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More Than Just Number-Crunchers: How Accountants Provide Value-Added Services

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Those poor accountants. They get a bad rap.

You know the stereotypes: “boring,” “bean counters,” or “math nerds.” You may even have an image in your mind of the desk-bound pencil-pusher sitting in a dark room poring over people’s taxes.

These images are especially unattractive to the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts, who typically regard the 9-to-5 workday life as a virtual prison sentence.

However, these images could not be further from the truth. In fact, today’s accountants are far more than just number-crunchers — they’re leaders, strategists, technologists, advisors and business specialists.

The accounting industry: (p)art of the deal

Accountants speak the language of business. Businesses in every industry bring accountants to the table for their most serious strategy sessions. These discussions might focus on:

  • Developing go-to-market strategies and launch plans
  • Adopting innovative technologies
  • Expanding operations
  • Managing cash flow
  • Tackling the fast-moving marketplace
  • Complying with regulations, both domestic and international

Accounting firms are increasingly becoming part of overall strategy discussions in all companies. And as this shift occurs, there are three main value-added services that accountants are providing to their clients.

1. Becoming a part-time CFO

Companies of all sizes are realizing the value of having a dedicated Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on board. Your CFO is ideally an experienced professional who combines the qualities of leadership, strategy, and financial acuity with an approved accounting or financial designation.

In some industries, like the investment sector, having a designated CFO is mandatory. Investment firms of all sizes, even those with just 2-3 people, must have a designated CFO approved by the securities regulator.

For growing firms, employing a part-time CFO is a great option for meeting that regulatory requirement while getting an experienced financial leader on board. Large accounting firms have part-time CFO services ready for hire, but smaller groups, including specialized CFO consultancies and independent contractors, are also getting in on the part-time CFO game.

It’s a win-win for both parties. Your growing firm gets an experienced financial leader at the helm, while the accountant gets an executive assignment that could lead to consulting work on taxation, business strategy, technology, and regulatory matters.

2. Driving digital innovation strategies

Innovation and advanced technology lie at the heart of nearly every new business model. They’re also involved in every step towards greater efficiencies and competitive advantages. But these new technologies raise a lot of questions for the businesses trying to implement them:

  • What are our options?
  • What are the potential costs?
  • Can we identify the potential benefits, savings, growth opportunities, and synergies?

Professional accountants are focused on these questions and their implications. As a result, they can help their clients identify the digital innovation solutions that will benefit their businesses.

In some cases, the accounting firms are the ones driving new technology development. For instance, look at large accounting organizations. The Big Four accounting firms are at the forefront of developing blockchain technology. Together, the four firms share a distributed, highly secure network where participants can see and update information in real time.

Those firms also have analysts working on big data projects, using technology and analytics to harness the mass amounts of business and consumer information moving through cyberspace. All in all, accounting professionals who are familiar with collecting, organizing and mining data in their own practices will have seriously attractive services to offer their clients.

At the same time, the accounting practices themselves are not immune to the disruptive impact of technology. As artificial intelligence continues to impact the business world, there is even talk of robo-accountants displacing Certified Professional Accountants.

Luckily, software developers are increasingly realizing the advanced technological nature of the accounting industry and the benefits of connecting accounting software to other apps. By integrating their everyday financial programs with tools like contact management software and workflow software, accountants can create powerful technology ecosystems to help them stay ahead of the curve and better serve their clients.

3. Looking abroad: advising on global business activities

Today’s business environment is globalized. Companies have customers, employees and offices in other countries. Even small companies with 1 or 2 people are using their online presence to reach customers and team members abroad. All of those enterprises encounter similar questions:

  • What are the rules for doing business abroad?
  • What should we know about hiring people in another country?
  • How can we receive or make payments in a foreign currency?
  • How do we pay taxes?
  • Are we complying with domestic laws?

Accountants are increasingly providing advice on questions like these as part of their practice. This is because there are international rules which have the potential to impact everyone, whether you have a physical presence in that jurisdiction or not.

For example, the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), enacted in May 2018, casts an especially wide net, applying not necessarily just to activities within the EU, but rather to the personal information of EU individuals.

If your company is holding data on an EU individual, including a customer, prospect, employee or partner, then you must comply with the regulation. Has an EU individual given you their email address to download an app or a piece of content? If so, then you’re probably affected.

Smart accountants are staying focused on these global trends and ensuring that their clients properly understand the implications of doing business across borders.

Method:CRM: part of a modern accountant’s toolkit

Today’s accountants need a sophisticated toolkit in order to provide the value-added services their clients require. The good news is that technology solutions like Method:CRM are here to make your life simpler.

Method is a cloud client management system that integrates with QuickBooks. As such, the possibilities are twofold: use Method in your own practice to streamline your client relations, or implement it for a client company to help them achieve their own business goals.

Either way, having a complete picture of client and transaction activity makes it easier to tackle the challenges of the modern-day marketplace.

To see how Method:CRM can benefit you and your clients, start your free trial today.

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