Despite the pandemic disruption, almost 60 per cent of accountants and bookkeepers expect to see a surge in revenue this year, with 27 per cent planning on hiring additional staff, according to the latest Xero’s “State of the Industry” report.
While the pandemic has resulted in some advantages for advisers, they’ve also faced challenges. The most-reported negative impact from the pandemic relates to new regulations, with 44 per cent finding it hard to keep up with changes. Over a quarter of accountants also reported losing clients due to foreclosures or cost cutting.
For advisers looking to grow, opportunities are available for practices to expand and offer additional services as well as those targeting specific small-business growth industries. These include construction, professional services, and healthcare.
Joseph Lyons, managing director Australia and Asia, Xero, said despite persistent challenges over the past two years, the accounting and bookkeeping sector is poised for growth in 2022.
“Heightened demand for industries like construction and professional services are leading to a boom in small business creation, generating even more demand for skilled advice,” he said.
Meanwhile, talent recruitment will be the biggest hurdle for those looking to expand.
Finding and recruiting new staff was reported as the number one most challenging HR priority for 39 per cent of advisers and in the top three for over half of the respondents.
The report also revealed that accountants have turned to technology to adapt, with 94 per cent of respondents saying that adopting digital tools has had a positive impact.
The top benefits include time savings, increased efficiency and improved client relationships.
The survey also finds that COVID-19 has been a catalyst for small businesses to consider how they use digital solutions, with 49 per cent of respondents saying they have seen a change in clients’ attitudes towards technology adoption.
As a result, advisers are trusted to help small businesses implement new tools and improve workflows. Accountants who have been able to influence the software decisions of their clients were found to have 40 per cent more small-business clients.
“Alongside their clients, accountants and bookkeepers have explored the limits of flexible working enabled by tech, which has seen many practices expand into different regions,” Mr Lyon said.
“Over the next decade, bookkeepers and accountants will continue to play a critical role in Australia’s journey through the pandemic and beyond, providing services from advisory services to compliance and digitalisation.”
The typical accountant is likely to play the dual role of business owner and small-business adviser, with 65 per cent of respondents owning their own business and 18 per cent being at a director or partner level.
Women are more likely to own their own practice (68 per cent) than men (57 per cent), as are those who classify as Gen X or Baby Boomers, the survey found.
Traditional accounting and bookkeeping service offerings still dominate, with bookkeeping, compliance, and payroll being the most common. But other services are also popular, with advisory services offered by over half of the respondents.
The Xero “State of the Industry” report was commissioned by Xero Australia and undertaken by Lonergan Research to examine the accounting and bookkeeping industry and sentiment after almost two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on a survey of over 500 Australian tax and BAS agents, the report looked at how they have responded to the disruption, current industry trends, and the outlook for 2022.
Tony Zhang is a journalist at Accountants Daily, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the accounting sector.
Since joining the Momentum Media team in 2020, Tony has written for a range of its publications including Lawyers Weekly, Adviser Innovation, ifa and SMSF Adviser. He has been full-time on Accountants Daily since September 2021.