Between now and the early 2020s, six to eight per cent of jobs in financial, professional and technical services will be impacted by automation, according to PwC. The good news, however, is that industry experts do not expect that automation to lead to mass unemployment. Quite the contrary: artificial intelligence, cloud services, big data analytics and related technologies will generate new jobs, potentially offsetting job losses associated with automation.
Technology on the rise
New technology and automation offer accountants the opportunity to free up valuable time and improve productivity. In turn, they can offer their services at a lower cost, therefore increasing their competitiveness.
Let’s look at the example of Open Banking, which requires banks to share customer data with approved third parties: one of our accountant partners, Christina, recently told me about her client, a furniture wholesaler, who she had assisted with relevant accounting and tax duties for many years. In order to bridge a delayed incoming payment, the company needed a short-term loan. Thanks to Open Banking and her accounting software, Christina was instantly able to check her client’s bank statements to find out what kind of financing would be feasible, speak to the relevant lender and confirm the loan—all within one working day. This would have been impossible five years ago.
Besides the more traditional bookkeeping, auditing and accounting functions, we see that their clients are increasingly demanding more bespoke business advice and assistance with long-term financial planning. Therefore, accountants need to know more than their clients and be up-to-date in numerous areas. Those failing to do so will not lose their clients immediately, but might struggle to attract new business in a few years’ time.
Making time for your clients
One thing is certain: Whilst software and machinery can identify patterns and follow pre-programmed procedures, technology struggles to replicate personal relationships, emotional intelligence and trust.
Take the example of Making Tax Digital (MTD). Technology will help with the automation-side of things, but what your clients need is a clear and jargon-free explanation of what MTD will mean for their business and the impact it might have on them. Here, you can help them understand the programme and provide them with the right knowledge and tools to be prepared for the upcoming changes.
Many accountants I speak to tend to value personal relationships and go above and beyond to help their clients. Although day-to-day tasks usually involve emails and quick phone calls, they all make sure they regularly catch up with their clients face to face. This makes it easier for them to understand their clients’ businesses, discuss current challenges and learn more about their future plans. That way, many accountants I know have spotted additional business opportunities to cross- and up-sell their services.
The world is becoming increasingly connected and the desire to collaborate is growing. We have seen an escalating number of accountants and lawyers partnering up, referring one another should they be unable to help their clients in certain matters. Alternative lending would be another example: At Spotcap we work with many accountants across the UK to help their clients raise finance and enable them to enhance their business advisory services.
The birth of the Accountant 2.0
It is crucial to stay up-to-date with current trends and developments and make the relevant contacts. This will help accountants to grow and scale at a lower cost and become an indispensable analyst, consultant and strategist. That way, the Accountant 2.0 is ready for the future generation of clients for whom everything is happening online.
Four tips to help you keep up with technology & innovation
- Learn: Make sure to regularly attend relevant trade shows, conferences. The more you understand new trends and regulations, the less overwhelming they are.
- Network: Attend relevant networking events in your area to grow your contacts and talk about current market developments and even potential partnership opportunities.
- Read: Subscribe to relevant trade magazines and websites to better understand what’s going on in your industry.
- Brainstorm: Join or establish regular internal or external meetings and groups and use them as a platform to brainstorm ideas, talk about new innovations and explore ways of integrating those into current workflows.
Originally published July 23 2018 , updated February 24 2020