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5 ways accountants can evolve with their clients

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Artificial intelligence and advanced cloud accounting software have shifted traditional accounting responsibilities from merely managing reporting, payroll, and tax returns to becoming business and financial advisors for SMEs.

Both accounting firms and their clients want to grow, which means your role as an accountant needs to evolve as well.

Here are five ways cloud accounting and AI can help you evolve with your clients.

  1. Leverage your legislative expertise

Sharing knowledge about the world of business and finance has become a significant part of an accountant’s role.

Legislation changes often affect working practices, and your clients may be struggling to keep up. Sage research – Payroll and HR in SA: Rising to the challenges of change – indicates that 89% of payroll and HR professionals recognise the importance of staying up to date with legislation, but 30% find it difficult to do so.

This means your ability to translate complicated laws into layman’s terms will be a vital service to your clients.

As an accountant, becoming an indispensable part of your client’s company will allow your firm to build profitable long-term relationships that evolve as both your and your clients’ businesses grow.

  1. Involve the youth

According to Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, 80% of millennials and 44% of Gen Z are full-time employees. In addition, 46% of millennials and 32% of Gen Z are in senior executive, or board level roles. Essentially, millennials and Gen Z have an increased presence in the workplace, with many at the decision-making table.

The best way to build stronger relationships with your clients is to hire outside of the traditional accounting skillset and recruit younger employees who think creatively, communicate well, and have technological proficiency.

In fact, 63% of respondents to the Sage Practice of Now 2020 research are either training or planning to train in the area of client service and management, with 20% actively recruiting.

SMEs are certainly responding to this, with 93% agreeing that recruitment and resourcing will be at the heart of their growth strategies, according to our payroll research.

The more diverse your workforce, the better your business will be able to keep up with your client demands. But how do you attract the best talent? It all comes down to having a good reputation as an employer.

In the Practice of Now research, 48% of South African businesses revealed that they plan to use their reputation as a good employer to attract the best talent, while 39% said they would leverage their reputation for industry expertise.

However, millennials and Gen Zs were cut from a different cloth. These generations are generally attracted to benefits like competitive compensation, flexible and remote work, a strong company culture, and the potential for growth.

Millennials and Gen Zs are also generally more resilient to change and are a crucial asset to traditional firms that want to evolve alongside their clients.

  1. Help clients plan

If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is certain, and businesses need to prepare for just about anything.

Accountants play a vital role in helping their clients to plan and in guiding them through critical business decisions. But it doesn’t stop there.

Moving your clients’ accounting tasks into the cloud will help them stay ahead in modern business practices, save costs, and better prepare for a hybrid or remote working future.

For example, 64% of medium-sized businesses and 50% of small businesses have increased their use of HR and payroll technology in the past year.

As a result, 86% of HR and payroll professionals link the increased use of cloud technology to their organisation’s ability to operate in a remote or hybrid environment.

It’s clear from this research that if accountants want to evolve with their clients, they need to embrace technology and automation.

  1. Be tech-savvy

More than 80% of South African respondents in the Practice of Now research said they need to increase the adoption of cloud accounting technology to stay competitive.

90% of South African accountants admit that technology has forced them to change how they operate, especially if they are to keep up with constantly changing business and legislative landscapes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation bring a host of benefits to accountants and businesses alike, including automating repetitive tasks, improving accuracy and productivity, and providing key insights.

Other benefits of AI include:

  • Minimum inefficiency, maximum insight

AI and cloud accounting eliminate repetitive processes while increasing access to large amounts of data. Moreover, it provides transparency on business performance and identifies potential areas for improvement.

  • Reduced errors and fraud

As more transactions move online, the risk of fraud and human error increases. With tools like AI-enabled anti-fraud and finance management systems, cloud ERP software continuously audits accounts to detect potential breaches before they occur. This allows accountants and businesses to be proactive rather than reactive.

  • Real-time insights

AI can analyse vast quantities of data quickly, providing real-time actionable insights.

Two-thirds of South African accountants say that new technologies allow them to provide their clients with more efficient services, like responding to financial challenges before they materialise.

  • Adding more value

With automated cloud accounting software and AI becoming more advanced, accountants fear that their roles might become redundant. SAIPA executive, Professor Rashied Small, has a different perspective. He sees accountants as Chief Value Officers (CVOs) who can leverage cloud accounting software and AI to increase their clients’ agility and competitiveness in the market.

  1. Go beyond what you do best

The Practice of Now report revealed that 87% agree that clients expect better service from their accountants but don’t want to pay higher rates. In fact, 82% said that client expectations have widened to business advice over and above financial services. As such, your role may go from accountant to advisor on matters like recruitment, law, and marketing.

So, how do you evolve with your clients? Simple.

By evolving with the world.

Cloud technology, Gen Z, and expanding services are all part of the new age. Evolving with the world means evolving your professional capacity which, in turn, will help you grow with your clients.

White paper: Small businesses and accountants are ready to try again

We surveyed 1,947 South African small businesses – the majority of which offer accounting and bookkeeping services – to find out how they’re coping in the new world of work. We were curious to know what they’re doing to strengthen their defences against the next disruption and how optimistic they are about the future – and we were pleasantly surprised.

Download the white paper

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