Bookkeeping professionals are becoming more tech savvy in the face of increasing pressures from inside and outside their businesses, new research has claimed.
Business accounting software giant Sage surveyed of 3,298 accountants across the globe, finding that clients often expect them to offer an increasing range of digital services in place of, or alongside more traditional bookkeeping practices.
As a result, accountancy businesses are being required to invest in expanding their capabilities, with 82% saying that clients are demanding more business advice and consultancy services. At the same time, 87% of those surveyed agreed that their customers expect more flexibility and better service without an increase in rates.
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The demand for improved digital services means that accountants have to invest heavily in new bookkeeping technology in order to keep up with trends in the marketplace. However, the report has also underlined just how well placed the accountancy profession is thanks to earlier investment in tech-enabled services by many.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of accountancy practices say that are confident they can provide business management and advisory services (79%), industry-specific advice (75%), and technology implementations beyond accounting and finance products (73%).
Over half (54%) said they can provide clients with a faster service thanks to new technology such as 5G, automation and AI, while 43% believe it has improved service and client satisfaction. The overwhelming majority of accountants (91%) consider new technology delivers added value to their business, and 44% describe themselves as early adopters, compared to only 35% last year.
Chris Downing, Director for Accountants & Bookkeepers, Sage, said: “Far from a retraction in the face of a global crisis, we’re seeing a fresh and competitive accountancy industry emerging. Rather than flexing under the weight of rising client demands and global disruption, firms are embracing new technologies to adapt and thrive.
More traditional practices need to keep pace or could struggle to keep up with client demands in the new normal. Ultimately, it’s incumbent on firms to seize the opportunity to become change makers rather than spectators.”
While accountants are weathering the storm caused by Covid-19, the report has also highlighted just how much the profession is evolving. More than half (51%) of respondents believe accountants joining the profession today need financial business advisory skills, including cashflow and growth modelling.
In order to provide these skillsets, more firms are willing to recruit outside of the industry. 82% say they are open to recruiting candidates without an accounting background, such as project management or customer services, with 84% of accountants agreeing that prospective younger employees have more progressive expectations, attitudes and talents.
Of the 1,000 British accountants surveyed, 93% agreed new technology was helping them meet demands and drive new value for the business. Over half (52%) believe new technologies have improved efficiency and productivity, while 41% say it has boosted client services and satisfaction.
The strong technological foundations of UK accountants are partly due to the positive legacy of Making Tax Digital for VAT. The majority of respondents (91%) said that Making Tax Digital had benefitted their business in some way, including better compliance (71%), decreased manual data processing (70%) and increased revenue (64%).
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