Accounting is ever-evolving. Digital advances are shaping every industry, and finance is no exception.
With modern businesses requiring more flexibility, efficiency and speed than ever before, accounting practices are skipping to keep up. Six trends will direct your focus in 2017: make sure you’re ready for them.
1. Cloud accounting
Financial data can now be accessed securely from almost anywhere, providing a huge amount of flexibility to businesses and accountants alike. As well as being convenient, cloud accounting software is generally inexpensive and simple to use.
Companies like Xero and Quickbooks Online are at the forefront of the cloud accounting revolution. However, there are plenty of companies out there providing the service.
It’s impossible to know every detail of every piece of software, but it’s important that you have a good general grasp of the main benefits and uses of each. The solution that fits one client might not work for another.
Bear in mind that if various clients require different types of software, you might need to choose between keeping a client and keeping your processes streamlined.
2. Clients will become harder to keep (but easier to find)
One result of the move to cloud-based software is that it’s much easier for clients to switch to a new accountant. Back when data was stored on paper or a hard-drive, the hassle of moving to a new accountant could be enough to keep clients.
Now, you must find new ways to be indispensable. With much compliance work now automated, you need to offer a wider breadth of business advice services.
The upside is that if you provide a superior service, it will be much easier to find new clients who are looking to switch.
3. Starting salaries are rising
Accounting and finance starting salaries are predicted to rise. Robert Half predicts a 3.7% increase, slightly less than the 4.7% rise forecast last year, but still the second highest in the last decade.
If you want to nab the best salary, remember that as well as qualifications and technical know-how, employers are looking for soft skills such as leadership, jargon-free communication, and a talent for building relationships.
4. Going mobile
Accounting apps are quickly becoming essential. More and more accountants, clients and businesses are using their mobiles as a quick way to organise and store receipts, track timesheets, confirm expenses, and make their processes more convenient.
Apps allow you to have instant access to the latest information whether you’re out for lunch with a potential client or catching up on work from home. Often integrated into cloud-based software solutions, they’ll make sure you’re up to date no matter where you are.
5. Location independent accounting
As new cloud accounting and storage tools make it simple to collaborate with clients from afar, location is no longer a limitation on finding new clients.
If you’re not already seeking clients from further afield, now is the time to start. Ensure you have the processes in place to deal with their needs from a distance, and make the most of your growing potential client base.
Whether you’re working in a business or have your own clients, you’re likely to find that technology can (and will) take over routine tasks. Things like automatic imports, e-receipts and electronic documents are allowing accountants to reduce or even eliminate manual data entry.
Automation can be a frightening prospect, and it’s easy to worry that technology will reduce the need for accounting professionals. However, in reality, automation is good news for accountants.
Automation frees up your time to focus on building client relationships, improving your soft skills, and adding value to your service that will result in better client satisfaction and retention in the long term.
Faster processing allows you to provide real-time updates and up-to-the-minute financial reporting (which clients can in turn access in real-time from cloud software and accounting apps.)
And finally, electronic data processing eliminates human error – a fault that not even the most experienced accountants are immune to.
Staying ahead of the latest developments in accounting is easy with an AAT qualification. ICS Learn’s award-winning AAT courses allow you to learn online at your own pace, so that you’re always ahead of the trends.
Lauren Jack is a content writer for ICS Learn.