Accountants – anyone remember the comptometer?

Proactivity is in the actions. According to tax experts CCH, 36% of clients are thinking of leaving their accountants as they are not proactive enough.

Technological change has always been part of the profession, but it used to come along a little more slowly and have less dramatic effects.

Take the humble comptometer. For anyone under 40, this was a till-sized box with a mass of mechanical buttons. In my first practice, it was operated by a wonderful lady who acted as agony aunt, shop steward, mother and general font-of-all knowledge to us trainee accountants.

Her day job was to save us time in adding (casting, anyone?) Kong columns of numbers from bank statements, print-outs, financial statements etc. Very useful and very accurate. This meant the firm could get more work done, and charge more fees per staff member – and cope with the growing number of transactions per client.

What about the impact on the client – the key stakeholder? Negligible. Compare that to the Cloud-based accounting software being utilised by a large number of SMEs and their advisers.

–      Clients expect more up to date, often live information, when they open their laptops. How can accountants resource the constant updates required?

–      Clients also have greater visibility, knowledge and curiosity about their numbers. The result is the need for greater breadth and depth of business partnering from advisers.

–      Fees for bookkeeping, payroll and management accounts, not to mention year end accounts are under pressure. Many clients are under the impression that much of their accountants work has been removed.

Progressive Expert Comment

How can we respond to these challenges? By embracing the technology and actually moving practices along the progressive spectrum. Most accountants talk about also being business advisers. The time has come to put partnering at the heart of the practice:

Know the client’s business and plans for the long term via constant contact.

Build practice teams and sector specialists around the client.

Train and empower all levels of colleagues to give unbidden advice

Recognise transactions and opportunities where the firm can add further value.

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