Clients offer insight into Intuit’s Future of Accounting Report

After my post earlier in the month on Intuit’s 2020 Accounting Report, I sought the insight of our accountant and bookkeeper clients to see if what the report predicted, jived with how our clients saw their industry. Here is what they clarified for me:

Trend One: Outsourcing accounting functions such as data entry and bookkeeping

For me, outsourcing accounting functions to other countries such as India didn’t make sense. I thought perhaps since I don’t delve deeply into the accounting world that I just wasn’t seeing the big picture. But according to our clients, outsourcing doesn’t make much sense to them either.

Fifty percent of respondents thought there would be no benefit to outsourcing accounting functions. For the rest of the respondents, they felt the only benefit that they could see would be to lower labor costs, but that a greater need for quality review would be required, negating the cost benefit.

I suspect that the accounting firms that will likely go to outsourcing in the future are large accounting firms and not small to medium sized firms that are more prevalent in America.

Trend Two: Globalization of accounting firms

Globalization appears to be no closer to reality among our clients than outsourcing accounting functions to India was. None of our clients who responded believed that their businesses would be going global anytime in the near future, primarily because of how local their businesses operate currently. Most oil and gas accounting clients that responded operate locally, within a few counties or states, with a small percentage of clients that operate across the country in multiple states.

One client who runs an accounting consulting business currently, said as part of his business, he does help come up with business plans that expand globally – which shows me it could be possible, just not as likely as Intuit may believe.

Trend Three: Accountants take on more of a consulting role, handle easy tasks less

My panel of clients seemed to be split down the middle regarding this trend predicted by Intuit. For those that responded based on their own personal businesses and local area, they did not see this happening anytime soon. The majority of the clients that they work for believe in “old-school” type accounting where if you are an accountant, you do the tax returns and data-entry, if you are a receptionist, you answer the phone, etc.

For the clients who responded based on how they saw the accounting field changing, not necessarily just their office – they definitely saw this happening and saw it happening now in some cases.

“Data entry will eventually go away as we perfect Internet based methods to download information instead of re-entering,” says Holly, an accountant in Ohio. “Bookkeeping always needs an overseer to make sure it is set up correctly and working as intended. I see an analysis role in this area that should not go away. Good consulting is necessary, but the daily oversight by a human with accounting skills is also imperative to avoid meaningless data.”

Kimberly, a bookkeeper from Ohio had this insight into why she already saw this happening in her area. “Full blown accountants are ALREADY and have been just consultants for a while now,” she said. “All of my clients use their accountants four times a year to check my work and to do their taxes. Bookkeepers like myself are mini accountants. We are doing most of the work and we keep learning how to make ourselves more valuable by learning how to do more of the things that the accountant used to do. A well rounded bookkeeper who thinks like an accountant is a powerful person to have on your team.”

Along those same lines, Teri, an accountant in Texas, suggested that yes, why wouldn’t accountants who have gone through the rigors of getting a college, masters and even higher degree in accounting want to handle something more complex and interesting in the future than simple tax returns and data-entry?

Trend Four: Baby-boomers vs. Generation X

I posed this question to our clients and received responses that humored me greatly: How do your client expectations differ between say baby boomers and younger generation clients in their mid-20s to early 30s?

About half of the respondents don’t deal with younger generation clients currently, so they couldn’t give a response. For the rest – hang on to your teeth, my generation is in for a smack-down.

Generically speaking, respondents believe that the younger generation clients want more technological solutions to their accounting needs, are more open to change and want to be able to handle everything online. They also believed that their younger generation clients are more creative and interested in the details of their finances.

On the flip side, my respondents also thought that younger generation clients want to get rich now and not invest in the future; are interested in the details and may challenge the accountant more, but are less apt to see the big picture; and that they tend to hurry in everything they do.

While I don’t necessarily disagree with the respondents’ assessment of my generation, it still made me laugh to see how we’re often viewed by the older generations. It will be interesting to see how my generation’s “attitudes” affect business plans and models in the future.

Trend Five: Social media takes on more importance as word-of-mouth and traditional advertising fades away

The final trend I questioned our clients on was the importance of social media in their field and if it would take on more prominence in the future. Nearly all respondents didn’t see social media as a trend that would catch on quickly – and primarily because social media is not something that is important in the oil and gas or accounting industries.

With so much personal data and financials involved in both oil and gas and the accounting industry, the majority of clients didn’t see using this tool other than perhaps for some marketing as useful.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with our clients?


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