What does the future of accounting look like?
By Avika Ramdhani, Director: Accountants, Partners and Alliances at Sage
The latest episode of the #NextGenAccounting podcast series explored this very question. Chatting to accounting lecturers and students from the University of Pretoria, it was agreed that accounting is no longer just a numbers game. It’s about developing relationships with clients and working in teams.
This may deviate from our more traditional perceptions of the profession, which saw people sitting behind their computers punching numbers into Excel spreadsheets, but this is where the industry is headed.
It all comes down to maximising your utility. This economic concept addresses a common consumer problem: How can I spend my money so that I get the most bang for my buck? Utility maximisation sees a consumer attempting to get the greatest value possible from the money they have available. This is what modern consumers want. It doesn’t matter if they’re buying a car, booking a holiday, or hiring someone to handle their accounting needs. Accountants need to broaden their skillsets so that they can offer clients more than just their financial expertise.
Here are a few ways that accounting students and universities can prepare to meet future demands:
- Communication is king
Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions and cloud-based business software are already causing dramatic shifts in the market. These solutions are getting smarter, more affordable, and easier to use. With these changes in mind, savvy accounting professionals need to be thinking about how to reskill themselves. This is where it becomes important to do what technology can’t.
Spending time with clients and helping them to assess their financial risks, walking them through the latest tax and regulatory developments, and providing ideas about cutting costs and improving profitability, are just a few ways that accountants can ensure that they keep adding value to their clients.
Ultimately, accounting is a service industry. People come to you because they lack the expertise to handle their accounting themselves. It’s important that you reassure them, advise them, and make them feel confident that you’ll handle their situation with care.
- The value of teamwork
The value of teamwork in accounting is already being addressed at a university level. One way to promote this is to assign team projects, which see students working with others and coming up with an answer together. In these scenarios, every member of the team receives the same mark. These assignments help students prepare for the workplace, where they will have to collaborate with others.
- Thinking like there is no box
Many of the jobs that are around today weren’t around 10 years ago. The business world is changing and it’s those who keep pace with these changes that will stay ahead of the pack.
Today, there are so many fancy new tools and solutions that make an accountant’s job easier. There’s no doubt that these add value but understanding the basics is equally important.
Consider the basics as the foundation of a house. If you don’t start off with a good foundation, it’s likely that things will start to fall apart as time goes by. When accountants are looking to expand their skills, they must keep an eye on the latest trends, and learn about and implement these where relevant, while always keeping their accounting fundamantals in mind.
- Managing client understanding
Ever been in a situation where you seek advice from an expert – a doctor, for example – and they speak to you using terms and concepts you don’t understand, making your decision to consult them rather pointless? Accountants need to be able to speak the same language as their clients. Effective accounting is about making sure that the information you give your clients makes sense and can be easily understood. Otherwise it’s just a list of numbers with no real significance.
In today’s competitive business landscape, it’s an accountant’s ability to communicate effectively with clients, and to develop relationships, that will help him or her stand out from the pack and get on the fast track at a firm. As a service industry, it’s about adding to the services you offer and providing clients with an experience that will keep them coming back.
If you’d like to listen to the entire podcast, you can access it here.
About the #NextGenAccounting Podcast:
- Automation and artificial intelligence are here to stay, and the accounting profession is just one of many that will be impacted. The #NextGenAccounting Podcast Series, brought to you by Sage, sees host Vincent Hofmann discuss the future of accountants and the accounting industry with practice owners, thought leaders, industry body representatives, academics, students, and graduates. The series aims to cut through the buzzwords and the hype and provide food for thought, valuable insights, and expert advice on how to prepare for the changes ahead.
For media queries:
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- Ashmika Naidoo
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