Visiting Accountex, the UK national Accountancy Exhibition can be quite overwhelming. More than 200 vendors, more than 5000 accountants… Then again, it’s always great to spend time with people who share your interests, so this finance addict had a ball manning the Silverfin stand for 2 days.
I made sure to also attend some of the speaking sessions, and I’d like to share my personal key takeaways with you.
1. Disruption in accountancy is not over, neither has the abominable word been banned.
I heard many people speak about disruption. “The profession is under attack, if accountants don’t take action soon, the end is near” Well, nobody actually said it in such harsh words, but still. While I do believe that technology poses great opportunities as well as some threats to the profession, I’m quite sure that we needn’t panic. Rather than worry about a sudden disruption, I find it less stressful, and also more efficient, to think about digital transformation. Sure, things are changing. Sticking our heads in the sand isn’t a good idea, but has it ever?
2. Inertia is the enemy
This brings me to my next point: the biggest problem might not be the number of threats we’re under, but inertia. We see changes, but we don’t do anything… True, technology has a bit of a bad reputation with many accountants. There is even a sentiment that accountancy firms are losing control due to technology. However, computers can never replace the advice and guidance offered by a knowledgeable accountant! And let’s face it, the endless tinkering with Excel spreadsheets, the paper filing, the cumbersome process of generating a simple P&L overview… most accountants would be quite happy to see that part of their job disappear from their daily routine.
3. The cloud has, unlike that adorable puppy in the window, not yet been fully adopted
In a sense, I was surprised that many talks were focusing on the advantages of collaborating in the cloud. Then again, we all know on-premise solutions are still widely used. Sadly, these solutions often create the need for the spreadsheet and other manual work I was referring to before. Working with cloud based solutions that facilitate working together with clients on a day-to-day basis, rather than just when a end of year report is due, could prove the best way to eliminate this inefficient way of working.
The threat that the Big Four, who are enthusiastically embracing technology, are poaching away clients from smaller financial services firms can also be countered by smaller firms if they open up to a more cloud-based way of working. Technology is readily available to companies both small and large, it can really level out the playing field between smaller and larger firms.
On the way back to Belgium I was discussing the event with Silverfin Product Manager Pieterjan Behaeghe. We came to the conclusion that the it’s a great time to be in accounting today. Digital transformation doesn’t need to hurt, it can help smaller as well as large accounting firms, and ultimately it will benefit the customers, who will get better and more data-backed advice from their accountant.