Speaking to Accountants Daily after winning Firm of the Year at the 2017 Australian Accounting Awards last month, Pitcher Partners Sydney managing partner Rob Southwell said that firms mustn’t get preoccupied with technology.
Mr Southwell said that while technology may change the way information is delivered between accountants and clients, a solid relationship still needs to be formed between the two parties.
“The word disruption is probably the most overused word in our industry right now. At the end of the day it's all about relationships,” he said.
“There will be changes in the way we deliver things that we do for clients but at the end of the day people want to talk to someone and they want someone across the desk who understands what they're going through and who can help them find solutions to what's going on in their businesses and in their lives.”
Mr Southwell said that technology is a necessity but it’s not everything.
“The technology piece has its place, and we're very cognisant of how to provide and deliver some of the services that we do by utilising that technology, but at the end of the day [accountants need to be] able to have strong relationships with the clients,” he said.
“Over time that might change because as more of the millennial or the generation after comes through they may prefer to work in a different paradigm but the here and now says that at the end of the day it’s still really important that the relationship is key.”
Still, Grad Mentor founder Alisdair Barr recently told Accountants Daily that millennial accountants are of the view that they can use technology to enhance their relationships with clients.
“The older generation finds technology threatening but young people see how technology can enhance the ability to build relationships,” he said.
There have also been calls recently from industry members for universities to teach more soft skills so that graduates are better prepared to establish and develop those crucial relationships.
Dean Sammut from MMT Accountants and Advisors recently told Accountants Daily that the industry needs to work on upskilling, and that should start at the universities.
“Definitely at university is where it needs to start. I actually don’t think the current courses have really adapted to the changes that are happening in accounting, and it's happening pretty quickly,” he said.
“The universities need to work with our industry bodies and better match the degrees to what they think the changes are going to be in our industry going forward.”