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Digital push only a threat to 'dinosaurs'

Accountants risk losing the “dramatic impact” they have on their clients if they resist the wave of technology that could boost their practice’s efficiency and productivity, as valuable clients increasingly shift their expectations and their technology set-ups. 

Digital push only a threat to 'dinosaurs'
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Digital disruption is often framed as a threat to the accounting industry, with traditional backbones of accounting practices, such as compliance work, increasingly becoming the work of software and automated systems.

However, delegates at the IPA’s National Congress in Melbourne, Australia this week are being told that those who embrace the opportunities that technology can provide will ultimately see bottom line benefits in their practices.

Those who don’t, however, risk losing clients to their tech-savvy counterparts, who are updating their systems to work in line with the expectations of current-day clients and integrating with the platforms and software that those clients are fast migrating towards.

IPA chief executive Andrew Conway, for one, said those accountants who choose to embrace new technology will reap the rewards of a more efficient practice and service delivery for clients.

He also sent a stern warning to those resisting change, that there is simply “no escaping technology or its ongoing advancement.”

“Big data and digitisation is only a threat to dinosaurs who reject change,” Mr Conway said.

"Technology is at the very heart of efficiency and productivity, which are two key elements your small business clients need for their survival, growth and prosperity,” he added. "You cannot cower from technology. Instead you need to embrace it.”

Also speaking at the National Congress, Reckon’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Sam Allert, was optimistic about the significant role of accountants in the advice community, particularly for their small business clients, despite the perceived threats such as the automation of bookkeeping and compliance-centred work.

“It is my honest belief that there has never been a better time to be an accountant,” Mr Allert said.

Mr Allert said since his early days at Reckon, where he’s been for 18 years, accountants have been constantly searching for more efficient processes for back office systems, so they could spend more time adding “real value” to their client service.

With accountants still holding the mantle of the “trusted adviser” to their clients, Mr Allert said the advantages of modern technology combined with the already central role accountants play in their clients’ lives creates “significant” opportunity for savvy practitioners.

Mr Allert particularly stressed the significant role accountants play in the lives of small business owners, which is sentiment that Mr Conway echoed on several occasions throughout the National Congress.

He similarly pointed to the strong reputation accountants have with the SME community, and noted that research persistently indicates that accountants are, the vast majority of the time, the first port of call for Australians who are seeking advice.

“Public accountants have a dramatic impact on the lives of their small business clients,” said Mr Conway. “The impact goes well beyond accounting services and income returns and BAS statements.”

“Your knowledge is your commodity. Its value depends on how current your knowledge is. The positive impact of your client knowing you are looking after them comes from the knowledge you impart to them; the quality of advice that alleviates their concerns, their fears, that gives them hope and aspiration for growth,” he added.

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