gets bigger.  The firm may fall behind in the talent race as employees look elsewhere for more fulfilling work. This has huge implications on both recruitment and retention. According to a 2021 Gallup study, 48% of American workers would switch to a new job if there was an opportunity for skills training not provided at their current job. Additionally, 65% of workers consider employer-provided upskilling as a key criteria when evaluating a potential new job.

The 2022 CAS Benchmarking Survey shows that among the top-performing outsourcing and advisory practices, only 2% are not already investing in either in-house or external resources and learning opportunities. Firms not investing in this area may find themselves falling behind their competition as the landscape becomes more competitive.

Which skills are most important?

In a recent white paper developed by BILL and CPA.com, CAS leaders identified several critical attributes for employees to successfully offer advisory services.

Data analysis

The most desirable non-traditional skill that accountants are looking to gain is data/analytics. Pulling together numbers that keep a client’s financials flowing is certainly a skill, but telling the story of your client’s data and providing proper guidance puts you on the path to a deeper client relationship. This requires the skills to understand data and translate the findings into accurate, actionable insights that are easily digestible for all stakeholders.

Industry expertise

As firms decide which industries their practices will focus on, subject matter expertise will be incredibly valuable. Not only does this in-depth knowledge provide additional insight to accountants, it also shows clients that you have an active interest in their business. Being able to benchmark how your clients are faring compared to other companies in their industry also provides tremendous value, especially during times of economic uncertainty.

The 2022 CAS Benchmarking Survey asked respondents which industry specialties they are currently serving. The top three industries were professional services (41%); nonprofits (33%); and health care facilities (21%). Only 16% of surveyed practices do not specialize by industry.

How do we begin?

Firms looking to invest in upskilling their employees need a starting point. Rather than jumping in and developing in-house materials, see what opportunities are available within the industry. This includes conferences, certification programs, webinars, white papers, and many more.

The 2022 CAS Benchmarking Survey asked CAS practices how they are keeping their employees updated on emerging trends and best practices. The top responses were:

  • Outside learning opportunities: 65%
  • CPA.com CAS workshops 63%
  • Vendor training or certification programs: 57%
  • Vendor conferences: 56%

One thing that cannot be overlooked in these discussions, however, is how firms will make time for training and development, rather than just adding it onto an employee’s already-full workload. Implementing the right tech solutions will not just support CAS offerings, but streamline processes and making work more efficient, empowering accounting professionals to achieve their full potential.

No matter where a firm is on their journey to becoming a CAS practice (or if they are even interested in this), one thing is certain: the time to start prioritizing upskilling your employees is now, and investing in the right tech can help create the breathing room employees need in order to make time for this.

Replies (2)

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By Hugo Fair
28th Feb 2023 19:53

All the examples/research stats/etc are from USA ... we're not (on this UK site).
So it's hard to tell which elements are relevant - and which not.

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By Robson14
01st Jun 2023 09:41

I was always come on this website and see all blog but i was mostly like Jeannie Ruesch's all blog it's amazing and helpful , mostly great examples/stats research etc..

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