CPA firms that embrace technology, focus on improved client services, identify and manage talent and take advantage of social media opportunities will have the best results when it comes to driving business, managing change and reaping the most financial rewards, according to the report, according to a recent industry preparedness study. —
In 2015, CPA firms bear little resemblance to traditional accounting agencies of the past. New tools and guidelines offer plenty of opportunities for financial services firms to capitalize on key trends for charting a path to future business growth. However, only 18 percent of today’s accounting firms report that they are prepared to embrace the five predominant trends that industry insiders say will have the most significant impact on the future of their businesses.
According to an accounting firm preparedness survey prepared by Wolters Kluwer CCH, the five top trends that will shape the industry over the next five years are:
A heightened focus on client services that takes advantage of available technology to automate accounting procedures, free up staff, and provide more personalized services and strategic advice to clients.
Thanks to technology, the traditional, infrequent one-on-one client service procedures have progressed to a continuous, open-ended model. Accountants who adopt ways to accomplish their work more quickly and efficiently will thrive in the coming years. The survey reports that those CPA firms that increase their focus on client services have the best odds of improving the future of their business. In addition, 76 percent of today’s accounting firms believe that technology already play or will play a major role in their ability to provide services, support, and value for new and existing clients.
Investing in proven technology now to create a smooth migration and integration to new and emerging technologies in the future should be fundamental to successful planning.
Adapting digital mobile technology to reduce capital costs and increase service and employee productivity, if not already adopted, should be a given. Consolidating data and integrating cloud-based storage and services should also be at the top of that list.
According to the report, almost 80 percent of accounting firms believe that digital mobility will play a significant role in their business over the next five years. Among those accountants surveyed, 93 percent reported that they have already adopted mobile technology or plan to in the next three years. Of those, 58 percent say they expect to experience improved client services, 55 percent expect to improve productivity, and 49 percent expect their staff to benefit from a better work-life balance with digital mobile technology. Cloud technology has already been adopted by 62 percent of the firms surveyed.
Integrating technology is also good for an accounting firm’s bottom line. The study found that firms who have already adopted digital mobile technology moves from initial client engagement to invoicing, to depositing cash in the bank in an average of 14 days, while it takes those firms operating with traditional tools an average of 24 days to complete the same cycle.
Identifying and managing talent, developing new skill sets and preparing for the retirement of senior agency leaders is considered another important trend for accounting firms to address in the next five years. With more than 60 percent of equity partners in U.S. public accounting firms over the age of 50, and 75 percent of the American Institute of CPA members eligible to retire by the year 2020, firms that remain unprepared with no formal succession plan in place will be facing an enormous talent void in just five years.
Utilizing social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and others is becoming increasingly critical for marketing a firm, finding and engaging clients online and monitoring the competition. The report found that 69 percent of accounting firms surveyed already have social media implemented as a business tool, while 28 percent say they plan to utilize social media in the future.
According to Tricia McCullough, owner of Augustedge PLLC, a full-service CPA firm in Wenatchee, Wash., adopting elements of the five trends gathered from the survey may not be enough to compete successfully over the next five years.
“CPAs need to use the associated tools available to ‘listen’ to their clients, understand their businesses and deepen their client relationships in order to achieve real success,” she says.
McCullough says her firm is launching an ambitious marketing campaign to showcase its adoption of these critical industry trends and brand itself as a full service accounting, consulting and financial advisory firm. Although she says the company has been providing more than just accounting and tax services for years, it has not done enough in the past to market all its services to existing and potential clients.
Today’s accounting firms must understand the new guidelines and trends that clearly demonstrate the kind of value they bring to the table. The days of simply hanging a sign on the door and waiting for clients to come knocking are over. Those firms who plan ahead and leverage the appropriate tools to demonstrate their value have the best chance of ending up at the top of their industry, bringing in more cash more quickly than their less prepared competitors.
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