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The Future Advisor: Predicting the future of accounting in the age of the unknown


Feb 9, 2020

In this time of unprecedented social, political and technological transformation, virtually every industry on the planet is undergoing change. Few more so, arguably, than the accounting profession.

As a result, we’re all asking ourselves (and each other) the very same question: “What does the future of the industry look like?” And while there may be no definitive answer, one thing remains abundantly clear. Now more than ever, it pays to adopt a forward-thinking approach. 

In response, this year’s The Future Advisor conference promises attendees insight into where they should be today, where the industry is headed tomorrow and the opportunities that are set to arise for those savvy enough to take them.

“Safe to say, it’s a very exciting time to be an accountant or bookkeeper right now,” acknowledges Trent Innes, Xero’s Managing Director, Australia and Asia. With Xero a proud event sponsor, he continues, “The Future Advisor stands for innovation – this is where you’ll find the industry’s thought-leaders.”

On the topic of the future, Trent adds, “Xero isn’t here to determine what the industry should and shouldn’t be. That’s better left to all of the forward-thinking accountants and bookkeepers out there. Rather, our role is to harness the power of technology to enable those experts to continue to evolve and provide a better service for their clients.”

Ahead of the March conference, we sat down with a number of speakers and key industry figures to discover their vision for what’s next. 

Sharpening skills and carving out the time for connection

Kev Ryan, host of The Future Advisor, predicts that accountants will need to broaden their skill sets and sharpen their people skills. “Accountants will soon play roles like virtual CFO and virtual general manager. And they’ll definitely be a member of their clients’ advisory boards.”

Greg Hayes, Chairman of Hayes Knight, agrees. “Accountants will need to be far more strategic than they have been in the past. The days of offering similar services to a similar client base will be over. Instead, it will all come down to working out what the right space for their practice is.”

While Rob Nixon, an authority on helping firms achieve peak performance with Profitable Partners, adds, “Accountants will need to learn how to sell, build enduring relationships and offer solid business advice.” 

All of which acts as a timely reminder that nothing is more important than people connecting with people. Always. In Rob’s words, “Accountants will remain true advisors – not button pushers. After all, the button pushing will be done by the machines.”

While we may not know what the future holds, we do know that businesses and industries will continue to evolve in the same way they always have done. And, as a result, there will always be a role for advisors. That’s why forming genuine, lasting relationships with your clients is so important. 

Sharing knowledge and bridging the skills gap

But it’s not only our clients who we should be connecting with. Indeed, as the industry hurtles towards the future, we stand to gain the most by reaching out to each other and sharing what we know – especially when it comes to intergenerational skill swapping.

Kev explains, “If you’re 50 and have this decade and more of working life ahead of you, you’re very likely to be scratching your head and wondering what’s coming next”. While, inversely, those newer to the profession are arriving with fresh insights and a tech-forward approach. But what they’re missing is decades of experience to draw from.

“We need to start seeing the 25+ crowd connecting with the industry veterans and bridging the knowledge gap together,” says Kev. “By respecting what the other has to offer everyone has a huge amount of value to add”. Together, we stand the best chance of not only keeping up, but thriving. As always, collaboration is key.

On this point, Trent agrees, “Xero’s true power lies in collaboration. Our job is to best service the technology so that accountants and bookkeepers can gain insight into what their clients need, when they need it. The challenge lies in harnessing these systems and truly engaging with them.”

One thing each of our influencers agrees upon is this: now is the time to be bold. As Greg explains, “It will be the early adopters who are set to carve out market share; providing they make the right call on the changes ahead.”

Come along to The Future Advisor, and you just might find out what those changes could be.

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