Jamie Johns, CEO of Melbourne-based cloud accounting firm Sky Accountants, told AccountantsDaily that the presence of outsourcing and offshoring should not be viewed as a threat to the Australian accounting industry.
“People get really scared and worried, but what we should be in Australia is a knowledge-based industry where we can offshore the stuff that’s done really cheap, but we can do the high-end advisory, strategy type work,” he said.
Mr Johns said that Sky Accountants has now employed two accountants in the Philippines, with improving technology eliminating the need for a physical presence in many operations.
He believes Australia should aim to establish itself as a solely client-facing industry, leaving the data entry and processing work to those offshore.
“Everyone in Australia has great interpersonal skills, high-end advisory skills; succession planning, business mentoring and estate planning. The transactional grinding processes such as allocating a transaction to bank fees needs to be outsourced and outsourced cheaply,” he said.
Pricing power should then be passed on to the client as a further benefit, he added.
Meanwhile, Karen McWilliams, leader of policy and thought leadership, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, said accountants should also understand they can provide offshoring services of their own.
“Whilst some processes might be performed offshore, we need to ask ourselves what we can perform for offshore locations so that these higher value services can be not only delivered to Australian customers but overseas customers as well. It’s about seeing the opportunities,” she said.
This type of forward thinking, according to Ms McWilliams, will help to create new jobs and areas of expertise, reducing some of the fears Australian accountants often associate with offshoring, including those about job losses.
“When you look back over history you’re not seeing that it [offshoring] took away jobs, but reassigned them. So certain jobs were replaced by automation, but at the same time new jobs were created in different spaces,” she said.
Mr Johns echoed that sentiment, noting that he has recently hired a 'Cloud integrator' a role that was non-existent in the accounting profession less than five years ago.