Accountants had to stay abreast of changes in business software and regulations to stay relevant to their clients, agreed participants at the Future of Accounting Forum at the AMP tower in Circular Quay, Sydney.
“Accountants are changing. They need to be across not just the boring elements of accounting standards but across different elements of the business. If you are not up to speed you shouldn’t be practising,” said Andrew Conway, CEO of the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA).
The panel also included Daniel Rabie, strategic director from Reckon, Marc Lehmann, CEO of Saasu and two practising accountants, Noel Tiufino from MyAccounts and Martyn Dominy from MyCFO. All agreed that accountants who didn’t evolve with trends in technology would get left behind.
“The accountant is your adviser but ultimately it’s your business. If your accountant can’t move with you, it’s time to get a new accountant,” Dominy said. The ATO’s new taxation didn’t necessarily mean the end of compliance for practitioners.
“Increasing automation in taxation process is not going to dry up taxation work. It will speed up the workload and there will still be a requirement for experts to offer advice,” Conway said.
The growing number of options in accounting software would force accountants to streamline the collection of data from multiple sources, Rabie said. “Accountants shouldn’t just push one single solution.”
Accounting and bookkeeping firms were encouraged to “expand and integrate” with other financial services firms because business owners wanted a single contact point for advice. Trust and time management were critical to the relationship development between an accountant and its client. “If you’re no longer the trusted adviser for your clients, you throw the game away,” Conway said.
“What value really means for me is when proactive accountants spend time with businesses and proactively help them in day to day practices and making them more efficient. Accountants should be on the road as much as plumbers,” Rabie said.
Product knowledge only needed to be at the “top business level” and included basic understanding of what each accounting software accomplished to avoid recommending the wrong product. “The main reason for clients leaving their accountant was because they were behind (in their compliance work) and didn’t understand the business of the client and the industry,” Lehmann said.
The shift towards value-based services meant a shift towards fixed price billing was inevitable. “I think fixed price billing is a good philosophy because it forces accountants to look beyond tax processes,” Rabie said.
But while fixed-price billing was an attractive option for small businesses, it didn’t necessarily work for all sizes of business.
“Fixed price billing works for certain businesses and not with others. It’s a mindset of the client and we accommodate the clients’ needs,” Tiufino said.
You can still buy tickets to watch the Future of Accounting Forum through Video On Demand. The video will be ready for viewing by Monday. Buy your ticket now.