The pace of change within the profession has accelerated and created an environment where ‘Generation Y’ accountants are best placed to respond to the changing role and demands, according to the latest Pulse research from Sage.
The research reveals that prolonged economic uncertainty, shifting client expectations and competition has created a new breed of accountants – those born between 1980 and 1993.
More than half of all accountants believe that their role has significantly changed over the past three years, an increase of nearly 20% since 2011.
Four out of five business owners have had to cut costs to protect their firms over the past 12 months and as a result clients are requiring more regular interaction and updates on the financial position of their business.
The increased contact means that for the first time, more than a third of small business owners view the relationship with their accountant as a partnership rather than a purely client/consultant relationship.
Many accountants are having greater involvement in the day-to-day running of a client’s business and greater influence as a result; and more than half stated that their accountant was the first port of call for business advice.
Technology is also playing a key role in shaping the profession.
Greater use of mobile devices and online technologies is leading to clients expecting more support outside of the traditional nine-to-five working hours.
Clients now expect a prompt response to their enquiries and access to information whenever they need it, with online being the most popular method for business owners wanting to share data with their accountant for the first time.
As a result of the economy and shifting client expectations, more than a third of practices have introduced additional services over the last year in response to increased competition.
Many have tried to differentiate their practice by introducing new offerings such as payroll bureaus, IT services and HR advice.
Paul Tooth, managing director at Sage Accountants Division, said: “The accountancy profession is changing. Our research is a strong benchmark for the industry and it suggests it is no longer enough for accountants to be numerically proficient. In this hyper competitive environment practice professionals are offering much more to clients and fulfilling multiple roles including, virtual FD, IT consultant, HR expert, marketer and payroll specialist.
“By taking on new tasks outside the traditional remit of an accountant, AiP are ingraining themselves within their client’s business, getting much more involved in the day-to-day running, and becoming an absolute lynchpin to the successes of that organisation.”
Here is an infographic that contains some additional insights, such as what steps clients believe their accountant could take to improve the working relationship.
Click on the image to view it full size: