Money Matters

[eBook] How accountants can keep pace in a virtual world

The accounting profession has evolved rapidly over the past few years as more and more companies grew their online presence and adopted cloud technologies. This allowed accountants to work flexibly, remotely, or virtually, transforming how accounting services are offered and bringing numerous opportunities and benefits for businesses and accountants alike.

In this eBook, we explore how the profession has evolved from one of number-crunchers to business and financial consultants.

Highlights include:

Trends driving the accounting evolution

Technological advancements have changed the way modern accounting is done as online resources and tools lead the way to increased productivity and organisation. Manual accounting is becoming obsolete as businesses adopt cloud-based software for efficiency, accuracy, and security purposes. Accountants of the future are tech-savvy and comfortable using mobile accounting technology to serve their clients.

Increased competition means accountants must stay competitive on the service offering and fee fronts, but they often compete with larger firms for quality staff and clients. Competition from other industries is also escalating as they introduce services that can replace traditional accounting services. The extent to which accountants can differentiate themselves will determine how successful they are in the long run.

Changing client expectations are being driven by the automation of accounting functions, which has lowered the value of traditional services. Accountants who wish to stay relevant have had to adopt the latest technology and differentiate their offerings by offering high-value consultative and specialised services in addition to business essentials.

Unpacking the role of the virtual accountant

A virtual accountant is an accountant that fulfils all the same roles that an in-house accountant would, but instead of being office-bound, they work remotely and virtually.

Virtual accountants monitor the health of their clients’ businesses using the latest cloud technology.

They are typically contracted into a company on a part-time, contract, or ad hoc basis. Due to their remote nature, virtual accountants must be on top of their communications game, which means they must be fully versed in all digital communication tools and apps.

More small businesses are using virtual accountants because:

  • Owners are too busy or overwhelmed by the day-to-day running of the business to focus on accounting matters.
  • They lack in-house or full-time skills to handle tasks such as creating budgets, highlighting market trends, raising capital, and drawing up financial forecasts.
  • Strategic advice offered by accountants based on real-time financial information can help small businesses through the early stages and ensure they have the capital to support growth.
  • They can invest in expert accounting services for a fraction of the cost of a traditional accountant or hire accountants on an ad hoc basis to help them overcome a specific challenge, e.g., cash flow issues, low gross margins, high expenses, legacy systems, cost-cutting, and navigating an audit.
  • They can help them interpret data from AI-powered financial management tools and turn it into meaningful action.

Benefits of hiring a virtual accountant

Virtual accounting has numerous benefits, particularly for small businesses that want to manage their financial records effectively and require expert analysis of their company’s economic position.

Benefits include:

  • The ability to take advantage of automation software and technology while receiving the best service at an affordable cost.
  • Better financial control through improved profitability, financial reporting, and a strategic financial direction to inform their decision-making.
  • Optimising work time so that business owners can concentrate on other essential business tasks.
  • Time and cost savings through remote access and cloud accounting software.
  • Convenience and flexibility with all documents available online, allowing remote, hybrid, and full-time employees to work on the same projects, accounting records, or reports worldwide.
  • Improved security and improved compliance with ever-changing tax and labour laws and regulations.

How to start a virtual accounting practice

To become a virtual accountant, some fundamental changes are required.

These include:

  • A shift to the cloud and investment in digital solutions.
  • Enhanced communication skills and feedback processes to nurture client relationships and meet their changing needs.
  • A shift away from process-driven to value-added services including data-backed services, providing advisory and consulting services, and helping your clients get to where they need to go.
  • Bundling services so clients can see what services you offer, which ones they need, and which ones they should be adding.
  • Having clear terms of service to establish and manage expectations around what you do and do not offer.

Challenges when implementing virtual accounting services

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model when it comes to virtual accounting. Different companies will have different needs, which will require various services and levels of support.

Some businesses lack effective financial reporting systems to integrate with the virtual accountant’s own. While having the most up-to-date tech isn’t essential, manual reporting practices will not benefit from virtual finance services.

Scoping challenges can prove tricky, and the inability to effectively manage the scope of work can have detrimental effects.

The eBook also covers:

  • Commonly outsourced virtual accountant services,
  • Tips for networking and thriving in a virtual world, and
  • Virtual accounting best practices, including embracing technology, establishing a routine, being authentic and transparent, understanding different communication styles, and virtual meeting etiquette.

[Ebook] The rise of the virtual accountant and what it means for the finance profession

Discover how the accounting profession has evolved from one of number-crunchers to business and financial consultants.

Download the eBook