SMEs shun accountants despite their positive impact, research shows
Only in one in 20 business owners named their accountant as their most trusted business adviser, despite accountants having the most positive business impact on SMEs.
According to the September 2019 SME Growth Index, based on an interview with over 1,000 Australian businesses, accountants are losing ground when it comes to SMEs nominating their most trusted business adviser.
The latest research conducted by banking analysts East & Partners, on behalf of Scottish Pacific, showed that SMEs are readily turning to their business colleagues for advice (40.7 per cent), followed by trading partners or suppliers (22.2 per cent).
Advisers with specific expertise, including accountants (5.7 per cent) and brokers (4.1 per cent), rank behind friends (8.6 per cent) and family members (7 per cent).
Scottish Pacific CEO Peter Langham said the results should be a call to action for the accounting profession, because accountants have so much to offer business owners when it comes to expert advice, strategic input and education about funding options.
“In 2015 and again in 2017, almost 10 per cent of SMEs named their accountant as most trusted adviser. It is concerning that this has almost halved,” Mr Langham said.
“Accountants could and should play an important role in strengthening Australia’s SME sector. This goes way beyond ‘number-crunching’ and is more about helping clients understand the many ways they can fund a business and getting them ‘finance fit’ so their applications are more likely to be approved.”
However, the research still indicated that accountants made the most positive impact on businesses, with 82.9 per cent of those who nominated accountants revealing they had helped the business, compared to 68.8 per cent for family members, 58.8 per cent for business colleagues and 27.1 per cent for friends.
Mr Langham judged that there needs to be an attitude shift among SMEs towards seeing accountants as a business investment rather than a cost point, but he added that accountants too need to become more proactive in helping set their clients on the right path.
“We’d encourage accountants and brokers to make SMEs’ lives easier by having more regular meaningful conversations – the more you engage with clients, the more they see you as a trusted source,” Mr Langham said.