Five challenges facing accountants

The accountancy profession has faced a number of challenges over the past few years, and 2018 is proving to be no exception. Below we outline some of the key issues and trends that accountancy firms have to contend with.

1. Talent Retention

Accounting firms continue to try and attract the best within the business, and the best firms achieve this by welcoming a diverse and flexible workforce. Diversity, in particular, will remain a key theme in 2018. Not only will firms have to negotiate Brexit, and consider what that may mean for any EU nationals on the payroll, but efforts will continue to be made to promote gender diversity and equal pay across the workplace.

2. Client Satisfaction

The way in which all businesses communicate with clients has changed drastically over the past few years. With the rise of social media, in particular, it’s never been easier for clients to share a positive, or negative, experience with the wider world. As such, having an engaging presence through online media is all but essential for most firms today. What’s more, clients are increasingly looking for firms that provide value-add services on top of the bookkeeping or accounting work they have come to expect. Accounting firms that are able to differentiate themselves in some way from their competitors stand themselves in good stead this year.

3. Automation

Automation is nothing new, and the accounting profession certainly won’t be the first – or last – to be automated to some degree. As AI and machine learning become more advanced, the nature of the work that accountants perform will change. It’s not an unrealistic assumption to say that in five years’ time, the majority of rudimentary tasks that were often left to junior accountants, such as data entry, may become fully automated by software programmes.

The main thing for accounting firms to understand is that advancement does not necessarily mean redundancy. There will likely always be a need for a qualified accountant to look over a client’s tax return or accounts, particularly when an issue arises that’s out of the ordinary.

However, accounting firms may want to help future-proof their firms by focusing their services towards areas that aren’t at such a high risk of automation, such as advisory work.

4. Technology

Technology continues to grow, and new trends, such as data analytics, are front and centre of discussions. Accounting firms that can successfully extract key trends and information from data analysis will be able to find even more opportunities to engage clients, as well as make better decisions that positively benefit their firm.

However, coupled with these advances in technology will be the need for accounting firms to keep themselves safe online. Cybercrime in particular will be a threat to accounting firms, due to the amount of sensitive data that firms have on clients, and steps should be taken to ensure that there are sufficient IT security and staff training policies in place to protect clients’ data.

5. Brexit

Brexit has been on the lips of most professional services firms ever since the leave vote was declared back in June 2016. With the final details of Brexit yet to be decided, the issue remains a key one for accounting firms in 2018.

What’s more, there remains considerable uncertainty within the financial services industry following Theresa May’s comments that the government would not continue passporting post Brexit. At the moment, financial passporting permits finance companies in the UK to sell their services across the EU without sourcing a licence to operate in each member country.

Although mention was made of a new deal that would still allow for sales to be made across the EU, any concrete details remain to be seen.

Until such time as the final agreements become clear, accounting firms should at least expect increased work from clients who are undertaking or plan to undertake restructuring to accommodate a hard Brexit. Indeed, continued communication with clients to keep them updated on the latest developments will be crucial at this time.

Mindspace will be on stand 790 at Accountex.

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