Accountants get new lease on life

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The views expressed by the Accounting Practitioner, a regular contributor to Accountancy Age (see Is accountants dead), has sparked a lively debate with his views that new software programmes will eventually cut out the accountant.

First to retaliate is Gary Turner, managing director of Xero UK, one of the software companies The Practitioner referred to.

Turner says it is true that software companies are associated with the structural changes that are unfolding inside the profession and even though it represent a competitive threat, his view is that most practitioners will be enabled by cloud technology rather than made redundant by it.

His says it is not technology that will drive accountants out of business, but rather the early adopters in the industry that will push out the later adopter firms who take a wait and see stance. “It is more likely that early adopter practices will end up adopting the clients of those firms who misread or misjudge the impact of such a profound industry shift,” he says.

Adding its voice to the debate is the Institute of Chartered Accounts in England and Wales (ICAEW).

According to the institute it is competition from consultants, professional services firms, and the internet that can threaten firms’ position as trusted advisers to clients, while technology has made basic accounts preparation and bookkeeping easier for businesses to adapt to new technologies, regulation and competition are holding accounting practices back.

The institute, which this week launched its Tomorrow’s Practice drive in order to support members seeking to innovate, identified four key areas of change affecting the profession – technology, competition, regulation and client expectations.

“The transformation taking place in the accountancy industry right now is being driven by the advent of cloud technology. This not only makes it easier for accountants to get a complete overview of their clients’ finances in real-time, but also to collaborate more closely with them and play more of an advisory role; something we know that small businesses are increasingly coming to expect,” said Rich Preece, vice president and country manager of Intuit UK.

At the same time, changing audit rules, the evolving pensions landscape, and new opportunities in legal services will require accountants to develop new propositions. Clients expectations are also changing. Companies want a ‘one stop shop’ for their business support, so accountants will “need to think about how they can play more of an advisory role”, the institute said.

This could mean firms specialising in a particular area or providing additional services that make them indispensable to the businesses they serve, says the institute.

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Read the article that sparked the debate here – The End of Accountants