Advisory services – a key to business growth in a post COVID-19 world?
By Phil Thornton Lead Technology Product Manager for Digital, Wolters Kluwer
Your clients will be looking for two things as they face this period of change and uncertainty in the new normal. Firstly, data-rich conversations in real time that will allow them to prepare for the unknown landscape before them. Secondly, advice and insight as they navigate the compliance and lockdown incentives put in place by the government. In short, there is an appetite for your expertise.
Many of our customers have already seen that the future of the accountant may well lie in advisory. While the shift to advisory has been in place for a few years, the uncertainty brought on firstly by Brexit and then by a global lockdown has accelerated the reliance on sound guidance from accountants.
There is no one better positioned to advise your clients on how to improve profitability, prepare forecasts and build a strategic narrative.
You have the intuition, experience and resources to guide them through the changes and help them put their business in the best financial state possible. What you need to be asking yourself is do you have the tools you need to do this?
Accountants are poised for growth if they can seize the opportunities that will present themselves over the coming years. Once you embrace the role the accountant can play in the post-lockdown world you need to make sure you have the tools and technology to deliver.
Uncertainty: the catalyst to diversify your services
While digitalisation has certainly been a catalyst for this change, business growth in the face of EU-wide uncertainty will also mean an acceleration in the need for business and financial advice. It is where the accountant will come into their own, leveraging tools enhanced by technology to give real-time, data-rich advice.
2019 signaled a period of change with Brexit dominating the political and economic agenda of the EU and the UK well into 2020. This uncertainty will have had an impact on any business decisions regarding investments, exports and employment.
Brexit and the aftermath of the agreements will drive businesses to increasingly rely on the advice and expertise of their accountants. They will look to their trusted advisers to help guide them through new legislation, tax and VAT regulations, and any other outcomes that may occur.
For most of the first half of 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic spread across Europe, practices and businesses quickly adapted to the challenges. As you have navigated the impact of the global pandemic across their practice and clients, practices and businesses alike turned to technology and tools to help continue operating as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible.
In 2020 we have heard from practice customers across the UK and Europe that there has been a sharp increase in clients asking for their advice – from cash flow advice to managing the government rules around lockdown.
Becoming the partner of choice
Any major change in the business and economic landscape often triggers businesses to review their professional advisers. COVID-19 is no different. To mitigate the challenges they face, businesses might look to new advisers for fresh ideas and advice on how to survive the change. This is an opportunity for your practice to shine, both to existing clients and prospects, by providing valuable insight.
In becoming their partner of choice in these troubling times, you have the opportunity to help clients recoup any losses they may have made and, in turn, recoup any short-term losses of your own. It’s a rewarding cycle of insight and gain.
But with a reduction in the profitability of compliance services and the increase in digitalisation of practice processes, what insight or value does an accountant add? It’s what differentiates you from the software you work with - the personal consultative approach, or human touch, you bring to helping a business through tough times. The key is working with that software to provide a higher-value service.
Working with technology, not against it
Technology is changing the global economy. It is changing the fabric of accounting. Contenders for the top challenges facing accountants today include the changing expectations of individuals in the workplace, shifting social norms and values, and new types and levels of connectivity and demographics.
Still searching for time to add these new, higher value services? The move to digitalisation is the key component to making a practice more efficient. Efficiency creates time to prioritise data analysis over data entry and real-time, data-rich conversations with clients over retrospective reports and compliance-led work. In short, it allows for higher-value advisory work.
The synergy of accountant and machine can be an enabler for higher-value work, making practices more efficient, more productive, more interesting, and more meaningful. Automating routine tasks like data entry and complex calculations frees up time for your team to do more of what your clients value most – providing insight and supporting their business ambitions.
Just as uncertainty has been a catalyst for the rise in advisory services, COVID-19 has become a catalyst for investment in cloud and hosting technologies, enabling secure remote working and business analytics. The next step is to make technology work for your advisory.
Why accountants will be the answer to business growth
Businesses across the board are trying to manage complex growth and regulatory challenges and need advice and help to navigate them. Up-to-date information has never been more important for the accountant to gain better insight and remain competitive.
What’s more, the speed and quantity of data, as well as the added pressure of GDPR compliance, has necessitated the need for future-proofed systems that produce accurate data in real time.
Seeking out advice from accountants with future-proofed systems that produce real-time insights will be paramount as businesses prepare for the unknown. Business insights create actionable items that can help a business plan for different scenarios.
They will be the person business owners seek advice from on matters from compliance and cashflow to retirement planning and education. The key for accountants will be to accept the helping hand that technology provides and diversify their services to provide a higher value.
You might already be playing that role. How many “quick questions” have you answered over lockdown? Answering that quick question is when the accountant will deliver a significant amount of added value.
This moment of unconscious scope creep equals potential profit loss for you. The decision of whether to price an additional service is a conscious one, and therefore one that your practice can manage and take accountability for. It is also one that you need to be armed with the correct tools to make and, once you have, software tools can enable advisory services that clients have an appetite for.
Creating efficiency in advisory
Development at Wolters Kluwer is always driven by our focus on customer success, so we can help you when it matters most during times of uncertainty. With that in mind, we have worked to create tools that enable insight, both to your practice and to your clients in an efficient and profitable way.
In Europe, research we have done across more than 700 tax and accounting practices and 400 businesses in six European countries has helped inform development of our software solutions so that we can support our customers through rapid and fundamental change and the evolution of advisory services.
Our aim is to provide tools, products and functionality that make you more productive and that make advisory an efficient service for you to provide.
Introducing effortless financial insights
Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK has official launched finsit, its cloud-based financial insights platform to the UK . This platform will enable you to effortlessly deliver financial insights in visually appealing and effective graphics, making it easier for you to have insight-rich conversations with your clients and provide proactive advice.
This periodic reporting tool will enhance your output, provide key insights, help identify advisory opportunities within your client base, and provide clear reports and KPIs which are easy for the client to understand and interpret. With finsit you can ensure your insights not only stay relevant but become invaluable. Take the next step into a clearer financial future together with your clients. Be extraordinary.
If you want to find out more about finsit or would like to book a demo, click here.
Phil Thornton is Lead Technology Product Manager for Digital and is responsible for bringing our digitalisation strategy to market. Phil spends his time working with our customers to understand what becoming a digital practice means to them, what is happening in the market and how to build solutions that will support our customers on this journey. Phil believes that digitalisation will bring about many opportunities for the industry.