The independent research in The Practice of Now 2020 report shows that accounting is on the brink of positive disruption.
Now in its fourth year, The Practice of Now provides insight and in-depth understanding of the accounting landscape as the profession navigates the current climate, evolving client needs, and skillsets needed to move the industry forward.
More than 1,000 accountants and finance professionals across the U.S. took part in this year’s survey. New to the report this year is a second independent, qualitative survey among business owners and operators.
Key Findings in the The Practice of Now report
How accounting firms are evolving to meet client needs
Across the United States, 79% of accountants say that client expectations have expanded to include the provision of business and finance consultancy, while 86% say clients are increasingly demanding greater flexibility within their budget to access the services of most importance to their business. However, a majority of respondents believe they are well positioned to meet these demands, with 78% saying they are already confident in their ability to provide consultancy services to clients.
Accountants are exploring new ways to meet evolving client needs. Because clients are expanding their expectations and increasingly calling on accountants to provide wider business and financial consultancy, the profession is responding by upskilling in-house and hiring non-traditional specialists in order to deliver on this alternative accounting framework.
51% believe that technology skills will make the most impact in the profession in the next 5-10 years.
Technology is playing a major role in the accounting profession, but may also be creating a divide
To meet the changing needs of clients, accounting firms are turning to cutting-edge technology to provide deeper insights and minimize the time required for repetitive tasks. 43% believe the integration of technology has already made them more productive, while 40% of respondents are either currently investing in or plan to invest in predictive analytic capabilities over the next 12 months.
However, respondents from smaller firms were less likely to see themselves as early adopters of technology and less likely to be experiencing the benefits of current technology investment – signaling what could be a digital divide between smaller and medium-sized firms. To remain competitive, smaller firms must invest in technology solutions that help them keep up with client expectations.
Who the ideal accounting candidate is today
A major theme of the survey continues to be recruitment and taking advantage of the new generation entering the workforce. The survey shows that U.S. employers continue to re-imagine what the ideal accounting candidate looks like. More than half of respondents (54%) believe candidates should have financial advisory skills, while one third believe candidates should also have broader business management skills. In addition, a significant theme in hiring are the changing attitudes toward diversity and inclusion.
“If the events of 2020 have told us anything, continued action on diversity and inclusion is going to be a big issue in the future. This will not go away.” Ed Kless, senior director of partner development and strategy for Sage.
To read more insights and trends in accounting, download the full Practice of Now report today.
The Practice of Now 2020 includes the findings of independent research commissioned by Sage in December 2019 and conducted by Savanta, surveying 3,289 accountants from across the globe (US, UK, Canada, Spain, France, Australia and South Africa).