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Intuit accounting technology survey reveals global trends
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Automation gaining ground as age gap bites

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A global survey from Intuit identified common themes affecting the profession in Australia, the UK and North America, plus a few quirks and variances between them.

16th Jun 2023
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The difficulty of attracting younger people into accountancy emerged as a global concern for 8,680 accountants who took part in the 2023 Intuit accounting technology survey. The online survey attracted responses from Australia, the UK, USA and Canada and the top concern for all of them was the dearth of graduates coming into the profession.

The global study also found a shared belief that accounting technology was having a positive impact. But digging into growth aspirations, enthusiasm for advisory work and technology investment plans highlighted noticeable differences between the regions. 

Demographic differences

The largest demographic cohort among global accountants is Generation X, those born between 1969 and 1988 (ages 35-54). The US survey had the strongest Gen X representation with 65%, closely followed by Canada with 63%. In the UK, 57% of respondents qualified as Gen X. 

Australia had the youngest sample, made up of 48% Gen X respondents, 21% millennials (ages 25-34) and 15% Gen Z (ages 18-24). The UK and US had lowest populations of Gen Z accountants with 8% each – nearly half the proportion of the Australian sample.

While Australia appeared to be bucking the trend, the effects of accountancy’s recruitment drought were universal, perhaps best reflected by 97% of respondents in the Canadian survey who felt the generational divide was likely to grow as fewer graduates were coming into the profession.

With age comes experience, according to the countries that reported the respondents’ average annual income. The UK had the highest per capita income at £107,843 (US$136,403), while US accountants averaged US$98,837. For Australians, the average was AU$79,683 (US$54,429).

Tech and advisory enthusiasm

But other factors besides age may play a part in generating fee income. A comparison of answers to survey questions around growth plans, technology use and investment pointed to potential parallels:

Expect growth in the next 12 months:

  • US: 82% 
  • UK: 81%
  • AUS: 47%

Used tech to meet changing client needs in the past two years:

  • US: 91%
  • UK: 90%
  • AUS: 75%

Expect tech to play a major role in growth:

  • US: 89%
  • UK: 83%
  • AUS: 59%

Felt tech helps provide better advice:

  • US: 51%
  • UK: 48%
  • AUS: 39%

The Canadian results were presented slightly differently, but showed even higher levels of enthusiasm, with 91% saying that tech will play a major role in the growth and expansion of their practices and 60% reporting that accounting tech gave them real-time financial insights that helped them in their advisory role.

Digging into this question, the survey indicated that not only were North American and UK accountants more optimistic about the role accounting technology could play in the growth of their firms, they also had different priorities about where to deploy it. 

Expect clients to need help with financial forecasts:

  • US: 65%
  • UK: 57%
  • AUS: 42%.

Baby boomer and Gen X readers who remember when “lite” beers represented the acme of consumer innovation may recall Miller’s long-running advertising campaign, which revolved around the eternal “tastes better” versus “less filling” argument.

Echoes of that dynamic cropped up in this section of the international survey with Australian respondents showing a stronger preference (+14%) for “maintaining efficiency” (50%) over “growing the business” (44%). The comparable responses were 5% in the US (65% vs 60%) in the US and |6% (63% vs 57%) in the UK.

Spending intentions

North American accountants lead the pack when it comes to tech spending and enthusiasm for artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, but may lag behind UK accountants in terms of dollar values.

Accounting tech budget and spending targets (US$):

  • US: expect to spend $15,800, with AI tools (48%) equal top priority with automation
  • CAN: expect to spend $14,600, with AI tools (52%) and automation (46%) top priorities
  • UK: estimated spend $22,331, with AI tools (45%) equal top priority with machine learning 
  • AUS: expect to spend $12,831, with AI tools (39%) and cloud accounting top priorities.

Looked at by the proportion of annual fee income earmarked for tech investment, the Australians aren’t quite as stuck in the mud as the figures suggest, boasting the highest proportional tech spend with 24% of their average annual fee income set aside, compared to 16% in the US and UK.

But the more advisory-aware respondents in the US and UK saw AI playing a bigger role in their ability to advise – 86% in the UK, with 44% citing richer insights and more accurate forecasting as the key benefits that facilitated this role.

Roles reversed

Australian and New Zealand accountants are often credited with pioneering the era of cloud accounting through their early enthusiasm for the home-grown Xero application. But the evidence from Intuit’s global research supports anecdotal comments AccountingWEB has picked up that Australian accountants are falling behind their US and UK counterparts when it comes to playing the proactive, “trusted advisor” role that has become key to combating commoditisation within the profession. 

The survey findings suggest that Australian accountants either don’t have the experience yet to do this or are finding that clients aren’t ready to come on that journey with them.

Intuit’s response

Fuelled by these findings, Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi has made no secret of his intention to invest massively in AI to give his company a competitive edge as a small business finance platform. Two weeks ago, he turned up the volume in this campaign by announcing the release of Intuit’s proprietary generative AI operating system, GenOS, with promises of more to come in September.

Goodarzi argued his case eloquently in his LinkedIn GenOS announcement on 6 June, but the message came through just as clearly in a commentary from Intuit Canada director of sales Gary Drysdale in the Canadian edition of the global survey published a few months earlier.

“Our goal is to leverage the power of these insights to continue to deliver the technology and tools accounting professionals need to grow, scale and help small businesses succeed,” he wrote.

“We will continue to invest in AI technologies that help our accounting and bookkeeping partners optimise their value and fuel more meaningful relationships with their clients.”

Further reading

Australia

UK

US

Replies (2)

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By Odd_Numbers
20th Jun 2023 19:47

Something needs to change! The traditional public accounting career path isn't desirable to young professionals anymore. A tech-focused firm needs to step forward and become the "firm of the future." Efficiency needs to be the focus from now own, no more billable hours, just fixed rates and automation!!

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By johnjenkins
21st Jun 2023 14:05

Let me float this past you, John. The higher the tech the less thought processes supposed to be needed. To be an Accountant (not a data input or number cruncher) needs a special skill. Youngsters coming through are looking for the easy way to do a job and if that involves tech then that's where they will go.
I wonder how many students drop out of Uni doing Accountancy or finance. I have a client who is an IFA and he is saying the same. He cannot get the youngsters. Computing, AI etc. and they're there.
The construction industry is crying out for youngsters. I also think the lockdown has put many youngsters off the work ethic as a whole. If the Government carries on with their "high taxation and get rid of small business policy" then we've got a good 5 years before youngsters start having confidence in politicians and the way countries are governed.

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