Accountants traditionally saw themselves as compliance clerks whose year end meeting was endured by clients, rather than looked forward to. Clients have complained for years that their accountants weren't giving them business advice.
The result, according to Norman Younger FCCA, director at Maximiti, was a Mexican stand-off that was in nobody's interests. Clients simmered quietly and accountants wondered why fee and client growth was stagnating.
Maximiti's recent survey found that 66% of accountants described themselves as trusted business advisers, 22% saw themselves as providing traditional services and a surprising 12% had never given the matter any thought !
Younger ponders as to whether this change in self-perception actually translates into hard, useful advice that clients truly value and are willing to pay for. "It's a leap of faith for clients to pay extra for advice they always felt entitled to but never received" , says Younger and he continues by pointing out that many firms face the uphill struggle of justifying their new found "value added" as it can take time for the results of advice to manifest themselves and even then it's only if the client actually follows it through in a timely manner.
Younger believes that the commoditisation of basic accounting services is forcing firms to re-think what they stand for and he expects that 66% to climb steadily in the coming years, eventually reaching 100%, although admittedly it could well be a generational phenomenon and may not reach saturation until the last of the old school finally closes their ledgers.
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