In a recent article in De Tijd bearing the title Digitale hulpjes bedreigen kmo-boekhouder (in Dutch only), Emmanuel Vanbrussel expresses his concerns about accountants employed by small businesses being at risk of becoming obsolete now that an increasing number of digital services are automating the invoice-management systems used by many SMEs.
As the CEO of Silverfin and an accountant myself, I am seeing numerous changes in this sector. However, I am not afraid that accountancy and bookkeeping firms will become obsolete.
In this, I share the opinion of Jürgen Ingels, who in this same article answers the question of whether the end of the accounting profession is imminent: “(...) No, but the profession of accountant will undergo some radical changes, leaning more and more towards the provision of specialist advice. Nowadays, accountants are still spending more time on the compilation of accounts than on their analysis. This process will reverse in the future. Everything considered to be ‘low-level input’ will be abolished. As soon as financial data is entered, this information will flow from the invoice directly to the databanks in real-time, from where it will automatically be incorporated into profit and loss statements and the balance sheets.”
(Fintech investor Jürgen Ingels in De Tijd)
There is, without a doubt, a revolution on the horizon, fuelled by changed customer expectations, on the one hand, and an ongoing wave of technical advances on the other.
Many bookkeepers and accountants are concerned about this technological advancement. Most tools offer solutions for automating and simplifying data input. As soon as accountants begin to understand that their fundamental value for entrepreneurs does not depend on this, their concerns will be alleviated.
Managers and financial officers in small and large enterprises simply want their bookkeeping to run smoothly, and it makes little difference to them if this happens through a scan solution carried out at their own office or manual input work performed by an accountant. Of course, once they see the difference in cost price, they may be more inclined to opt for automation. However, all they really want is advice and good service.
This brings me to changing customer expectations; something that accountancy and bookkeeping firms need to be fully aware of.
Internet and the explosive growth of mobile apps has fundamentally changed the way in which people enter into contact with businesses, and therefore also with their accountancy firm. We all want to be served instantly through user-friendly technology, whether we use this to arrange a meeting with friends via Messenger or to draw up a financing proposal for a loan from the bank.
This is precisely where the opportunity lies for accountants and bookkeepers to embrace technology and use it to their competitive advantage. Accountants who are open to the myriad of technology-based solutions used by their clients, and prepared to meet the demand for increased transparency and fast communication, will be ready to face the future with confidence.