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Changing Landscapes: What Do Accountants Do?

Changing Landscapes: What Do Accountants Do?

By Prime Advisory, 23 February 2023

The role of an accountant has changed significantly over the past few years—and in turn put the spotlight on the sector’s increasing importance to a diverse range of industries.

Not so long ago, there was a relatively straightforward answer to the question: what do accountants do? More recently, there’s been a major incident that impacted all our lives—a global pandemic.

The COVID-19 outbreak led to a pronounced shift in how accountants are utilised within the business world, and demonstrate the increasing extent to which they are depended upon by professionals of all persuasions.

Traditionally, the chief role of an accountant has been to assist businesses and individuals to adequately manage finances and perform tasks primarily associated with the likes of bookkeeping, taxation, and payroll.

These days there’s much more to the story, as online accounting software company Xero revealed in its 2023 State of the Industry Report.

The report, which gathered data from more than 550 accountants and bookkeepers across Australia in November 2022, revealed several eye-catching industry insights.

Significantly, it highlighted that a whopping 85% of larger accounting practices (those with more than 10 staff) indicated that some or most of their clients had shown a much greater reliance on their services and support over the past six months.

The practices indicated that they were providing increased advisory related support in areas such as Human Resources (a 38% increase), app and software set up (35%), start-up mentoring or business development (33%), and sustainability reporting (24%).

Xero Australia Country Manager, Will Buckley, said in the report there was “a move away from the traditional ways of doing things”.

“Accountants and bookkeepers are building towards a more strategic, digital, and adaptable profession,” he stated.

Accounting Firms Were Already Evolving

The COVID-19 pandemic was clearly a challenging time for a whole raft of industries. However, one upside to emerge was the forging of closer ties between accountants and business owners during a period of great uncertainty.

Tough times tend to bring people closer together. The pandemic inspired deeper conversations between accountants and clients, ultimately creating a greater level of trust between both parties.

It’s a bond that continues to be vitally important—as the Xero report’s findings indicate—because life hasn’t simply returned ‘to normal’.

There are several pandemic legacies that companies of all shapes and sizes must now contend with.

“Although the peak of COVID-19 may have passed, rising inflation and cost of living pressures—amidst ongoing local and global disruption—are presenting a whole new set of obstacles,” Buckley declared. 

“As a result, advisors aren’t waiting for the return of stability; they’re adapting—becoming stronger and more resilient at a time when uncertainty is the only sure thing.”

Despite a clear strengthening of accountant-client relationships, a global pandemic can’t take all the credit for altering the landscape. It merely accelerated a transition that was already gaining traction. 

Shifting customer behaviours, local and global market disruptors, and resource constraints were beginning to have a notable impact on businesses well before a global virus catapulted itself into the picture. 

Such factors are as relevant today as when the pandemic first took hold and reaffirm the need for businesses and accountants to forge closer relationships and work together.

They also demonstrate that the question of ‘what do accountants do?’ requires a more in-depth response than ever before.

Accounting for Small Businesses

In an earlier report, Xero referred to small businesses as “the heartbeat of the Australian economy”, citing a surge in new small business registrations. 

According to the report, registrations reached unprecedented levels in the midst of the pandemic, growing from 225,000 in 2019 to over 300,000 in 2021—a spike of 34%. 

In a rapidly developing and hyper-competitive market, tapping into the evolving expertise of accounting services is particularly important for small businesses. This support can prove critical to a range of key operational outcomes. 

Beyond the various traditional services on offer—and let’s remember they remain as vital as ever—accounting firms can assist with the likes of detailed business strategies, extensive oversight for start-ups, HR support, and cloud-based accounting and reporting. 

At the other end of the spectrum, those preparing for a new chapter in life can lean on accountants to ensure their business is ready to sell and geared up to maximise profits.

This first-hand business expertise is generally combined with a wide selection of personal accounting services—including wealth planning, employee share schemes, investment portfolios, and retirement and superannuation advice.

Expert Accounting Services

The question remains: what can an accountant do for you? Perhaps it’s time to find out. 

Speak to the experienced team at PrimeAdvisory for expert advice on a range of financial, accounting, and taxation matters—without the jargon.

Take control of your financial future today, and drop me a line at [email protected] if you’ve got any questions about what the team at Prime can do for you. Because possible starts here.


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