US accounting firms are moving into advisory roles


U.S. accountants are shifting from traditional accounting to trusted advisory services, according to the findings of the latest Sage Accountancy Index.

The majority of accountants, at 62 percent, reported expanding their services to include business mentoring, start-up advice, and payroll services. Additionally, 60 percent anticipate their firms growing in the next year; 37 percent plan to achieve growth by increasing customer loyalty, followed by 28 percent increasing their services portfolio.

In terms of working with clients, one-third of surveyed accountants identified their main business obstacle as collecting documents from clients on time.

Overall adoption of technology was found to be low, with one in nine accountants expressing no immediate plans to move to online technologies. Only 10 percent of respondents leveraging online or cloud solutions to collaborate and share information with clients and 58 percent working most often with clients face-to-face on physical documents.

While 51 percent of accountants do not have anytime, anywhere access to their client accounting information and 20 percent do, 56 percent of accountants are using online and mobile technologies for themselves and their staff.

Sage’s findings extended to the Solutions14 conference in November, where in conversations with more than 100 accountants, proactive business advice, technology consulting and business mentoring emerged as the top three new areas in which businesses need help from accountants. The top services accountants are implementing, according to Sage, are proactive business advice (86 percent), real-time data interpretation (77 percent) and payroll services (77 percent).

“Small and midsized businesses crave more contact with their accountant and don’t just want tax and compliance help,” stated Jennifer Warawa, vice president and general manager, Sage Accountant Solutions. “SMBs want help figuring out where they should spend less money, how they should revamp their business plan and what other companies in their industry are doing. Accountants must transform their business model to become more valuable trusted advisors, but they also need to adopt cloud technology that empowers them with the knowledge to make proactive, real-time suggestions for client success.”

The summary of the Sage Accountancy Index’s U.S. findings (interviewing 264 accountants in the U.S. between July 29 and Sept. 30, 2014) is available here, while the full report (with global findings on more than 1,260 accountants in eight countries surveyed during the same period) can be accessed here. An infographic of the findings is also below.