May 2, 2019
Sage has released its annual Practice of Now research report, which claims that there is a shifting cultural landscape in the accounting sector driven by evolving client demands and the marketplace. Of the 3,000 accountants surveyed worldwide, 90 percent believe there has been a cultural shift in accountancy as it enters the next decade. This shift is driving significant changes in hiring practices, business services and attitudes toward emerging technologies across the globe.
“Accountants around the world are embracing change within the profession, bringing in new skill sets and expanding services to better meet client needs,”
“The future is promising, but there are still challenges ahead and more work to be done in order to build a successful practice for both today, and the decade to come. Accountants need to carefully evaluate changes in the workplace, paying close attention to skills, training, technology adoption, changing client expectations and diversity within firms. Innovation in these key areas will power the next generation of accountancy firms” said Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances, at Sage.
The Practice of Now suggests that accountants across the world are still facing challenges as a result of the ongoing cultural shift within the industry. Key findings in the UK include:
An industry ready for change
Amidst this cultural shift, there’s no doubt that meeting client expectations begins with employees. In fact, 88 percent of UK accountants said they are considering recruiting from a non-traditional background. Furthermore, 39 percent of respondents say that new accountants joining the profession should have industry experience outside accounting. The accountancy profession will need to bring in new skill sets and update business processes to meet customer expectations, or risk losing out to competing firms.
As skill sets such as technological literacy, relationship building and business advisory become increasingly important, 55 percent of respondents agree that today’s accounting training programs will not be enough to run a successful practice by 2030. Training programs will need updating so that firms can keep pace with innovation and evolving client demands.
A diverse workforce
With a gulf in the talent required to build a modern, digital firm, what’s needed is a commitment to building a diverse workforce. But this year’s data identifies an underlying issue not yet addressed by many practices. Just 28 percent of firms say they’re actively seeking to diversify their workforce. Only 31 percent have a written policy on diversity and inclusion. Even fewer (23 percent) have offered training or have altered any policies or procedures to promote diversity and inclusion (18 percent).
Building a practice ready for the next decade
Accountants can see challenges ahead, and they’re preparing for it. 51 percent of respondents have formally examined their business practices in the last year, with an additional 26 percent stating they have formally examined their business practices in the last five years. All signs point to a profession building for the future. Still, accounting and bookkeeping remain the dominant service offering in practices worldwide (78 percent), however; business advisory services (18 percent) and outsourced CFO (4 percent) remain a significant growth opportunity.
As accountants re-evaluate business models, 86 percent state that the profession needs to pick up the pace of technology adoption to remain competitive internationally. Over half of respondents (56 percent) cite increases in productivity as the main benefit of technology adoption, with an additional 27 percent citing time savings as its main value. Meanwhile, more than half of UK respondents (59 percent) look forward to adopting relevant artificial intelligence (AI) applications as they become available.