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#AAYP 2013: Soft skills will be a necessity to being competitive

IN THE LAST FEW YEARS social media has taken the world by storm and I think this is only going to increase. The speed of change with technology has already affected the accountancy profession and, undoubtedly, this will only continue.

The way we communicate with clients, how we fulfil our training requirements (internally and those of our clients), the quality of records we receive, the technological complexities of some small companies, the way we process and probably most importantly how we advise our clients are all changing. Whether we like it or not, the true role of the accountant is being catapulted away from its traditional stereotype.

The term accountant should, in my opinion, be interchangeable with business adviser. It can sometimes be cliché but we want and increasingly need to be our clients ‘trusted business adviser’.

The typical ‘bag of records’ is already a thing of the past for many of our clients. We have seen a large increase in the need for our bookkeeping resource which is encouraging to see. This also helps hugely when we are preparing the year-end financial statements.

However, the key to the future of the accountancy profession, I believe, is increasingly more about adding value. In the last few years we could add value by converting a bag of records into a profit and loss and balance sheet. Now, in order to provide value, we will and, arguably, must continue to add value by advising our clients more predominantly on their structure and their long-term objectives from both a work and personal perspective. This, I believe, will become the norm.

Accountancy training will also have to adjust to reflect these changes. The much loved phrase of ‘soft skills’ will no longer be the exception but a necessity to being competitive in the market. The typical accountant will need to be a different type of person to fulfil the role of the ‘trusted business adviser’. Currently the profession is moulded around individuals that process and review accounts. I believe that in the future the people that accountancy firms will be looking to recruit will need to be dynamic and innovative, and crucially have great communication skills.

Let’s be clear, this is an exciting time for the accountancy profession. This isn’t a threat, but a fantastic opportunity.

Kirsty Pettit, is a senior manager at Price Bailey. She joined the firm in 2003 as a graduate trainee and qualified as a chartered accountant in 2005

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