Have you been following the AccountingWEB online debate, Accountancy - Shape up or Ship out?
Want to know who thinks what, among us ordinary accountants, not to mention a few movers and shakers? Well if you do, and you haven't already been party to the debate, here's a quick whistlestop tour of the salient points.
It all started at the end of February when AccountingWEB posed as its question of the week Accountancy - Shape up or Ship out?. The gist was to counsel member opinion as to whether accountants need to be more innovative, looking forward to a future as business consultants. Or, for those with a longstanding reliance on compliance, to ship out of the accountancy profession, as their traditional compliance base is eroded and they're burdened with an ever-increasing regulatory load.
The response was weighty, with great headlines ranging from 'fat and happy' to 'dozy accountants' and some fab quotes from 'text book silly rules not overrided by commonsense' to the accusation that 'accountants ...... have neither the skill nor the imagination to act as anything other than glorified book keepers'. Ouch!!
But in the end the debate did polarise around proactivity and 'whole business' understanding being essential for quality client service vs a perceived reluctance from clients who just won't pay for anything over and above compliance. Judith Paine of SP Consultancy says 'tax advisors should work hand in glove with their clients - not once a year - an on-going service - being there on call as and when required - and without the client fearing that 5 minute call is going to cost dearly'.
And on the importance of having an understanding of the whole business, contributors went on to make the case for a more rounded skillset to equip accountants with, among other things, more commercial skills to support their client.
And my contribution? Well I brought in the anecdotal evidence of visitor statistics to www.theaccountantscoach.com. I am finding that I have a disproportionate (very welcome) number of visits from our CPA colleagues across the pond. Somewhere along the line the CPAs have decided that holistic development is vital to their profession. They can't get enough of the softer skills development in the States, from mind mapping and skills transference to self coaching and life auditing.
Which then took us to phase 2. Last week, AccountingWEB followed up by running a full feature length article Accountancy - Shape up or Ship out. And the topic widened. Have beancounting accountants (sic) become ring-fenced by their own reliance on compliance? Is UK training adequate? Do accountants need to become more innovative? Are UK accountants lagging behind their US counterparts? Phew! These were the questions that AccountingWEB put to its members. Add to the pot a return to the 'qualified vs unqualified accountant' debate. This follows in the wake of Nigel Lynn's report that continuing skill shortages in the accountancy and finance market mean that the right experience is becoming more important than the level of qualification. And as a result, has been a huge upturn in the percentage of very well paid unqualified and, “qualified by experience” accountants.
Did the skin and hair fly? Well not really. This time it was a more sedate affair with measured responses from Peter Druckman (ex ICAEW president) making the case for qualification and UK training. Judith Paine flying the flag for the 'qualifieds by experience' (watch out for her forthcoming article in AccountingWEB on the 'failing of accountants'). And Nicola Ross Martin, AccountingWEB's own tax editor, warning us against generalising, but emphasising the importance of up to date CPD, both technically and on the practical skill side.
On the subject of innovation vs reliance on compliance, the 2020 Group feels that many firms are picking up the challenge and offering some outstanding value added services. There is an acknowledgement that some had become ring-fenced by compliance but are waking up to this and really starting to do something about it.
And yes they did interview me, so of course I got my oar in too. On the subject of SMEs reluctance to invest beyond compliance, I go with fundamental marketing wisdom, that something must be done to improve the value proposition. If they don't buy its because we're not successfully communicating value. And I also surmise that this may be where CPAs have an edge; with their maturer holistic skillset they're simply better placed on the selling side. But in the UK, the times they are achanging. Recent revamps in CPD guidance, in line with IFAC standards, affect all of us, UK accountants. The current CPD regime provides a great opportunity to widen the accountants' skillset to truly meet the needs of the practicalities of doing the job. For a more detail on this, have a look at my article, CPD - Banish the Fear).
The scope of these questions was huge. And we didn't even get started on strategic alliances with other professionals! While it was great to ignite the touch paper I do feel the debate has hardly got going. There's a full blown article in every single one of these issues. Choose between:
Qualified vs unqualified, CPAs vs UK accountants, adequacy of UK accountancy training, compliance vs value added, innovation in the UK accountancy profession, what do clients really want?
Let's pick up the baton. Which one do you want to hear more about? Let me know by replying to this post or emailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read the full article, including my comments by clicking this link Accountancy - Shape up or Ship out
PS If you are not already subscribed, then I would highly recommend the AccountingWEB as a premier online information source, already used by 90,000 accountants in business and practice.
Although updated daily, I particularly like the AccountingWEB's free weekly newswires. You can choose between Tax, IT, Practice Management or general accountancy and business news. To view the latest newswires click here. Or you can plug into specialist expertise and knowledge through the Any Answers page.
To subscribe go straight to the home page of AccountingWEB