Mr Hayes, director of Hayes Knight, notes that while a majority of firms today have “grown up on a diet of compliance”, a raft of changes in the industry has led to a decision-making process that impacts the future of their business, with business advisory services an attractive option.
“In accounting, you can either play the breadth game or the depth game,” said Mr Hayes.
Accounting firms who focus on the breadth of their service offering are not the ultimate specialists in terms of complex issues, but deliver a broad range of services for their client, and can rely on referral arrangements to assist with specialised situations, he said.
“Where the accounting model is taking us is that there’s more need to be in the depth space, because a lot of those things that you might have been able to deliver in the breadth area, technology is effectively creating efficiencies or perhaps taking them away altogether.
“That means you need to deepen your skills,” Mr Hayes said.
If accountants are contemplating the push to business advisory, he said, they must first acknowledge the demographic of their client base in order to ascertain the most suitable service offering.
“Typically, the bulk of an accountant’s client base is 10 years plus or minus the age of the practitioner. If I’m a practitioner, say 55 years of age, I should be thinking about things like succession planning, estate planning and SMSF advice, because I’ve got an aging client base that has got an appetite for that space,” he said.
“If I’m a 35-year-old practitioner, my client base is going to be between 40 and 50, and I probably do have some fast-growth entrepreneurs amongst them who are looking for services to expand their business and manage their analytics.
“I do get nervous when people say that you can throw a blanket over accountants. Obviously there’s a lot that firms can do, but you’ve got to understand your demographic,” Mr Hayes said.