The new breed of accountant needs to get to the heart of a business, to be able to discuss and drive strategy, to advise on operations and to revisit forecasts, to speak to client’s bank managers and other key stakeholders, writes Shelley Stock Hutter’s Stepahnie Levin
EVEN in the early stages of my accountancy career almost 15 years ago, I realised that it was going to be more than just sharpening pencils and crunching the numbers. Accountants were in a time of transition. Correct accounts and timely tax returns, although vital to tick the ‘compliance’ box and to measure performance, were no longer enough.
During my training, I encountered what I really wasn’t prepared for – client exposure and lots of it. The spreadsheets weren’t just a page of figures; these were figures that to someone, held real meaning.
Technological innovation, more accessible international opportunities, smart phones and the availability of ’24-7’ working, has now paved the way for a new breed of accountant.
For example, I work with global business owners who have plenty of number crunchers all over the world but prefer me to sit down regularly (mostly every month) to consolidate, not only the figures but their plans. We discuss and compare KPIs to understand why some areas of the business may be under performing and identify opportunities to make changes. We look at cash flow and future tax planning, talk staff strategy and cost implications.
My clients know I am available before 9am and after 5pm and they know that I care about their business. Some days I am their tax adviser, some days their counsellor. I know when their VAT is due but I also know their children’s names. I regularly meet one client to discuss profitability reports but always between the school runs. The new breed of accountant needs to get to the heart of a business, to be able to discuss and drive strategy, to advise on operations and to revisit forecasts, to speak to client’s bank managers and other key stakeholders.
With the ever growing brief of what is now expected of an accountant, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. My advice is don’t try to be an expert in everything. For example compliance regulations and tax rules are becoming ever more onerous and whilst it is important to be technically competent and to spot the issues, you’d do far better calling on other members of the team who have that particular knowledge.
Stephanie Levin is a partner at Shelley Stock Hutter