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Mandy was recently invited to ICAEW’s Birmingham roundtable event, and was asked to discuss the future of the accountancy profession along with other leading chartered accountants in the region.

Generally, practitioners were in agreement that accountancy practices were still regarded as a “one-stop shop” for trusted advice; whether its business solutions, financial planning, or even sometimes guidance on other services connected to us through our clients. Across the board, it was unanimously agreed that building good relationships with strong levels of trust was paramount to the profession’s continued success.

Whilst there are no doubt competitive challenges ahead, the ICAEW members believed our trusted advisor status has been strengthened through clients’ mistrust in other providers in recent years.  The collapse of leading law firms and banking institutions has seen clients turning more and more to their accountants. As a result, there was plenty of enthusiasm and optimism for the profession moving forward.

The idea of expanding and including more services inevitably brought the topic of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) to the table.  A number of the larger accountancy firms have already taken the decision to expand into other services, such as law, town planning and surveying.  Whilst there was naturally some concern about spreading ourselves too thinly, the ABS option for accountancy firms was seen as an exciting, if a bit scary, development for our profession.

There was some debate about whether the traditional partnership structure for chartered firms has had its day, and whether firms should be limited companies.  Personally, we think it’s wrong to generalise and believe there needs to be more focus on the marketplace the firms are operating in, and then choose the right structure for the market they’re serving.

We’re seeing more interest in the need for international advice, following the globalisation of clients’ businesses.  Many firms, including us, feel there’s a gap here in the skillset of the practices – we must be able to deliver the best advice to our clients.  Currently, we provide as much help as we can by signposting clients to international firms, and we’d welcome more support and guidance from the ICAEW on this important topic for the future.

Discussion led us onto the technological advancements in our profession and the expectations of new employees and clients alike in this “on-demand” world we now find ourselves in.  Many firms struggle to keep up with the changing landscape and the corresponding investment in technology and training.  With the increase in user-friendly accounts packages, and business owners becoming more self-sufficient, we believe that smaller firms may struggle to retain their place in the compliance market.  We’d like to see ICAEW supporting these firms, whether that’s through business advisory training or by encouraging further training in specialist areas.

It’s an interesting time for the profession.  We expect to see a lot of change, both through the creation of ABS firms and also the merger of other practices looking to streamline. We’d like to open up this discussion, so why not give us your feedback and ideas on the sort of additional services you’d like to see from your accountant in the future.

Here’s the ICAEW’s link if you’d like more information on the topics discussed.