Larry Stroud – Wake up. Time to change

The business environment created by the euro presents new opportunities to accountancy firms. The firms that benefit will be those that can adapt, and adapt fast.

For the accountancy profession, the advent of a single European currency will be a catalyst for change on a grand scale. That is because most businesses stand to lose or gain once the euro goes live on New Year’s Day and few will be unaffected over the long term.

As these businesses become more focused on European expansion – a move facilitated rather than created by the euro – accountancy firms will have to develop their own practices to meet those new needs.

Accountants will have to acquire new skills and become more mobile. They may need to learn new languages as well as appreciate the differing approaches to business and, of course, accountancy practice.

This is turn will have wide-ranging implications for human resource issues.

The UK firms best placed to take advantage of euro business opportunities may also be best placed to attract the finest graduates in Europe.

As well as acquiring the right skills and people, accountancy firms need to be able to offer a wide range of cross-border services to keep pace with client needs. While this may not be a major issue for the small high-street practitioner, it could become a serious problem for medium-sized firms that are unable or unwilling to adapt quickly.

It will not be enough simply to have services available. Unless clients are aware of the quality and consistency in service, they are likely to seek advice from someone else.

For UK accountancy firms, that raises the issue of marketing on a pan-European basis. This could be a significant challenge for many firms because some clients may not accept that their services are consistent across Europe.

The profession has adapted well to change in the past. The difference with the single currency is that change will be faster and more wide-ranging than ever before. If you think you will not be affected because the UK is not joining just yet, it may already be too late.

Larry Stroud is a partner at Mazars Neville Russell

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