The world of accounting has undergone a number of substantial evolutions in recent decades. While change is inevitable, it can be said that some evolutions have stemmed from accounting professionals ‘falling asleep at the wheel’ and failing to be proactive when necessary. The rise of financial planning as a new, sought-after and viable profession in the late 1980s is one example.
During that time, I was studying accounting and sensed the emergence of the ‘advice market’. That’s when I seized the opportunity to upskill myself, moving from crunching client data to turning that data into actionable client advice.
Financial planning, in its professional form, didn’t exist yet. The insurance industry was quite well established, and with the growth of the superannuation industry, came the birth of the advice industry. This is where I believe the accountancy profession dropped the ball.
Accountants play an important role in preparing and checking the financials of a business. They have always had a trusted relationship with clients and were looked to for advice. But in my experience, accountants tend to be rearwards looking and compliance-driven. They knew the business numbers too well and were stopping at simply preparing and checking them. They didn’t go further.
Financial planning came about because accountants missed the opportunities to offer the advice their clients were looking for. Through smart marketing and sales techniques, pioneering financial advisors were able to help carve out the legislation and regulations of the industry. With it now being a requirement to hold a qualification to give financial advice, accountants who have not upskilled are unfortunately being locked out and left behind.
The initial attraction to me for becoming a financial advisor, was being able to work directly with clients and their problems. They were problems that, with the advantage of my accounting degree, I could help solve through financial planning.
I have since discovered that business owners, regardless of their company’s size, are also looking for financial advice, but this time at a business level.
For the last 10 years, I have been coaching, mentoring and assisting businesses to get clear on strategies for improving their day-to-day functionality. Through this work, I have witnessed the creation of a whole new profession in business advice which accountants are, again, not able to meet the demand for.
I believe you can choose to ignore the disruption, bridge the disruption or be the disruption. I know many accountants are time-poor and don’t currently have the skills required to meet their client’s business advice needs.
But as the industry continues to flourish, now is the time for accountants to be proactive in seeking out those who can help teach or provide the skills they are lacking. They need to engage specialist skills, either through collaboration with an established business planning firm, or the hiring of new, appropriately skilled employees, to make sure they bridge the disruption.
Accountants who choose to ignore the emergence of the business advice industry run the risk of being left behind by automation and clients who require more. However, for those who choose to gain a competitive advantage by incorporating professional business advice strategies into their client offerings, the future is rich with opportunity. Let’s talk.