First, let us say Happy New Year from the Rules of Thumb blog and MoneyThumb! In today's post, we are going to discuss what 2020 has in store for accountants. Accounting Today does an annual survey of accountants called their Year Ahead report. In the survey, Accounting Today's staff ask accountants about their plans for the next 12 months in areas ranging from tax season to staffing to marketing to technology.
You can read the results of each subject approached in the survey in detailed graphs from this report, The Year Ahead for Accounting: 2020 in Numbers. As a complement to the numbers report, Accounting Today reached out to a selection of top firm leaders to get their take on the major issues they’re expecting to face in 2020, and their advice for their fellow practitioners.
The conclusion of the interviews with top accounting leaders was that the main issues facing accountants and accounting firms in the year 2020 are technology and talent. We have listed some of the key takeaways from the interviews below:
Heidi LaMarca, CEO of an Atlanta based accounting firm, had this to say about technology as it applies to the accounting niche, "The increasing popularity of machine learning and artificial intelligence makes it easier to offload the more redundant tasks inherent in the tax and audit departments. Not only can these tools reduce the cost of production, but they can have a positive impact on the time needed to complete the work. It’s important to assess how the firm is using technology to communicate with clients before, during and after the engagement. The cornerstone of success in our business is a high level of service. Technology can help us reach that goal much faster."
Tom Barry, managing partner of Los Angeles-based accounting firm said the following when it comes to talent, "The challenges around talent will continue to be front and center. Our university system is producing fewer students who are entering the profession, and more and more people are leaving the profession. Whether it is skillset or capacity-related, talent issues will be a continued drag on growth and be an even more critical component of culture."
Avani Desai, president of Tampa, Florida-based accounting firm discusses automation and artificial intelligence in her interview. Ms. Desai says, "Automation and artificial intelligence have already established themselves, but the way it’s going, automation is going to continue to decrease the need for manual processes, and further developments in AI are going to pave the way. Overall, automation and AI will streamline both internal and external audit processes and allow more time to be spent on higher-risk areas while reducing the time spent on transactional processes."
In the interviews conducted by Accounting Today with these three powerhouses of accounting, one of the main topics they continued to come back to was talent and staffing. From the standpoint of the job market, it sounds to us like 2020 might the time for you to consider a career in accounting! With fewer students entering the accounting profession and accountants choosing other careers, that means you would have your pick of accounting firms that will be hiring. It really is turning into a seller's market.
Below is what each interviewee had to say on the subject:
Do you expect the profession’s staffing crunch will get better or worse in 2020?
Barry: Worse, as I noted earlier. However, throwing human resources at the problem will not provide a long-term solution. Firms need to innovate systems, processes, service delivery, and the overall client experience to solve the talent issue.
LaMarca: We are anticipating a tougher staffing crunch in 2020. Many accountants are making the switch to industry quicker and it is a difficult market in which to compete. We also have several niche practices that make recruiting even more difficult. I don’t think the war for talent will get better for a long time and we are going to have to figure out ways to be more creative with our hiring efforts.
Desai: I believe it is going to get worse before it gets better. Certainly, the industry seems to have painted itself into a corner more recently with no clear way forward in the short term just yet, but there are still steps that can be taken to improve the situation over time. Over the last two years, we at Schellman have begun to take a proactive approach to the talent pipeline issue. We understand that no one can hire what isn’t out there, and for us to get to the numbers we need to provide quality service to our clients, we need to also increase diversity. The only way to do that is to start increasing awareness of the accounting profession before college. Though it remains a long-term solution, as an industry, we need to make a concerted effort to promote the profession and its opportunities to school-age children.
We hope our accountant readers of the Rules of Thumb blog from MoneyThumb enjoyed the above information from the Accounting Today annual survey. We would really appreciate it if you shared this post on your social media page so that your accounting peers can read it too. And again, Happy New Year!