Accountants challenged by growth: report

Less than one in five accountants or 19 per cent are happy with their practice’s client retention and growth rates, a major decline from 41 per cent last year, according to a new study.

The Bstar “Accountants Research Report 2017/18” details that the sharp decline in accountants’ overall view of their growth and retention can be attributed to a range of factors, including competition from big data companies, the rapid pace of digital change and the need to broaden their advisory services in order to stay relevant.

In addition, 50 per cent of respondents believe there are major barriers to overcome in achieving growth in their practice, identified as capacity and time constraints.

The report also found accountants have maintained their strong client relationships, with 90 per cent of respondents believing they are their clients’ most trusted adviser, while 78 per cent said they have a sufficient relationship and product trust to engage their clients for advisory services.

It said growth from targeting existing clients for new services was a key means to achieving organic growth, with 71 per cent of respondents revealing they had converted compliance clients to advisory clients.

Furthermore, 50 per cent had segmented their client base to find advisory opportunities and one in four practices were actively asking for referrals on a regular basis.

BT Financial Group (BTFG) national partnerships manager Meaghan Victor said the need for growth was an overwhelming theme in this year’s report.

“Accountants want to spend more time on delivering advice to their clients and less time on data entry and report generation,” Victor noted.

“They want to increase their capacity and are looking to technology to increase productivity.

“We recently launched BT Panorama, which offers accountants access to a flexible solution and includes real-time client investment activity, SMSF establishment, over 2400 investment options and two-way data feeds with BGL Simple Fund 360 and Class.

“Accountants always own their client relationships [on BT Panorama] and can tailor their choices to suit their business model and their clients’ needs.”

She added the Bstar report was unique in that it did not just highlight the issues in the industry, but provided insights from leading accounting practices and business ideas that accountants are able to implement today, such as segmenting the client base or attracting referrals.

In the hunt for growth, accountants’ first aim was to achieve organic growth in their practice by retaining existing “ideal” clients and upgrading their relationship from trusted adviser to “essential adviser”, she said.

“The efficient use of technology to deliver services was a strong theme – understanding technology, using it to increase productivity and the continuing need to adapt to new technology was emphasised by a number of respondents,” she said.

“Sixty-three per cent of respondents are already using technology to improve efficiency.”

The Bstar report national briefing series, hosted by BTFG, was held around the country last week.

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