Sage North America, a of business management software and services to small and midsized businesses, has announced the findings from their Sage Accountancy Index (a survey from The Sage Group plc1). The survey found that accountants in the U.S. are shifting their approach to business beyond traditional accounting to become the most trusted financial advisors for their clients. Sage surveyed more than 1,200 accountants throughout the world, including 264 in the U.S.
The majority of accountants (62 percent) are expanding their range of expertise into new disciplines including business mentoring, start-up advice and payroll services. Sixty percent anticipate their firms will grow in the next year, and 37 percent plan to grow their businesses by increasing customer loyalty, followed by increasing their services portfolio (28 percent).
“I know that becoming more of a trusted advisor will help my clients make quicker, better business decisions, but it won’t happen overnight; it’s a journey,” said Shayna Chapman, CITP.CPA, CGMA, Shaynaco LLC. “In order to realize this level of proactive guidance, I’ve started offering services outside of ‘traditional’ accounting such as real-time data analysis facilitated by Sage View. This real-time exchange of data with clients helps me reach out proactively when something needs to be handled and lets me do tax planning throughout the year with every financial move we make versus just a few times a year.”
Adoption of new technology is slow
One-third of accountants say the main business challenge they face working with clients is collecting documents on time. Only 10 percent leverage online or cloud solutions to collaborate and share accounting information with clients, and 58 percent most often work with their clients face-to-face and with physical documents.
Currently 51 percent of accountants do not have anytime, anywhere access to view, exchange or update client accounting information, and only 20 percent of firms have these capabilities. Yet more than half of accountants are adopting online and mobile technologies for themselves and their staff (56 percent). Only one in nine have no immediate plans to move to online technologies.
Shifting roles means opportunities for growth
Accountants attending the Sleeter Group’s Solutions14 conference last month echoed the findings of the Sage Accountancy Index and provided additional insight into accountants’ shifting role. In conversations with more than 100 accountants, proactive business advice, technology consulting and business mentoring were identified as the top three new areas in which businesses need and are open to help from an accountant. These accountants are also moving to offer new services beyond traditional accounting. The top new services they are implementing or currently offer include proactive business advice (86 percent), real-time data interpretation (77 percent) and payroll services (77 percent).
“Small and midsized businesses crave more contact with their accountant and don’t just want tax and compliance help,” said Jennifer Warawa, vice president and general manager, Sage Accountant Solutions. “SMBs want help figuring out where they should spend less money, how they should revamp their business plan and what other companies in their industry are doing. Accountants must transform their business model to become more valuable trusted advisors, but they also need to adopt cloud technology that empowers them with the knowledge to make proactive, real-time suggestions for client success.”
Additional resources for readers:
- Infographic: U.S. accountants embrace advisory role with clients
- Summary report: 2014 Sage Accountancy Index—U.S. findings
- Full report: 2014 Sage Accountancy Index—global findings
Disclosure regarding scope of Survey:
1 - As part of the global 2014 Sage Accountancy Index, Sage interviewed 1,260 accountants at Sage customer businesses in eight countries between July 29 and September 30, 2014. In the U.S., specifically, Sage surveyed 264 accountants during the same time period. (Sage will provide this data upon request.)