Walker Wayland signed its latest professional partner in February this year – software company Infotrac – meaning member firms get access to services such as sales forecasting at a concessional rate.
This partnership, the fourth for Walker Wayland, is a sign of the times. Accounting and professional services firms, particularly the big four, are increasingly opting for relationships with third-party providers over in-house development.
“Today’s environment is all about collaboration and collaborative partners,” said chair of Walker Wayland Australasia, and Power Tynan chief executive, Paul Hilton.
“We can’t do everything, and we’ve got to make life easier for ourselves. Also, we have got to be competitive with the big four. They haven’t got everything in-house anymore, the world is moving too quickly,” he said.
Given the equal access to infrastructure and human capital, Walker Wayland firms are increasingly finding themselves in competition with the big four when going out to tender, Mr Hilton said.
“We can compete against the next tier of accounting firms because the resources are available,” Mr Hilton said.
“Any business that has a turnover of up to $500 million and requires services is up for grabs. The big four are coming down into our area as well because they are trying to get more work too,” he added.
Late last year, Thomson Reuters secured partnerships with firms such as Deloitte. Strategic alliances director, APAC at Thomson Reuters, Hydar Al Ammar — a corporate tax manager at KPMG for eight years — believes big four firms are beginning to break out of their ultra-protective approach to dealing with external firms to implement new technology and drive costs down.
“What the firms are starting to see is there’s an opportunity to generate revenue by changing processes. There is no longer the perception of technology being a competitor to the traditional service lines of these firms,” he said at the time.
The catch that needs to be negotiated is ensuring ownership of data remains with the accounting firm, as clients become increasingly aware of and concerned by where their data is going.
“Particularly with products that are purely cloud-based, we need to determine who owns the data. For me, the accountant needs to own the data. Once we lose that, the service provider has complete control over what happens. That can compromise all sorts of things, including the ability to do predictive analysis with what you’ve gathered,” Mr Hilton said.