Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions has released its annual Practice of Now research report, revealing a shifting cultural landscape in the accounting sector driven by evolving client demands and the marketplace.
Of the 3,000 accountants surveyed worldwide, 90 per cent 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,” said Jennifer Warawa, EVP of partners, accountants and alliances, at Sage. “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.”
The Practice of Now reveals that accountants across the world are still facing challenges as a result of ongoing cultural changes 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 per cent of UK accountants said they are considering recruiting from a non-traditional background. Furthermore, 39 per cent 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 per cent 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 for Today—and Tomorrow: 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 per cent of firms say they’re actively seeking to diversify their workforce. Only 31 per cent have a written policy on diversity and inclusion. Even fewer (23 per cent) have offered training or have altered any policies or procedures to promote diversity and inclusion (18 per cent).
Building a Practice Ready for the Next Decade: Accountants can see challenges ahead, and they’re preparing for it. 51 per cent of respondents have formally examined their business practices in the last year, with an additional 26 per cent 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 per cent), however; business advisory services (18 per cent) and outsourced CFO (4 per cent) remain a significant growth opportunity.
As accountants re-evaluate business models, 86 per cent state that the profession needs to pick up the pace of technology adoption to remain competitive internationally. Over half of respondents (56 per cent) cite increases in productivity as the main benefit of technology adoption, with an additional 27 per cent citing time savings as its main value. Meanwhile, more than half of UK respondents (59 per cent) look forward to adopting relevant artificial intelligence (AI) applications as they become available.
The Practice of Now is available for download here.