Tomorrow’s Practice is about making change work for chartered accountants and their clients. It’s driven by a recognition that the market for practitioners has been altered radically by higher audit thresholds, regulation, technology and more intense competition.
What should accountancy practices come to look like in the next few years? What services will clients want? We’ve engaged across the breadth of the profession and heard first hand from clients, and businesses who are experiencing - and innovatively responding - to the challenge. We will use the invaluable insights from this work to help shape and develop our support for practices going forwards. Businesses face strong pressures too and change is creating a yearning for counsel they can trust. 48% regard their accountant as their most trusted business adviser - only 6% thought the same of their bank, 3% of their lawyer. Our professional inheritance gives us a great advantage; adaptation and innovation will allow us to capitalise on it.
The catch is that businesses often see us as more about providing reactive (‘doing the books and tax returns’) rather than proactive support. They regard many practices as more concerned with offering individual services rather than holistic, imaginative advice and support.
They want advisers who understand them and their business, - ambitions as well as finances - who proactively identify paths to success. And there’s a clear demand from time-starved executives for one stop advice shops.
Professional training has already given us the skills to analyse a firm and facilitate its growth. The key is to recognise that individual services can be sold as a result of providing - and billing for – business advice. We must be client led rather than product led.
And change is delivering positives too. Technology expands the reach and depth of services, allowing practices to focus on higher-value client needs. The once forbidden territory of legal services has been opened to the profession. Regulation has created new markets in pensions and auditing.
Many practises are already client led and moving into fields such as whole of life wealth management, financial services, corporate finance and cyber security. They’re embracing technology, together with project and relationship management skills.
But whatever services are on offer it’s advice, grounded in real understanding of clients’ needs, which will be the key differentiator between successful and less successful practices.