Interactive Accounting virtual CFO Lisa Callaghan, who is on the advisory board of the Accounting Business Expo, said there is now a major focus in the accounting industry on specific skill sets or providing services to specific industries or verticals.
“Previously this was something that happened later on in your career, but I think that needs to start happening at an earlier stage and universities certainly play a role in that part,” said Ms Callaghan.
“It’s not good enough anymore to be able to understand tax law or accounting standards. You need to be able to go into a business and be able to understand that business and its model and all of its components and then be able to advise around what is the best outcome for that business.”
Therefore, rather than just teaching accounting in general, universities she said should offer electives that will help students become specialists earlier in their career.
With many accounting practices also moving towards high-touch services, universities she said should also be teaching students how to develop relationships and communication skills beyond technical knowledge.
The expectations firms have of their accountants she said have changed considerably with the focus shifting from end-of-year compliance and reactive services to becoming a regular business adviser and mentor.
“This means contacting and communicating with the client on a regular basis instead of seeing them once or twice a year,” said Ms Callaghan.
“Clients want that really high touch relationship and that’s the services they’re looking for.”