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Year Ahead Q&A: CBW’s Peter Winter sees value creation in audit

In what way has the shift to online, cloud & mobile platforms changed the nature of client relationships & how is your firm adapting to disruptive technology trends?

It’s true that the world is constantly changing in this respect so this is – and will continue to be – an ongoing challenge. The impact of new technology will hopefully improve the quality of basic accounting records and make it possible for us to provide more advisory services to clients rather than having to focus on correcting poor accounting data.

Advances in technology are also bringing with them a new generation of entrepreneurs and business owners who are demanding a more collaborative approach with greater access to on-line tools and communications than has historically been provided by traditional annual compliance accounting and tax
services.

It’s our job to respond to these changes in market trends and adapt accordingly – something that I believe  CBW has been proactively addressing in recent years through the promotion of a series of on-line platforms  that clearly demonstrated that the firm is taking a very positive approach to embracing advances in  technology.

How do you view the growing legal service market for accountancy firms, & what is your firms approach to undertaking multi-disciplinary work?

CBW has no immediate plans to enter the legal services market, preferring instead to continue nurturing  the positive relationships we currently enjoy with the legal profession. We derive a significant volume of work from lawyer referrals and see no reason to change the status quo.

How will the reorganisation at HMRC – including the closure of 137 offices to be replaced with regional centres – and moves to digitally transform the tax administration affect your firm & clients?

My colleague, Robert Maas, has spoken at length about these changes, which the government has labelled as a means to improving service levels. But, as Robert has pointed out, it’s difficult to determine who will  reap the benefits. From our perspective, CBW believes that the changes can only result in a deterioration in
service levels for agents.

On the other hand, we see the digitalisation of returns as an opportunity. It will mean that the compliance  work we currently perform will become increasingly more review and consultancy oriented, allowing our  teams more time to advise on tax planning generally.

To what extent has regulatory changes to the large-listed & smaller company audit markets changed your firms approach to undertaking audit work?

Changes to the smaller company audit market will necessarily involve further specialisation and skills focus within the audit team, which will have an impact on the training and development of auditors and the experience we can offer them within the firm.

Clients are bound to feel the impact as well, possibly losing sight of any value that they may previously have obtained from the audit process as legislation and accounting standards become more onerous. This could be an issue going forwards, but it also presents us with a number of potential opportunities; firstly, although fees may rise, there is an opportunity to reintroduce value into the audit process as we become more focused on clients’ needs.

Further, for those clients who will naturally fall out of the audit requirement as the changes bite, we will be able to focus on offering more value added consultancy services. And finally, there is an opportunity to attract new clients to CBW, particularly from smaller firms who may be forced by the changes to give up their audit registrations.

Which areas will be most important to the growth of your practice in 2016?

Tax advisory, wealth management and international new business will be the three most important growth markets for CBW in 2016.

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