ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

How technology is transforming professional advisory services

Published: 10 Oct 2018 Reviewed: 06 May 2021 Update History

Exclusive content
Access to our exclusive resources is for specific groups of students and members.
As compliance services become increasingly automated, the ability to deliver well-rounded business advice to clients will become a key skill for accountants. Paul Richmond, Managing Director of the Grogroup, and Matt Flanagan, Managing Director of Bluehub, provide insights on how to become a great adviser in the digital era.

Technical specialist vs financial adviser

A great financial adviser needs to be perceived as a key strategist who supports and helps the business achieve its goals and avoid risk. In his webinar, The skills of the rounded business adviser, part of ICAEW's 2018 virtual conference on digital disruption, Paul Richmond, explained that there are several differences between a great financial adviser and a traditional technical specialist.

“Great advisers continually work on and practice their behavioural skills, are humble and driven by curiosity," he said. "Most importantly, they see themselves as business people first and accountants second.”

A technical specialist, he explained, will typically interact with a company’s finance director, the financial controller and the head of finance, focus on key projects and how they have been influenced by past events.

However, great advisers approach things differently. They cultivate relationships beyond the client’s finance team and forge meaningful connections with the company's chief executive, sales director, managing director and the board as well as external contacts who are potential sources of business insight for the client.

Top tips on how to become a great adviser:

  1. Explore ways to build more meaningful and long-lasting client relationships.
  2. Be driven by business challenges rather than solely accounting challenges.
  3. Ask perceptive questions and listen to what is being said and how it is being said.
  4. Discuss the past in the context of the future, bearing in mind your client’s overarching business strategy.
  5. Offer advice on marketplace conditions along with opportunities for future growth.
  6. Use analytics to identify new opportunities and deliver business insights to clients. 

Opportunities offered by digital transformation

Matt Flanagan, Managing Director of Bluehub, highlighted how the adviser role is becoming increasingly important in supporting clients' as they explore digital technologies. In his webinar, "Digital Accounting Systems: An overview and roadmap for adoption" he offered offered the following suggestions as to how accountants can provide advisory services to clients undergoing digital transformations.

Outline a clear process

Following a clear, easy-to-understand process can ensure that accountants are best placed to facilitate a smooth and efficient transition for clients as they adopt new technologies.

Understand client needs

Flanagan argued that accountancy firms often do not understand their client base well enough.

Understanding your client base in terms of their sectors and the type of needs that they may have is vitally important.

Matt Flanagan, Managing Director of Bluehub

This approach will ensure clients view you as proactive and in tune with their potential requirements, rather than as merely reactive to their short-term needs.

Ensure that technology is fully optimised

Advise clients on how to optimise the technologies they have already Ensure that they fully understand the latest features and how they can be used to improve efficiencies and workflow.

We see lots of issues with firms that don't optimise app features as they improve. For example, a business may adopt invoice automation tools but then might not fully utilise them as new efficiency elements are added.

Matt Flanagan, Managing Director of Bluehub

Narrow down the best options

Clients are at risk of being overwhelmed by the amount of apps available and are likely to postpone important decisions.

App overwhelm is an issue. Over 650 apps and add-ons are available to work with cloud accounting systems nowadays, compared to 350 two and a half years ago. We will probably have 1,000 by 2020 and that’s probably going to increase.

Matt Flanagan, Managing Director of Bluehub

Research the market thoroughly and narrow down recommendations to six apps that meet client requirements as much as possible.

Ensure that clients fully engage staff

It is crucial that staff are fully informed during the implementation of new technologies.

We see problems when the requirements for the new technology options are not communicated well to staff. There is no process in place for the adoption of the technologies and the staff really struggle.

Matt Flanagan, Managing Director of Bluehub

Provide clear and strategic advice to clients on how they can engage and motivate staff.

Learn more about how to become a great adviser

This content contains extracts from Paul Richmond's webinar: "The skills of a rounded business adviser" and Matt Flanagan's webinar: "Digital Accounting Systems: An overview and roadmap for adoption".

Finance in a Digital World

Make sure you're ready for the changes that digital technologies are bringing to finance functions and accountancy work. Complete eLearning, watch webinars and read bite-sized summaries on the opportunities and challenges brought by automation, artificial intelligence and big data.

Bookshelves on laptop screen

How will digital technologies impact your work?

This eLearning module explores how finance work will change in future. It helps you understand your current role and how digital technologies may change it and includes first-hand experiences of two accountants who have already seen their roles in finance change.

Find out more
Paul Richmond, Managing Director of the Grogroup
Paul Richmond Managing Director, the Grogroup

Paul is an acountant and was with KPMG for seven years before going on to focus on behavioural development. Grogroup works with a wide range of lawyers, accountants and consultants on everything from strategy to business development.

Matt Flanagan, Managing Director of Bluehub
Matt Flanagan Managing Director, Bluehub

Formerly a Project Manager at Capgemini, Matt purchased BlueHub Solutions a software development and integrations company in 2012. The firm is now a leading cloud consultancy and integrator, offering services through API development.

 About the author

Changelog Anchor