It’s time for teamwork

Will accounting become a young man’s game? There will be plenty of
experienced men – and women – out there who would say no. But the move by
unlisted companies (bar micro businesses) to IFRS for SMEs is going to highlight
a knowledge gap between newly qualifieds and trainees more conversant with
international standards, compared to those at one with UK GAAP.

ASB chairman Ian Mackintosh accepts that there will be a transition for
practices and their clients, but doesn’t really buy into the issue – despite
saying that those versed in IFRS would have a head start. But retraining staff
will be a resource-straining pain in the proverbial. There are no two ways about

It will involve taking client-facing staff away from the day job, at a time
when every penny earned is precious. Poorly planned transition projects could
even cost a firm its clients, if the move across to IFRS is badly handled.

Accountancy Age isn’t suggesting that the transition is the end of the world,
but it is more than just an opportunity for managing partners to get misty-eyed
over UK GAAP’s accounting treatment for revenue recognition.

Once you’ve wiped that tear from your eye, as UK GAAP guides are relegated to
archive material, surely it’s exciting for accountants new and not-so-new to sit
down together and really discuss a new way to account for UK businesses?

There’s little doubt that it will provoke conversations and discussions
between the rank and file and senior partners that wouldn’t have taken place
otherwise. Both parties will invariably learn a thing or two about how each
ticks, as well as a broader technical understanding.

This gives Accountancy Age the excuse to rattle on about succession planning
again, not that we need much excuse as it is the burning issue for smaller

Wouldn’t it be nice to pass the firm on to familiar hands, rather than sell
it out to strangers? Bringing the firm together on an all-encompassing project
such as new accounting standards for SMEs could reveal shining lights within
your practice, who have previously shone unnoticed. What an excellent
opportunity to reappraise the skillsets contained within the firm.

It also gives more experienced staff the chance to impress their greener
compatriots as to some of the tricks of the trade learned over the years. As one
accountant told us: “Accounting is an art, not a science. That retained
knowledge stays with you, even if the detail changes.”

And, of course, moving clients to the new format shouldn’t be presented to
them as a cost exercise, but value-added.

Help them with the technical side of things, then use the opportunity to get
back in touch with those of which you have had a compliance-focused working
relationship. Offer to give them a business process overhaul as part of the

Don’t think about this as an “us and them” situation. It is a situation for
sure, but for the whole team: “us”.

Further reading:

Youth culture: newly
qualified accountants will bear the IFRS burden

Related reading

Fiona Westwood of Smith and Williamson.