Toronto, ON – August 25, 2020 — Sage (FTSE:SGE), the market leader for cloud business management solutions, today released the fourth annual Practice of Now report. The worldwide survey of 3,298 accountants and bookkeepers found that the industry is on the brink of disruption, with new technologies driving improved client service, greater efficiencies, and other positive changes across the sector.
Moreover, 83% of accountants globally, agree that the emergence of new technologies and a culture of digitalization mean they have had to invest more, and quickly, to stay current in the market. From a regional perspective, the survey also found that 29% of Canadian accountants and bookkeepers believe that Canadian firms have kept pace with their U.S. counterparts in adapting to the cultural shift in the industry.
“More than ever, Canadian businesses are looking to their accountants and bookkeepers as trusted and strategic partners who need to be agile and well equipped to respond to the rapid changes around them. In fact, the current economic climate has positioned the accounting sector front and centre to increasingly perform a more advisory role to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This year’s report emphasizes the evolving role of the accountant while also highlighting the need for technological investment and training,” said Nancy Tichbon, EVP and Managing Director, Sage Canada.
Canadian accountants and bookkeepers call for standardized training in industry
The report’s findings indicate a call to action for standard training and development across the Canadian accounting industry, which would help accountants and bookkeepers become more informed about the latest solutions and therefore better equipped to meet changing client expectations.
The regional data suggests that professionals agree:
49% of accountants and bookkeepers in Canada feel that it is important to have a standard training program to which all firms must adhere.
- 25% of Canadian accountants and bookkeepers agree there should be some level of training offered to them on the latest technologies.
- 42% of Canadian respondents believe the responsibility of driving adequate training initiatives should rest with employers, with industry associations (25%) and technology providers (19%) following closely behind.
- However, 26% believe that training on the latest technologies is not necessary for Gen Z or Millennial accountants who are already familiar and skilled in this area.
Formalized training not only helps the industry stay up to date with new technologies, it unlocks unique opportunities to offer training and implementation services to clients – a new revenue stream for accountants. In this instance, training and the onboarding of solutions can be built into a firm’s value-based pricing.
Expectations in the accounting industry continue to climb
The report found that 47% of Canadian accountants and bookkeepers are aware of how the latest technologies can improve efficiencies in their practice, representing a 15% increase from the previous report. This jump could indicate a variety of factors, including self-education on topics and tools for improving their business, exposure to materials from solution providers, membership in professional associations and industry publications, or, client demand and volume driving the need for solutions.
Time-saving technology such as cloud-based accounting solutions and receipt capturing applications have helped drive efficiencies in Canadian accounting firms. The benefits include a reduction in the amount of time spent on data entry tasks and the ease of enabling a client to access account information once they have migrated to the cloud. Advanced technologies are key to bringing additional value to clients by saving time and energy, as well as producing more accurate data to act upon. With these tasks no longer consuming billable hours, accountants and bookkeepers can add to or reposition the services they offer.
In fact, diversified service offerings beyond traditional accounting and bookkeeping is no longer “nice-to-have” but a growing client expectation. Globally, 82% of respondents agree that accounting and bookkeeping duties have widened to include services such as advising on relevant finance and accounting technologies, while 73% are confident providing technology implementation and recommendations beyond accounting and finance, such as automation, robotic process automation, or timekeeping software.
Additional worldwide findings revealed:
54% of accountants and bookkeepers are providing their clients with faster service thanks to technology.
- 43% of accountants and bookkeepers believe improvements in client service and satisfaction are positively impacting their business.
- Just 4% said technology costs more than it saves, while only 6% do not believe automation can help with any business tasks at their firm.
Yet, with a global consensus about the importance of digital transformation in accounting and bookkeeping, and despite 47% of Canadian accountants and bookkeepers being aware of how the latest technologies can improve efficiencies in their practice, the Practice of Now report revealed that 59% of Canadian respondents believe firms have been relatively slow to adapt.
The perception is largely generational; for example, 38% of respondents aged 25 – 34, which represents a millennial audience characterized as ‘digital natives,’ believe that Canada is trailing behind U.S. bookkeepers and accountants in adapting to and implementing the latest technologies. Among accountants and bookkeepers with between one to five years’ practice experience, 33% believe Canadian firms have been slower to adapt, while only 19% of those with more than 30 years’ experience agree with this sentiment.
The Practice of Now 2020 report includes the findings of independent research commissioned by Sage and conducted by Savanta, surveying 3,298 accountants from across the globe (U.S., U.K., Canada, Spain, France, Australia and South Africa) in December 2019.
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