Accountants are under pressure to change the way they work as their industry undergoes rapid and dramatic shifts according to new research from leading global research company Ipsos and New Zealand-based growth software business Common Ledger.
The Ipsos survey commissioned by Common Ledger has highlighted the impact of new technology and changing demand in what clients want and expect from their accountants.The survey focused on selected small to medium sized accounting firms in Australia. Ipsos conducted telephone interviews with both compliance and advisory specialists at 50 accounting firms in Sydney and Melbourne.
The findings show that accountants live in a rapidly-evolving environment with a raft of new software and technology available to them to improve efficiency. At the same time, their clients are increasingly looking to accountants for guidance and advice as they navigate a fast-changing world.
“The research we carried out with Common Ledger delivers some very valuable insights for the Australasian accounting industry,” says Ipsos Account Manager, Janet Cheng. “For example, it shows that the bulk of accountant’s time—around 60 percent—is spent on compliance while only 40 percent is spent on giving advice.
“However it’s the advice that really adds value to clients, whether it is helping them achieve tax efficiencies or information about running their business.
“Many accountants know they risk losing clients or becoming a compliance service only unless they adapt. There is a wealth of software out there to help them streamline their businesses and free up time for advisory work but many accountants don’t know what to choose, are risk averse and reluctant to change.”
Common Ledger CEO Carlos Chambers says the research was commissioned to assist the accounting industry understand the drivers of change and better grasp what clients are looking for.
“The reality is that advisory services are not well understood by many accounting firms. It’s a complex area—they are being asked to become trusted advisors across the business spectrum.”
“Of course accountants know that—in fact they get bombarded with that message on a regular basis. But just hearing the message doesn’t really help. ‘Advisory’ means different things to different people, accountants and clients. One goal of the research was to help understand this more deeply and share the insights with industry.”
Leading Australian online accounting firm Nudge Accounting is an early adopter and a company which is leading the way in reinventing accountants’ relationships with clients. Nudge Advisory Partner Trevor Schmitt says features of its new approach include regular interaction and contact with clients, monthly reporting and support for a range of cloud-based software.
“Continuously assessing and improving our strategic advice services is a high priority for us. We realised early on that this is what clients are demanding. We are focused on understanding our clients and their businesses,” says Schmitt.
Other findings from the research include confirmation that clients want strategic advice on the regulatory environment from their accountants and that while many accountants recognise the value of technology in increasing efficiency, they are also wary of extra costs and reliability issues.
Chambers says the research sheds light on the opportunities the accounting industry can harness and the challenges it has to address.
“We call it the Accountant’s Dilemma. It’s a very exciting time for the accounting industry with plenty of scope for firms to grow, but it’s a challenging time too. Clients want their accountants to be advisor, analyst and business partner. The ones who step up to this are the ones who are succeeding in the new environment and will continue to into the future.”
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