Speaking to AccountantsDaily, Smithink 2020 founding director David Smith said a number of firms have expressed concerns that the automation of compliance work means many firms have less need to employ junior staff. As a result, many firms are raising the issue of what younger professionals are going to be doing when they come through, he said.
“We are losing, in a lot of firms, the sort of work which was the groundwork that traditionally was done to train the more junior people up. The concern then is, ‘what are the young people in my firm going to do?’ and ‘if I can’t get a group of young people in my firm being productive, how am I going to get my future leaders?’”
Mr Smith said that while this is an industry-wide issue, it is more of a concern for smaller firms than for larger ones.
“The bigger firms will continue to have quite a good flow of people out of university and the reason why the bigger firms will continue to have a reasonably good flow is that people would like to have their brand on their resume,” he said.
“I think the bigger firms will find it less challenging to get the star talent. I do think it is going to be more challenging for smaller firms to compete.”
However, according to Mr Smith, there are still things smaller firms can do to ensure they are able to attract talented young accountants.
“I think they’ve got to sell it on the basis that they are more family-friendly, a nicer environment in which to work,” he said.
“The second thing is that they need to tell prospective employees that they’ll be working directly with partners, because in the bigger firms quite often they won’t be.
“That they'll be involved directly, and a lot of small firms aren’t doing this but they should be, ensuring that their young people are getting face-to-face contact with clients, so that they are really engaging with clients. And lastly, that they’re going to be getting involved in not just doing the compliance work, but involved and working with the partner on the business advisory work for clients.”
Finally, Mr Smith said that changes in the industry mean the type of accountant whom firms need to develop is also changing.
“I think the fairly obvious conclusion out of this discussion is that we have to start to get people into firms who are going to be future business advisers, rather than just people who can do the compliance work,” he said.
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