According to a recent CPA survey, only a quarter of today’s accounting firms are expecting to provide a broader services mix in the next five years.1
Yet, traditional accounting services are all predicted to be automated to some degree. Add to that the reality of changing client demands, and it becomes clear that every practice will need to hire or develop new skills to stay competitive.
Let’s take a closer look at areas with emerging demand and their related skillsets:
1. Data analysis
While providing this value-adding service won’t require you to hire a coding expert, you’ll need someone who understands where a dataset comes from, how it was designed and ways to interpret it.
Given the data types that are now available — like inventory, customer behavioural trends and marketing — firms with advanced data analytics skills can give clients a more comprehensive picture of how their business is performing.
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2. Financial planning and mortgage broking
In CPA’s survey of consumers and SMEs, almost a quarter of SMEs and more than three in 10 consumers say they’d like their accountant to offer financial planning services, while 15% of SMEs and a quarter of consumers would like mortgage broking services.2
If your accounting firm doesn’t offer these services currently, hiring staff with relevant qualifications will allow your practice to take advantage of market demand and diversify revenue base.
3. Forensic analysis of supply chains
Another emerging area of demand relates to issues in environment, social and governance (ESG).3
For example, as the concept of provenance becomes more important, businesses place greater value on the service of tracking down and authenticating processes and origins of supplies.
Similar to auditing work, forensic analysis of supply chains require critical thinking, business acumen and professional scepticism.
4. App consulting
The idea of adding app consulting to the services mix is gaining momentum overseas.4 App consulting is about helping clients streamline processes and solve everyday business problems through the cloud.
Every industry has apps that integrate with cloud accounting software, and hiring people who are knowledgeable and conversant in industry-specific apps can deliver value to clients and lift your bottom line.
App consulting is worth considering if the majority of your clients come from one or two industries.
The importance of soft skills
While traditional accounting services and related skillsets remain integral, it’s clear that firms need to upskill or hire people with different areas of expertise.
Firms should also look for “soft skills” to complement technical competence. Soft skills are particularly important as value-added services with growing demand involve provision of advice.
Soft skills include time management, being responsive to clients, as well as the ability to articulate thoughts, ideas and suggestions either orally or in writing.
They also include emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills, such as the capacity to understand client perspective and show empathy.
With all this in mind, what services and skillsets will you add to your practice to match changing client needs?
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3 “My Firm. My Future. report“, CPA Australia, 2019
4“Digitalisation of accountancy practices“, Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland, February 2020