Last year was a curveball no one anticipated. Firms had to pivot their business models to accommodate remote working and digital innovations, and accountants suddenly needed to answer questions they didn’t know the answer to.
As the accounting professional continually evolves, essential skills for accountants develop with it. Today, accountants must be capable of more than crunching numbers, completing expense sheets and depreciating fixed assets.
In this guide, we investigate what skills are needed for accounting professionals looking to thrive in the future of finance. We also look at how accounting firms can alter their business models and help their team transition into the new business climate.
Continue reading to learn how to prepare your team for the future of accounting.
While traditional accounting knowledge is still crucial, there are a number of hard and soft skills needed for accounting professionals to succeed in the future.
As the world becomes more digitalised, digital skills are vital for accountants and accounting firms to survive and thrive in the new business climate. As technologies evolve and innovations come to market, some technical knowledge and skills will increase in value while others will decrease. But your team should possess at least a basic understanding of accounting software and the ability to quickly pick up new procedures as needed.
There is no escaping the importance of cultivating emotional intelligence. Professional accountants of the future must demonstrate the ability to combine their technical expertise with softer skills regarding interpersonal behaviours and qualities. Emotional intelligence helps your team members work efficiently with others, approach complex situations with empathy, and understand their colleagues and clients’ strengths and weaknesses.
If the last year showed us anything, it’s that adaptability and flexibility are crucial for your team and business to survive when times are difficult. As companies try to define and operationalise their next ‘new normal’, accounting professionals need the ability to pivot and roll with change.
While finance professionals needed the ability to adapt even before the pandemic, technological change like blockchain and artificial intelligence tools such as Chatbots, are key drivers for new trends, procedures and client requirements within finance and accounting.
Preparing your team and accounting firm for the future is no easy task, especially in the current ever-changing business environment. Below are some ways your firm can prepare for the future:
Think Beyond the Numbers
The surprises of 2020 made accounting businesses stumble into a different playing field. With remote working, new Government schemes (furlough schemes remaining a constant question mark), tax changes and geopolitical issues like the Brexit trade agreements between the UK and EU, clients desperately need guidance. Your firm needs to shift focus away from crunching the numbers to also provide clients with strategic business advice that helps them navigate the post-virus world.
Update Your Accounting Processes
Start the new fiscal year by reviewing your firm’s internal processes to identify areas to improve in order to help your team manage their tasks better, and ultimately grow the business. Perhaps you need a stronger online presence, or maybe you need to update your system to keep up with new workloads?
Sit down with your team (virtually, for now) and discuss what went well the past year and where you need to make changes. Taking a deep-dive into the inner workings of the organisation is crucial to identify gaps you need to fill in order to take your accounting firm into the future.
Consider investing in software solutions that improve the accounting team’s day-to-day workload management and help them achieve better work-life balance. Utilise technology such as cloud-based tools or AI to automate the repetitive manual work, leaving the team to focus on high-value tasks like nurturing client relationships.
Create a Digital Transformation Strategy
Having a digital transformation strategy is crucial for every accounting firm looking to do well in the future. With technologies like AI, blockchain and cloud computing disrupting the finance industry, planning your digital strategy is crucial to stay ahead of the curve.
Bear in mind that digital transformation is not a one-size-fits-all solution and involves more than implementing digital tools. Think about your firm’s needs and which digital trends will benefit your most, then set aside budget and time to implement them.
Upskill Your Existing Team Members
Implementing new technologies requires your accounting team to possess the right skills to manage them. Taking the time to upskill personnel is crucial to avoid a drop in productivity as the firm transitions to new procedures.
Additionally, establishing an internal training program is an excellent way to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing to close any skills gaps within the team. Personal development plans also boost morale by making team members feel valued at the firm.
Offer Support and Guidance
To thrive in the future of accounting, firms must meet the evolving needs of finance professionals and an increasingly broad range of non-financial stakeholders inside and outside the business. Accounting professionals will need support to successfully compliment their solid technical skills with essential communication capabilities that many still lack.
Accountants and their clients will need continuous guidance as they attempt to navigate new waters. Firms must be equipped to offer support to their team accounting team, so they can, in turn, support their clients in the best way.
Move Into the Future of Accounting with INAA
Do you need help future-proofing your accounting firm to take your business to a new level?
Here at INAA, we connect accounting firms who aim to deliver quality professional services around a shared vision to make global business personal, and take personal business global. With every industry change, our collaborative association of international businesses is committed to being a part of the conversation around auditing and accounting.
Join today to start building powerful business relationships.