Are you ready to deliver added value financial services in 2018?

By Alan Gregory | 12th April 2018 | 8 min read

The nature of the relationship between the accountants and their clients has and continues to evolve. From the technology to processes used and the way we think about business growth means there is every opportunity to play for. And it’s not just the approach to value added services that could make 2018 a significant year.

The optimism among small and medium enterprises is positive as the CBI has recently reported. Its 2018 SME research found “that optimism levels are high, with 57 per cent of UK respondents feeling optimistic about the global economy over the next 12 months, compared to just 14 per cent going into 2017.”

Alongside the positive economic outlook, the fundamental shift in service provision is now evident in the accountancy sector. We are seeing the emergence of an industry reposition: from compliance provision to business advisory services.

However, the shift from compliance to business consultancy isn’t easy. We are all busy. So where does the accountant start? The foundations to the business are there; a client base, solid compliance work and good relationships, so how does the business need to change to serve the next generation of clients?

Like travel agents, accounts production will always be needed. But the travel agency world has changed beyond recognition over the past ten years. The days of the high street travel agent are almost gone; we no longer need to sit on uncomfortable, brightly coloured seats, straining to hear the latest deals above the general hubbub of family discussions. The travel industry has transformed to one of online bookings, comparison sites and an efficient customer journey that has evolved to provide suggestions that takes us to a variety of new destinations.

Much as a similar shift is being embraced by many accountancy practices, there are still many reticent to change. Do they know how to meet client expectations?  Is it easier to carry on with core compliance services because “that’s what we’ve always done”?

Although these concerns are justified there are ways to alleviate fears and move to place financial consultancy at the heart of business advisory. From my discussions with industry partners, the first step is a change in mindset. As Simon Morrison of Murrison & Wilson explains, “Take half an hour each day to think about strategy. I’ve learnt that if you do anything for 18 days in a row it will become habit.”

From many conversations with IRIS accountants, I have learnt much about their approaches, changes in business strategy and what’s needed to support their business. Many are taking time to talk to their clients about the company vision and business plans which creates opportunities to add value in client relationships. It can also uncover new ways of working such as moving to fixed fee services which is often viewed as good commercial sense for the client, as well as the accountancy professional.

I’ve seen practices embrace robust customer relationship management tools that link in with practice management software enabling accountants to work closer and more intuitively with their clients through integration.

Much as it’s easier to talk about these steps rather than taking them, those that have done so are passionate about the benefits, including a renewed enthusiasm for new accountants to join a practice as they see it as “an opportunity to bring about much-needed change to a traditionally-minded industry.”

Amid the concerns, there is a real community spirit, accountants are creating tools to expand their services. Several practices I know that have embraced new business models are now sharing experiences and educating others.

There is an opportunity to add value. It just needs a change in mindset, some insightful client conversations and the tools to become more effective and productive. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing.”