These fears were confirmed at this week’s ICAS Practice Management Conference in Loch Lomond as speakers reeled off harsh statistics of stiff competition for staff from other industries, declining student numbers and inadequate training strategies.
Gary Boomer founder of Boomer Consulting said: ‘Young people have quit coming into the profession. There has been a 20 to 25% decline in students coming into the US profession.’
AccountancyAge.com expert and consultant with the Twenty Twenty group Gordon Gilchrist, put the figure at 25% less in the UK and warned that too many accountancy graduates were joining Big Five firms.
The majority of the 40 to 45 firms gathered admitted they faced staffing problems.
And Boomer elicited an acknowledgement from the majority of delegates that were still only at the ‘brochureware’ stage with their firm?s websites.
In contrast most US practitioners now have online bookkeeping, client support systems and personalised electronic transactions.
‘Its what you don’t know that can hurt you. For those who don’t prepare it will be too late,’ Boomer warned.
His predictions were reiterated by Ian Fletcher, business consultant at Twenty Twenty.
‘Online bookkeeping is coming your way. Prepare yourselves,’ he said.
ICAS president Grenville Johnston urged practitioners to develop niche services in light of this year’s rise in the audit limit. His firm, WG Johnston and Carmichael, lost 100 audit contracts in one fail swoop when the new audit exemption rule took effect in July this year.
Gilchrist suggested the way around these problems was for firms to offer more flexibility, broaden advertising, ensure in-house communication and training staff from the bottom levels up.
‘Its horse and cart situation .Put staff first because happy staff equal happy clients,’ he said.
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