The Smart Industry Report: Professional Services, recently released by Westpac, shows how client expectations are now evolving as technology develops, with clients now expecting real-time advice over historic analysis.
Speaking to the major bank for the report, CountPlus chief executive Matthew Rowe said data was the key ingredient to keep up with the changing demands from clients.
“Data is the new oil for accountants,” Mr Rowe said.
“When cloud-based general ledger systems first came out, they were seen as a threat because a big part of accountants’ value proposition was record keeping.
“What clients really value today is financial insight and advice. Quality data arriving in real time allows us to have meaningful conversations with clients.”
Likewise, Malcolm Ebb, co-founder and managing director of FeeSynergy, believes data allows firms to expand their services if they can extract its value.
“We work with a number of accounting firms, for example, that have a range of divisions, such as IT, legal and insurance broking,” Mr Ebb said.
“It surprises me that more accounting firms don’t have a more holistic view of services. They’re sitting on a goldmine — if they know how to mine data properly.”
While accountants recognise the importance of technology, with 81 per cent investing in cloud computing technology, and 44 per cent investing in data analytics, there remains a “disconnect” between what clients want and what they are actually getting.
“There is an expectation that accountants should be taking on more of an advisory role, but from our research, it’s fair to say that a lot of accountants are struggling with this,” said Ross Cameron, founder of Cameron Research Group.
“In many instances, accountants are seen as historians, but business owners don’t want to know what was happening in their business months ago, they want to know what may be happening in the near future. That’s a value-added service and that’s what clients want.”
CountPlus’ Mr Rowe agreed that clients want more advice and less historic number crunching.
“Customers just don’t want to be keeping pieces of paper today. This all means there is a greater focus on what is important for customers and, for small business customers, that’s things like cash flow, because they can be at a profit and still go broke,” he said.
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Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.