Brave New World: The future of accountancy, according to Townends

There’s no doubt that the last decade has been a time of dramatic change and refocus for many, not least for the accountancy industry. With the rapid evolution of technology and introduction of sophisticated software which supports technical capabilities, what will the future of accounting be and what steps are firms taking to futureproof their businesses?
Partner Adrian Carroll has spent his entire career at Townends and has been heavily involved in transitioning the business through ongoing change. Here, he shares his experience of rapid change in the industry and how he believes the Townends Philosophy approach will complement the inevitable further technological advancements in the future.
The last decade has revolutionised the basic tools available to accountants and encouraged accountancy firms to look beyond what are considered to be traditional services.
We are continually stepping into uncharted territories and the day will come when the face of accountancy is unrecognisable and heavily reliant on artificial intelligence and even more so on technology and software. Long gone are the days when how quickly and accurately an accountant could record financial transactions was the basis for a successful career.
Technology is already reducing the amount of technical accounting skills required and producing financial information will continue to get much easier. If accountancy firms don’t move forward with the times, their services are going to become viewed and priced as a commodity and they will then be under pressure to streamline services and sell them competitively – a potential ‘pile them high and sell them cheap’ situation.
Employing highly skilled staff will continue to set accountancy firms apart. Emphasis will need to be placed on employees having ‘softer’ people skills, with the ability to empathise and relate to clients and their situations. Yes, we will still expect employees to be able to carry out the traditional accounting services such as auditing and preparing tax returns, but, as things move forward, it is their ability to communicate results and carry out an advisory role, as well as the technical aspects, that will set them apart.
Moving with the times starts with recruiting the right team members and then furnishing them with the skills they need to offer the best service to our clients. We provide our new recruits – some of whom are fresh out of A Levels – with an experienced mentor who can help engender the written and spoken communication skills at an early stage in their careers.
The mentor’s role is to impart their own knowledge and challenge the recruits to become robust and impressive communicators and advisors. Interpreting and explaining outputs, interacting with clients and supporting businesses as they change are invaluable skills which our mentors help our trainees to develop.
Technology, cloud accounting and the government’s ‘making tax digital’ initiative have forced the agenda and have resulted in a step change for businesses and accountancy firms alike. Having real time accounting has been the most significant change, and certainly one for the better. We now have accurate information at our fingertips which allows us to interact with clients more regularly. This in turn allows us to get closer to our clients’ businesses and understand them better.
The Townends Philosophy has enabled us to stay ahead of the curve, adapt to the changing world and is a key service differentiator. It’s a proactive approach which helps business owners look ahead and identify and achieve their personal and business objectives. The support we provide to growing businesses goes way beyond traditional accounting – it’s consultative and relies on accurate interpretation and regular communication of their financial information.
It’s our Philosophy which has enabled us to evolve in such a fast paced and ever-changing environment. For Townends, being future proof actually means more of the same, with support from a fantastic team and further technological advancements. We will continue to do what we are good at and that is to attract the cream of the crop, support their development and allow them to grow. Yes, it’s a brave new world, but we’re ready as ever for the challenges that lay ahead.

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