The skills needed
One of the most talked about drivers of potential change to the role of an accountant is Making Tax Digital (“MTD”). There is an abundance of information available aimed at ensuring accountants guide their clients to choose the correct software and systems to cope with MTD. There is also a lot of discussion about the different types of services that might be offered to clients.
However, in my experience, there seems to be less discussion about how changes will impact the internal operations of an accountancy firm. This is an area that is being looked at by many medium and large firms. A clear indicator of this is the number of firms who are appointing dedicated “Head of Cloud” or “Head of Software” type roles.
Process is key
Using new technology is improving the efficiency of a large number of accountancy practices. Often this technology requires a re-design of current methods. These new processes need to be implemented and managed by accountants who understand both the end product (accounts, tax returns) as well as the process.
Designing a robust process for delivering client services at scale is a specialist job. Over the last few years, I have worked with a number of accountants who have done this successfully. Generally, they share the same characteristics:
- They are technically strong as accountants
- They have an interest in and understanding of technology (not just accounting software)
- A willingness to draw on influences from business models outside of the professional services sector
- They possess excellent people skills and are generally very supportive of their team in terms of training and development
- They understand the business model that their firm is following
- (Most importantly!) A desire to deliver excellent service to clients
The characteristics I’ve listed above are shared by most of the accountants I’ve met. Larger firms have the resources to appoint dedicated individuals (or indeed teams) to focus on evolving their processes. However, in smaller firms, this responsibility is one of many that falls on an individual or small group.
The firms and individual accountants that I’ve seen thrive in this era of accelerated change absorb the changes in technology, the economic environment, and society in general. They embrace learning to deliver the correct advice in the right way to their colleagues, clients and prospective clients. It’s not a one-off task; it’s a process of continuous improvement.
Change is inevitable
Is the role of an accountant changing? Absolutely, and it will continue to do so.
Will technology replace accountants? No, but it will continue to change how accountants work.
It is highly likely that many firms have services, internal processes, workflows and methods of client communication that will need to be adapted or indeed undergo fundamental change.
So what will the role of an accountant look like in 25 years time? This was a question posed to a project team I worked on before I moved into financial technology. The answer is that it’s probably impossible to accurately predict the changes that will happen in 5 years let alone a quarter of a century!
My prediction is that businesses will always seek advice from highly intelligent, dedicated, well trained and commercially focused advisers.
That phrase is one that can be used to describe almost all of the accountants I’ve worked with.
If you missed it, you can read Part I of this series here.
If you would like to speak to me about Countingup or any of the points raised above please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
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