Accountants have been helping their clients navigate the pandemic. But, based on recent insights, what clients want from their accountants is changing.
Remote working, new software and upcoming changes in accounting legislation mean clients want a more hands-on approach to accounting and are looking for accountants who can master digital working and give reliable, accessible advice. So, how can accountants match these needs?
An Unbiased study recently found that nearly 8 in 10 small and medium-sized businesses made use of some kind of government support to navigate the pandemic – and accountants were at the forefront of it all. Whether it was claiming furlough, deferring income tax, or applying for bounce back business loans, accountants have been helping their clients battle through the financial difficulties of the pandemic.
But whereas once businesses may have simply handed-off their paperwork to their accountants and thought little of it again, today, this relationship has changed. New Unbiased insights are showing that client demands in response to the pandemic aren’t just a short-term trend – they’re becoming permanent.
What clients want from their accountants has changed, and you need to be aware of the changing environment you’re working in if you want to be the perfect accountant for your clients.
Clients expect you to be more than just your role. Over the last 18 months, many businesses have been pivoting – some permanently – towards virtual and remote working, and they expect the same of their clients.
Not only are your digital skills expected to be up to scratch, but smaller and medium-sized businesses are also looking to their accountants to play a more active role in the organisation.
The advice you give to your clients needs to be personalised, accurate and, often, proactive. With businesses swamped in administrative paperwork, many of your clients will be looking to you to take the accounting pressure off while your advice remains just as accessible, personalised and time-saving as ever.
Based on new Unbiased insights, here are four key expectations that your clients want from you.
To say that clients expect their accountants to be time-savers may sound obvious, but this has been reinforced over the last few months. While business owners have been stretching their businesses to keep the lights on, it would have been almost impossible for them to also keep on top of the legalities of schemes like furlough.
When it comes to taking the accounting pressure off your clients, you’ll need to spot potential bumps in the road, forecast their impact, and communicate these future challenges in the right way. Through effective planning and accurate reporting, you will be able to simplify your client’s financials significantly.
Digital software is one of the best ways of simplifying your client’s services. Not only can the right tools help you update financial information accurately, but you will also be able to do it instantly. Business owners are looking to be more involved in the company’s finances, and the right tools can help you do this without long and repetitive email chains.
Many businesses have trialled and perfected new ways of working remotely; your clients will expect you to be just as digitally confident as they are. Using cloud-based software is one of the most in-demand skills you will need to master. Cloud technology allows you to update information and make sure it is accessible to all key individuals instantly and remotely. This avoids unnecessary and repetitive communications and helps to streamline a business’ internal processes. For this reason, digital mastery is a key skill to have and one that many new clients are looking for.
As an accountant, you will be one of the more financially confident people in a business. Some small and medium-sized business will be looking to you to play a mentoring and tutoring role within the organisation.
The more prepared you are to go beyond your role, the better. The accounting world can be complex and difficult to understand for many employees, making you the first point of call for enquiries and business guidance. The more accessible you are in these instances, the better your relationship with your clients is likely to be.
Being pro-active in this regard is also a plus. You’ll know your clients’ accounting specifics better than anyone, so you know many of the challenges they may face in the future. Can you pre-emptively raise awareness or give guidance? Are you able to digest future changes in the accounting or legal environment? Can you provide guidance in an understandable way? Your clients need you to be accessible to a wide variety of stakeholders, and this is another way in which your client’s expectations may have changed.
Your clients will now need you to be familiar with one of the biggest changes in accounting law: Making Tax Digital (MTD). This initiative is designed to help many businesses move towards digital tax receipts and will concern businesses with a taxable turnover above certain thresholds. It will apply to VAT, income tax and corporation tax at different yearly intervals.
As this initiative means that businesses will need to migrate towards digital and cloud-based accounting practices from 2022, now is the right time to familiarise both yourself and your clients with MTD. It’s important to know how clients will need to respond to this legislation going forward. You’ll also need to be on hand to guide your clients through changes for MTD to explain how new processes and requirements will affect the business.
What clients expect of their accountants is changing. With new tools promising new ways of working for individuals and businesses alike, accountants will be expected to match their clients’ capabilities at capitalising on new developments.
When you’re looking to generate the right leads for your accountancy expertise, the Unbiased directory is on hand. You can also use it to explore which skills clients are asking for, helping you adapt to the needs of future clients.