The latest annual Practice of Now report, by business management solution giant Sage, has revealed a cultural shift in accountancy.
The Practice of Now 2019 report surveyed 3,000 accountants worldwide and found that 90% believe there has been a cultural shift in accountancy, driving significant changes in hiring practices, business services and attitudes towards emerging technologies.
The report shows that changes in accountancy practice and recruitment are on the way. 82% of accountants said they are considering recruiting from a non-traditional background, while 43% of respondents believe new accountants joining the profession should have industry experience outside accounting.
Recognising that skill sets such as technological literacy, relationship building and business advisory are becoming increasingly important, 62% of respondents agreed that today’s accounting training programs will not be enough to run a successful practice by 2030. Training programs will need updating so that firms can keep pace with innovation and client expectations.
Although there’s an acknowledged need for more diversity in accountancy, only 30% of firms say they’re actively seeking to diversify their workforce and just 28% have a written policy on diversity and inclusion. Only 23% have offered training and only 21% have altered policies or procedures to promote diversity and inclusion.
Client expectations and demands are evolving, and it seems most accountants are aware of this and preparing for changes ahead. 49% of respondents said they had formally examined their business practices in the last year, with an additional 26% stating having done so in the last five years.
However, accounting and bookkeeping remain the dominant service offering in practices worldwide (79%), despite the significant growth opportunities offered by business advisory services (17%) and outsourced CFO (5%).
85% of respondents felt that the profession in their country needs to increase the pace of its technology adoption to remain competitive internationally. As to what they believe technology can do for them, 56% cite increases in productivity as the main benefit, while 27% see time savings as its main value. More than half of respondents said they look forward to adopting relevant Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications as they become available, while 35% regarded their firms as early technology adopters, investing readily in the best technology available to stay ahead of competitors and diversify their services.
“Accountants need to carefully evaluate changes in the workplace, paying close attention to skills, training, technology adoption, changing client expectations and diversity within firms” said Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances, at Sage.
“Innovation in these key areas will power the next generation of accountancy firms.”
The practice of the future
The report’s predictions for how accountancy will look in 2030 were:
- No manual data entry: Data will flow automatically from clients and their bank accounts into accountants’ systems.
- Real-time relationships: The accountant will have a real-time view of their client’s business and will be able to interact with that client instantly, in real- time.
- Proactive alerts and notifications: Accountants will know instantly when things change for a client.
- Pre-emptive problem solving: Accountants’ time will be spent proactively looking at business problems and seeing errors before they manifest themselves into year-end error corrections.
- Higher fees but better value: Accountants will charge more to clients because of their increased value, due to their advisory services. Fees might not grow by that much, but accountants will be able to monetise better.
The Practice of Now 2019 is available for download here.