As I write this we are still no closer to a decision of the direction of Brexit, whether there will be a deal, no deal or a delay. This is of course hugely frustrating and costly for businesses, as many are planning contingencies for all options, and are concerned as to whether they will lose international opportunities.
While the level of uncertainty is of the greatest concern, as many businesses are delaying decisions, whether that is venturing into new markets, investing in new premises or equipment or hiring new people, the impact of Brexit will undoubtedly present an opportunity for the accountancy profession.
Brexit, deal or not – will require businesses to increasingly rely on their accountants to offer new advisory services and training (a new area for the industry), on changing legislation, new tax regulations and changes in VAT, for example. As most businesses main trusted advisors, accountants will be expected to advise upon the impacts of Brexit, financially for a business and from a technical perspective of compliance. As an accountant differentiating yourself is essential to get ahead of the competition. Heather Townsend and Jon Baker’s book The Go-To Expert is an excellent read to help you decide what your niche may be.
With such a major change for business occurring, this will often trigger a review of their professional services provision and whether they have the most appropriate advisors. This was evident during the last recession, as many businesses sought to find new professional advisors, either to help them to survive the recession with fresh ideas and a different perspective or as a cost cutting exercise – moving from a larger firm with higher fees and less personal service to a smaller firm where they may be deemed more valued and potentially more cost effective charges.
Accountancy professionals can provide powerful information to clients in order to help them be recession proof. Through the use of the latest management information the business can be reviewed, analysed and improved. Using forecasting and modelling prepared by their trusted advisor the business owner can take control of the uncertainties and understand the options for multiple scenarios. This consultancy service, if delivered well, can increase the success of the client’s business and will increase client loyalty.
Cash Flow Forecasting
As the management information modelling suggested above, one of the key services is cash flow forecasting. An increasing amount of applications are now available for clients to try to do this themselves. However, only with the assistance of a professional can the business truly understand the implications of the forecast and build resilient plans for the future.
Advancements in technology, such as AI and machine learning, are predicted to significantly reduce the need for human management. The ‘Brexit effect’ could deliver a potential new revenue stream, not only to help during tough economic times but to see the industry through the digital changes. Many factors are currently pushing businesses to embrace technology. Making Tax Digital (MTD), competition, high labour cost and more innovative uses of technology are all encouraging the accountancy industry to use technology at increasingly sophisticated levels. Many of the Top 100 practices already use technology to employ offshore teams for outsourcing and compliance services. This way, they can harness a variety of technology methods to decrease the amount of clerical work required for servicing their clients. Increasingly, AI-Powered invoice management systems are being implemented that use digital workflows and streamline invoice processing. Within audit many practices are using AI, and software isalready replacing some of the tasks previously undertaken by juniors within an audit.
It’s fair to say that the fear of the unknown scares businesses and accountants alike, and Brexit is certainly a very big unknown. However, accountants can use their skills, training, technology and experience effectively to guide their clients through this uncertain time. This is the time for the accountant to prove their value to the client, and establish how they can provide meaningful, value-added services. Those firms that enable their clients to survive or indeed flourish through the Brexit uncertainty will gain loyal clients that will remember your assistance during these difficult times and be great advocates.
By embracing the possibilities of advisory services, identifying opportunities of change, providing recession planning, cash flow forecasting and becoming friends with technology the accountant can provide longevity for their profession. Those that maintain the status quo will gradually find their services becoming obsolete and redundant. Taking time to plan and refocus your accountancy career journey will make it rewarding, simulating and enjoyable for you, and highly beneficial for your client.