Earlier in the year at the Reckon conference here in Auckland, we had an interesting discussion about the future of accounting. There’s no doubt that our industry is changing and my opinion, and undoubtedly an opinion shared by many, is that we need to seriously define, or redefine, what our value actually is. Where can we add or create value for our clients? What is it that we, as accountants and bookkeepers, have the unique ability to do well which will benefit others?
Technology and software has impacted our industry in a major way making it simpler for businesses and accounts professionals alike to take care of the basics such as bank reconciliations and GST returns and to get accurate financial information quickly. This is a good thing. The cost of compliance for business in New Zealand has got to come down.
A lot of small business owners that I speak to do not value highly the work that their accountant does for them in preparing their end of year accounts and tax returns, and as such the fees charged tend to fall into that grudge-buy category along with the cost of insurance.
Clients don’t always understand what is being done by their accountant or the time that is necessary to do it. I think that accountants, in general, are not very good at being transparent about their fees and I think it would go a long way if they educated their clients about the steps they need to go through, the checks & balances that they undertake in order to ensure the accuracy of the data they are preparing, and why those things that they do are necessary and therefore of value to the client. And why their accountant’s knowledge, gained over many years of study and continuous education, is of value to the business owner.
Additionally the line between bookkeeping and accounting is becoming increasingly blurred. Accounting firms are asking themselves what exactly is their role. Bookkeepers are offering services that may have been the exclusive domain of accounting firms 10 or 20 years ago. Where do we all fit in.
Offshore outsourced accounting and bookkeeping is also becoming a thing, and will undoubtedly become more prevalent in an effort to lower labour costs for accounting firms and ultimately for accountants’ clients. India seems to be the leaders in this market, at least in terms of marketing and being vocal about their offerings. I get emails and LinkedIn messages regularly offering me this type of service. For now it doesn’t suit my business model but there may come a time, for a particular type of client, when it will. It’s unlikely it will suit every business but it will meet the needs of many.
There is no right or wrong solution as we head into what feels like something akin to the big blue yonder. And I think it’s a cool thing when innovation shakes up an industry which is exactly what’s happening here. Just because we’ve always done it that way is not a good reason to continue to do something, and continuously looking for improvement in business processes and in value added is a true indicator of success and potential business longevity.
I keep saying it – it’s an fascinating time to be in this industry.And it’s so interesting to be watching it all play out, and indeed to be a small player in the game.