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‘Accountancy speed’ top priority for SMEs, but advisers wary of ‘robotisation’

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THE TOP PRIORITY for SMEs from their accountants is speed – but even advisers using tech to be efficient are wary of ‘robotisation’.

The survey of 2,500 SMEs and accountants, carried out by business software provider Exact, revealed that UK SMEs are twice as happy with their tech-savvy accountants, and the number of online accountants has tripled since 2015.

It revealed the number one demand from clients is speed, and so accountants have recognised IT and software knowledge as the most pressing area for improvement for their profession (37%), ahead of core accounting knowledge (33%) and communication skills (30%).

Gavin Fell, general manager of Exact, said: “Rising demand for information ‘now’ combined with advances in new technology mean that accounting is increasingly seen as a commodity. Accountants that can keep the pace providing real-time and in-depth business insight for clients, have the best chance.”

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The survey revealed that 67% of accountants highlighted better integration of admin software as a crucial focus area, as well as replacing paper forms with online forms (62%), and improving home/mobile access (43%). There has been a drop in ‘spreadsheet accounting’ from 25% in 2015 to 20% this year, and the number of UK SME customers that are entering their data online, are slowly on the rise from 10% last year to 16% this year.

Less than half, 40%, think that ‘robotisation’ is overhyped, and yet 23% believe that highly-automated competitors pose a very real threat. When it comes to their SME customers, only 10% would trust a robot to do their accounting.

The number of accountants using one integrated end-to-end software solution for back and front office administration close to double from 22% last year to 42% this year. The impact of this has been a reduction in admin time, integration of business processes and improvement of flexibility.

In the UK, 45% of accountants now use online solutions for administration, the second highest level of digital uptake in Europe, behind the Netherlands (60%).

The 2016 ‘SME Barometer Research’, commissioned by Exact surveyed professionals across Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US.

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