What future opportunities lie ahead for accountants?

The accountancy profession is changing, fast. Just about every industry expert is recommending that we need to be in the advisory space.

The commonly held view is that the game is up for today’s traditional accountants and that the only option is to play a new game, called advisory. There’s a perception that we will all move into management consultancy becoming coaches to our clients on how to run better businesses.

Drawing such a conclusion is reasonably logical, but is it really realistic? Most firms recognise a need to move into advisory services however the majority are not sure how to do it.

What’s happening in accountancy is not unique

The main reason for these changes can be placed firmly at the feet of technology. Historically trends will show us that where margins continue to be eroded the industry will eventually get to a point where the only option is to change.

Fast-forward to accountancy now and we see a similar pattern – technology is making major inroads to automating what was previously time and labour-intensive work. Margins on core compliance work are being squeezed plus client expectations are changing.

The government are helping drive change through initiatives like Making Tax Digital. All these changes and more are in danger of rendering the accountant less relevant to their clients.

Has the perception of the accountant changed?

For as long as the profession existed the accountant has been considered the “most trusted advisor”. The accountant was on a pedestal within the local community along with the banker, lawyer and doctor. Is the service provided by today’s accountant as valued as it was?

The profession was founded on accountants helping clients make sense of their numbers and providing advice. As the business world became more competitive and because margins were relatively high, accountancy services got pushed into compliance specialisation. A large part of the work accountants used to do is now being done by software. In addition, as mentioned earlier Government legislation has changed the landscape further and many would say with mixed results.

So what’s next for the profession at a time when it appears as though both the Government and the major software suppliers appear to be adopting the strategy to communicate directly with the end user, your client? One thing we can guarantee is the industry is entering a period of great change.

The modern accountant

Any period of change creates opportunity. The modern accountant needs to embrace this opportunity to improve the relationship with clients. What if we could do that by focusing on what we’ve always focused on – helping our clients make sense of their numbers and use those numbers to help our clients grow their business?

What if we could be the real face of modern accounting, elevating our position in the community once again so that instead of being irrelevant, we are the opposite – we are the most relevant partner to the businesses of our clients?

Once again we can become front of mind for our clients helping improve efficiencies and harnessing technology for their benefit. These are the domain of the modern accountant and those who embrace such are in a great position to take their firms to new heights.

The key to providing advisory services to your business clients is to provide advice and support that will help them grow their business. Many of your clients are also finding it challenging to keep up with these changing times and are looking for support, direction and guidance. This is the role of the modern accountant.

Darren Shirlaw helps businesses achieve long-term, sustainable growth. This year he will be speaking at the AAT Annual Conference alongside various other experts. This years’ AAT Annual Conference is packed with inspiring talks, presentations and workshops designed to provide accounting and finance professionals with the skills they need to grow a business or advance their careers.

Join us, top brands and leading financial professionals on 13-14 June in Stratford-upon-Avon, to exchange ideas and learn more about the most pressing issues facing the sector.

Darren Shirlaw is an expert in helping businesses achieve long-term growth..

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