What does the future of accounting look like?

By Addie Thomes

As we move into the new financial year, it’s timely to reflect on where the accounting sector is heading thanks to evolving technology and changing expectations from small business clients.

It’s no secret that the accounting industry is undergoing transformation: technology is fast-changing, accounting firms are moving to online accounting platforms and small business customers are expecting more from their accountant in terms of providing deep strategic business insights.

In addition, the accounting sector is facing increased competition from financial institutions that offer accounting and tax-related products.

Based on these market trends as well as the feedback I receive from Intuit customers, it’s clear that accountants need to become confident in using newer technologies, and fully embrace the opportunities they present.

A disruptive mindset

The good news is that small business customers are eager to leverage new products and services that make their businesses more efficient and competitive. This includes streamlining ‘doing the books’ via easy-to-use online software.

At our recent flagship conference QuickBooks Connect (QBC), our global Head of Accounting Rich Preece told participants that over the next six years about one third of accountants will struggle to make a living unless they embrace change in their sector.

Another QBC speaker Chris Hooper, also an accounting futurist and CEO of South Australian based accounting firm Accodex, told participants: “Accountants must play a balancing act between traditional and future tasks of accounting.

“Contrary to much of the rhetoric around the accounting profession, compliance work is not going away any time soon. But that said, there's no doubt the accounting service mix is moving toward growth advisory.

“I believe this is because of the value added nature of the work produces positive client outcomes. Accountants are already well positioned for this type of work given they are fluent in the language of business. In my opinion, the first step is to invest in additional training for partners and staff in order to deliver this service.”

Let technology do the legwork

Newer technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) excites me, especially its application to the accounting sector.

Machine learning is a type of AI that has the ability of technology to learn based on consistent use from customers. For example, within QuickBooks Online we use machine learning to auto-categorise transactions.

So, QuickBooks Online learns that every time a customer purchases stationery from a particular store, it is categorised as ‘office supplies’. The software learns this rule and automatically makes the entry for you.

Advanced technology such as machine learning will reshape the way accountants gather insights for small business clients, making it critical for accountants to invest time in learning about these platforms and how they can be leveraged to create client value.

Embracing the future

At Intuit, we’re passionate about supporting the accounting industry as it undergoes transformation and upskilling accountants so they are best prepared to navigate the change that comes with this.

My wish is for accountants to see the opportunities that new technology brings, including being able to evolve the way they engage with and deliver value to their clients.

By Nicolette Maury, Vice President and Country Manager, Intuit Australia

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