Do accountants welcome the rise of the robots?

Robots taking over? It seems accountants aren’t worried.

Perhaps number crunchers aren’t big fans of dystopian writing (personally, I love Philip K Dick and George Orwell). Accountants certainly don’t seem fussed about the rise of the robots, or ‘automation’, as it’s also known. CIMA’s recent survey of 1,628 members found that 83% support automation, and 62% believe their company will be more efficient as a result. This surprised me.

We’ve seen many jobs lost in finance functions. Of course, automation of basic functions frees people up to provide other services, but it’s still a risky old game. Clearly those CIMA members are confident that they offer great value to their businesses.

One partner is swapping audits for apples

I’ve seen many a senior partner slope off to another career: school treasurer, trustee, a couple of nonexec roles. But I’ve never seen one leave to run a fruit farm. Well-respected BDO senior audit partner James Roberts is doing just that. After 40 years in practice, he is to run Oast Farm in East Sussex with his family. With all the navel-gazing and regulatory churn around the audit profession in recent years, I’m sure he’ll quickly get his head around 4am starts and seasonal hiring of staff. Roberts’ move reminds me of another former BDO chief, Tony Supperstone, who retired from the firm to become a driving instructor.

An accountancy firm with the Fair Tax Mark?

Unlikely but true The Fair Tax Mark launched a couple of years ago, and nearly two dozen companies now claim it, including SSE, Go-Ahead Group and noseitchingly smelly cosmetics business Lush.

The kitemark is intended to highlight those companies that meet certain criteria around tax transparency, tax payments and tax strategy. Now, accountancy firms have a certain reputation in the eyes of the public. You know what I mean: helping rich people and companies to avoid tax. In fact, you might think it questionable whether any accountancy firms – even those that apparently don’t do anything egregious on behalf of clients – would consider themselves eligible for such a badge. However, Crunchers in south London did – and they got it!

I’m going freelance, and accountants are nowhere to be found

This year, I once more helped to put together the seminal survey of UK accountancy firms, the ‘Top 50+50 Firms’. I used to be involved with it before, but I saw sense and made an effort to get promoted so I wouldn’t have to do it any more. As I said to my boss in 2008: “I’m never doing that again, and, if you ask me to, I’ll quit.” So I’m shifting from full-time journalist to freelancer, and I need some advice. Do I go down the sole-trader route or use another structure? And how do I manage my incomings and outgoings – shoebox, online accounting subscription or just Excel?

Should I register a trademark or not bother? Realistically, my affairs should be straightforward. However, one long-time accounting contact of mine told me that most practices don’t make it easy or enticing to approach them. And it’s true. In a climate where we have some two million freelancers in the UK and rising, I find it mindboggling that, after 16 years of dealing with the adviser community, I don’t know who to turn to first. What must it be like for others?


Kevin Reed is the former Editor of Accountancy Age.

Related articles