Thomson's Jon Baron: Accountants Must Stay Relevant

By Gail Perry
 
The Thomson Reuters Users' Conference is in full swing in Miami Beach and 1,200+ attending accountants are hearing a new message this year. While a technology showcase and hands-on workshops are key elements of this annual event, the central focus is on relevance, an interesting twist over the past several years when the conferences were geared toward encouraging accountants to embrace the latest changes in hardware and software. 
 
"Clients want more than compliance," said Thomson Reuters Managing Director, Professional Segment, Tax & Accounting Professional Jon Baron in his opening keynote remarks on November 11. He encouraged conference attendees to challenge core business assumptions, such as:
  • My clients aren't in the Cloud.
  • My clients love my packaging (e.g., branded folders for tax returns).
  • My clients love my professional interaction (e.g., phone calls, in-person meetings).
  • Mobile technology isn't important to my clients.
  • My chief products are compilations, reviews, audits, and tax returns.
Instead, Baron insisted that accountants need to embrace the concept that their key product is how they service their clients. "The big issue today is relevance," he explained. 
 
Baron stressed the necessity of creating always-on connections with clients and ushering in a new range of data-driven, value-added consultative services. He said that while changes in technology are massive, sweeping, permanent, and impacting consumer and client behavior in every way, these changes are creating new opportunities for practitioners who are willing to adapt.
 
He noted that recent survey results show that the average US adult accesses a smartphone 150 times a day, and 67 percent of small business owners see mobile solutions as critical to their business. While Baron didn't go quite so far as to suggest that accountants who don't embrace the latest technologies will be left in the dust, he did mention that nearly three quarters of accountants surveyed by Thomson this year still send paper tax returns to their clients, and only 11 percent are taking advantage of portal technology. Forty percent of accounting firms surveyed still don't have websites. "Are they aligned with the world of today?" Baron asked.
 
The conference attendees are listening to a bevy of speakers this week who are sharing ideas about innovation, trends, and the concept of reimagining the accounting firm. 
 
Meanwhile, Thomson is showing off its latest mobile capabilities and enhancements and demonstrating new integrations between its Workpapers CS, NetClient CS, and Source Document Processing service. "The world that you understood just a couple of years ago doesn't exist," Baron told his audience. "Our job is to provide innovative products and services to allow you to operate in today's world."

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