Technology, skills and personal brand: Accountancy professionals in 2020
The accountancy profession continues to evolve – driven largely by technology developments. To discuss what this means for those in the sector as we start a new year, Accountancy Age caught up with Darren Buckley, Director at AJ Chambers, East of England, AF Chambers Industry & Finance and practice mergers & acquisitions to hear his thoughts.
How has the skills requirement evolved over the past year or two?
Generally speaking, the principles of accounting are the same whether you are sat in front of a computer or an abacus. However, what has changed in recent years is the technology we use. It has changed vastly and afforded the accounting industry new avenues to explore, created new products and services, and enabled professionals to gain new skills and take on new responsibilities.
Furthermore, the advent of cloud-based computing has allowed accountants to be mobile and reactive to the needs of their client, and more importantly, it has put us in touch with clients that are not around the corner, but across counties, countries and continents.
In some ways, it is technological advancements that have pulled accounting from the dark ages and thrust us into the modern age. Thanks to automation, accountants are no longer pondering over endless lines of information in the hope that they don’t make a simple human error and calculations that were once manual are now automatic, and accurate every time. Not only is the modern accountant accurate, thorough, and meticulous, they have also become integrated business advisors who are equipped to help businesses grow. They can advise on everything from profit growth to saving money, so really focusing on the more important aspects of economic growth for their clients, rather than just number crunching.
What are accountancy firms looking for in new recruits?
Making Tax Digital will ensure that accountants everywhere are retiring their pens and ledgers. With more proficient tools and processing software, the input and computation of data has been streamlined and made much, much quicker. This has allowed accountants to apply their expertise in countless other areas, like business growth, payroll, tax advice, auditing, and credit control, for example.
With an emphasis on growth, for less experienced hires, the willingness to learn and the right attitude are paramount, and of course it always helps if you are naturally good with numbers.
For senior hires, accountancy firms are looking for qualified individuals who have strong communication skills, can hone in on their advisory skills with the experience gained through their career and depending on the type of role in their specialism (i.e. Tax, Audit, Accounts etc.), the firm would expect a new hire to be an expert in their field.
What skills should accountants be learning now, to ensure they’re well placed for future moves?
Alongside professional studies for relevant qualifications (ACA (ICAEW), ACCA, CTA (CIOT), AAT, ATT etc.), the key skills focus should be to become an expert in cloud-based systems.
With cloud-based systems, accountants can save their clients time and money by streamlining processes and freeing up time to use for other tasks. This is vital for smaller businesses where every hour counts! With more time to spare, accountants can then help businesses to grow whilst businesses have more time to spend on tasks that actively contribute to profitability.
My advice would be to educate yourself on the important principles of client relations and educate your clients on cloud-based systems to not get left behind. The modern-day accountant is more than an accountant, they truly are ‘business advisors’ in every sense.
Where can accounting professionals turn for relevant training?
First and foremost, they should speak to their colleagues, most likely someone higher up the chain who will have access to the connections they need for continuous professional development (CPD). There are so many training courses available across the country, depending on where you are located, and a good avenue to take would be to speak to your professional tutors you use (or have used in the past) as they will have access to the most prominent and relevant training contacts in this field.
Outside of this, speak to a specialist consultancy such as AJ Chambers who will be able to give solid advice upon understanding the learners wants and needs. Having a discussion with us about where they would like their career to go, we will always be able to give sound advice on which path to take, and at the very least help point them in the right direction.