Speaking to The Bookkeeper, mid-tier accounting firm Crowe Horwath managing partner, business services, Chris Paterson said the changing role of bookkeepers as business advisers has created additional client demands and expectations, which he believes is shifting goalposts in the profession.
“It is an emerging trend already – clients more often than before see bookkeepers as advisers to their business, beyond the traditional transactional role we once played,” said Mr Paterson.
“How clients see value in the services they are paying for has already caused some big shifts for accountants broadly. Just this year, all four of the biggest global accounting firms have changed internal structures in order to provide better services for their existing clients, while also looking to grow down, working with smaller businesses.”
Others, like Planet Consulting founder and principal consultant Rob Pillans believe accounting firms are continuing to see the value in bookkeeping firms, and are on the acquisition trail as a result.
“Accountants are actually bringing bookkeeping back in-house, which is almost counter-intuitive but what they're saying is that when they come to do the year-end compliance work, if they are doing the bookkeeping... it's taking them much less time,” said Mr Pillans.
Conversely, Added Value Consulting founder Thea Foster does not believe bookkeepers are eating into an accountant’s market share, with both accountants and bookkeepers coming to the table with a different set of skills.
“I do know of an instance of an accountant who lost two small clients because they both said to him, ‘We now have a bookkeeper doing our books so we don’t need you anymore’, and that’s crazy because there's tax planning to be done, there are the sort of reviews that accountants do, it's not just a matter of keying numbers in; be it a bookkeeper or an accountant, they've got to review what's gone where and make sure the report that comes out is actually correct for the operations for the business,” Ms Foster said.
Similarly, Mr Pillans believes that while bookkeepers will continue to be highly accessible to clients because of their job nature, their relationship with an accountant cannot be done away with.
“It's a synergistic relationship and bookkeepers and accountants are ultimately dependent on each other,” said Mr Pillans.