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Tech as important as accountancy … for accountants

SKILLS IN TECHNOLOGY will be of vital important for accountants in the future, with the inexorable rise of digitisation.

Four out of five (83%) accountants believe that understanding technology is as important to their job as understanding accountancy, according to a survey of 2,000 accounting professionals and SMEs by Xero.

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Habits have changed since the arrival of cloud accounting tools, leading many professionals to consider data analysis and management consultancy as key service offerings they should provide. A broadening of skillsets seems a vital strategy: 59% of the SMEs surveyed said they didn’t think they would need an accountant at all, in ten years’ time.

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Gary Turner, managing director at Xero, said: “Moving to digital is inevitable, no industry is impervious to change, and the message has stayed the same. ‘Accountants and technology’ is not a new subject, and technology is now the front and centre of accountancy.”

Half (48%) of accounting professionals are taking internal courses and 26% are taking external courses to adapt to new tech, with some swotting up on business intelligence. A third of small business owners cited ‘technology competency’ as the most important skill in a business adviser. Some 71% of accountants consider automation to be crucial to their success over the next five years.

“As we head into a prolonged period of technological change in the next five years it’s encouraging that many accountants see being tech savvy as a key survival skill,” added Turner.

A further 60% of professionals are confident that they can adapt to change, but 22% feel it will be so great that they might need to leave the sector.

Paul Bulpitt, head of accounting at Xero, said: “It’s an expectation for people to do everything online, that has been the major shift in the past four to five years.”

Additionally, almost half, 43%, believe risk analysis will be required for success beyond 2025, and 27% for management consultancy. However, the report highlighted that most accountants are failing to invest time in education for them and their staff to adapt to new technologies.

Turner continued: “The survey suggested that the profession needs to work harder on investing in emerging technologies, and in more effectively persuading SMBs that a close working relationship with a financial professional which will be important in years to come.”

The skills small business owners consider to be most important in a business adviser are trust (55%), attention to detail (47%) and technical competence (31%).

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