Accountants avoiding action “at own peril”

A figure stands before an artwork in which a small fish is about to be eaten by a large fish.

Accountants are seeing technology changes as threats rather than opportunities.

The advent of new technologies and further automation is set to be a huge challenge for most industries and professionals, yet accountants are failing to embrace the change as an opportunity.

“I’m still of the view that not enough accountants are taking action and failing to act is like standing still,” BGL managing director Ron Lesh said during the company’s recent Regtech17 conference in Sydney.

“Traditional practices are struggling to maintain profits and keep clients – you guys know what your profits are and where your clients are, but some are running an accounting practice today like you were running an accounting practice 10 years ago.

“Change is an opportunity, not a threat, but unfortunately accountants are conservative and they see things as threats and not necessarily an opportunity.

“Accountants who do not embrace the changes, I think, do so at their own peril.”

According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, released last year, 86 per cent of the accounting work done today can be automated.

“Just think about how much of your daily work could be [automated] – we’re not that far away,” Lesh said.

“Almost every day we’re experiencing or exposed to new technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice [technologies], and software continues to eat away at what we’re doing.

“So what are you doing to make your business stand out, how are you using technology to better service your clients, and how are you building business technology into your business DNA?

“How is it part of every single thing that you’re doing with your clients, because this is the future and this is where we’re heading.”

He said he believed the take-up of automation was increasing, however, there needed to be a shift away from tax and compliance to advice.

“We’re seeing more and more instances of clients going to their mate who recommends a different accounting software and the accountant hasn’t suggested it, but in the end the client has gone elsewhere because the accountant didn’t keep up with that client’s needs,” he noted.

“In this digital future, we’re living in exponential times.

“There is no doubt about that and this fear of change is enormous.”

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