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The Drivers Behind Accounting's Cultural Change

June 27th, 2019

Sage report on future of accounting

A cultural shift is underway in the accounting profession, driven by market demands, digitalization and the influx of younger workers who have expectations toward work different from a firm's more senior members.

A recently released survey of 3,000 accounting professionals from North America, Europe and Australia examines the changes in accountancy and the underlying reasons for them. Writing in the foreward of the report sponsored by the accounting software provider Sage, EVP Jennifer Warawa summarizes the results as providing "evidence of the continuing shift from a transactional profession to one focused on partnership and consultancy."

While the surveyed accountants offer multiple reasons for the change, 90% "of accountants worldwide believe there has been a cultural shift in accountancy." Whether driven by market demands (21%), regulations (16%), generational changes (13%), digitalization (15%) or some other effect, by 2030 the practice will be very different from what it was just a few years ago.

The Practice of Now 2019 report provides a look at the accounting office of the future:

  • No manual data entry: Data will flow automatically from clients and their bank accounts into accountants’ systems. Manually keying in data will become rare as legislation, such as the digitization of tax, forcing businesses to change.
  • Real-time relationships: The relationship between accountants and their clients will be nearly instantaneous. The accountant will have a real-time view of their clients’ businesses and be able to interact with clients in real-time. The accountant will be a trusted partner or perhaps even a constantly present companion.
  • Proactive alerts and notifications: Accountants will instantly know when situations are changing for a client. For example, the accountant is alerted when their client suddenly incurs a lot of bad debt resulting from a large order placed by a client’s customer with a poor credit score.
  • Pre-emptive problem solving: Accountants’ time will be spent proactively looking at business problems and seeing errors before they manifest themselves into year-end error corrections.
  • Higher fees but better value: Accountants will charge more to clients than they do today because of their increased value due to their advisory services. Fees might not grow by that much, of course, but accountants will be able to monetize better.

The report, which includes a special section just on the U.S., concludes with this assurance: "If there is one certainty, it's that the next decade will see a high degree of transformation. The role of the accountant will change, with the ultimate beneficiaries being the clients they serve."

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