CLIENTS increasingly want their accountants to specialise in vertical markets, yet the majority of firms are far from being ready to meet this requirement, according to delegates at a recent online accounting conference.
Speaking at the National Accountancy Day conference in Utrecht last week, Frank van der Wouden, managing director at Twinfield, said that entrepreneurial clients "will expect no less" than for accountancy practitioners to specialise in their chosen market segment.
According to a straw poll of delegates at the event, 88% said they believed that specialising in vertical markets is important to their SME clients. Worryingly, 57% of those attending felt their organisation is unable to support a vertical strategy that can meet the requirements of their clients.
To be able to do so, argued van der Wouden, firms need to get a handle on their client data. "All the data that goes through the system has potential value. Data on its own doesn't mean anything, you have to turn it in to management information," he said.
In an interview with Accountancy Age at the conference, Nancy McKinstry, CEO and chairman of Wolters Kluwer, the company that acquired Twinfield in 2011, suggested that online accounting software can solidify accountants' "role as advisers of how to make businesses better".
"It gets them much smarter about an industry through analytics...to see what is going on using industry benchmarks," she said. "Clearly, the accountants that most benefit will be early adopters."
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