When discussing today's accounting firm issues it's hard not to think what's old is new again, particularly discussing the challenges they are currently facing.
What I'm referring to specifically is how barely 10 years ago the same discussions around cloud technology disrupting the profession are being had today, only referring more nebulously to "change" and specifically around the term "automation." This isn't to say that firms and their clients still don't struggle with cloud, but since it has become more ubiquitous and accepted, talk as turned more to how firms are managing change and evolving their services to match the needs of clients today.
During the first day of the Practitioners Symposium and Tech + portion of the AICPA ENGAGE conference, the Institute's EVP of Firm Services Mark Koziel, CPA, put this issue front and center during a morning discussion on how firms need to consider transitioning from traditional services to those that add more value.
Again, this discussion had been raised 10 years ago related to cloud enabling more value to client accounting services and ultimately being more of a "trusted advisor" and was reiterated during his speech, but with a few additional points.
"We have been talking trusted advisor for 20 years and it’s never been more important than now, technology is here now to take you there," said Koziel. "The change management piece is that hardest one to fit in for today’s firms. Firm business models are changing and the worst fear is keeping staff and not training them."
He also stressed that education around emerging business and technology trends and how to best utilize currrent applications within the practice and with clients is what is needed most. This is especially true around traditional work, such as tax and audit which, once again thanks to technology, is impacting how CPAs need to think about their own future and the services they offer.
Koziel gave specific attention to the impact the recent tax reform and tax-related technology and services has and will have on the profession.
"With all the changes made during the latest round of tax reform, we are not going to have answers right away. As such, we are going to have to change our client relationships as the [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] it will continue to be modified and baked over the next five years," said Koziel. "What's also troubling is when it comes to tax preperation, that work is already being taken away from our profession by brokers, we need to think about doing more for our clients."
To this end, and in staying with the theme of what's old is new again, Koziel reiterated how client accounting services could be a viable option for traditional firms.
"We have seen client accounting services evolve dramatically over the past 10 years. thanks to technology. It remains a high-growth area for firms, in larger firms in particular, the average revenue from client accounting services amounts to 10 percent of their overall revenue."