5 of the Biggest Takeaways from Accountex 2019

17 May 2019  |  
Tags: Accountex

With a recording smashing number of attendees, this year’s Accountex introduced us to all these showstopper trends. 

The suited crowds have finally left ExCeL London at the close of another Accountex. They squeezed in one last thing before heading home with bags full of merchandise, sore feet,  and fewer business cards in their cardholders. 

This year’s edition was heavy on all things automation, disruption and the new-born MTD. This two-day accounting convention attracted over 9,000 attendees this year who came for the swag, the exclusives, the business moguls and the energetic experience of being with like-minded, and change-driven accounting enthusiasts.

After welcoming its largest-ever audience, it has become clear that the event has the potential to be the epicentre of the accounting culture — for accountants, businessmen, marketers, and a valuable litmus test for what might pop and what might fizzle in the years to come.

From good to downright alarming, here are a few of the biggest takeaways from this year:

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is here … to stay

MTD is acting as a catalyst for technology adoption. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if MTD had a domino effect on the industry, making everything from reporting to calculating balance sheets digital.

While disruption is rocking the boat for some accountants and a lot of bookkeepers have gone past the initial confusion. Digitisation will infiltrate all things accounting in a few years and resistance would be a wrong step. James Ashford of Go Proposal warned that “staying still is the most dangerous strategy.” Staying still is often a result of several people (mostly in multi-partner businesses) pulling in a different direction. Instead, what a practice needs to do to get ahead is to keep moving forward.

Following the theme of positive disruption, John Whelan, CEO of My Digital Accountants pointed out to why MTD or even other automated accounting work will ultimately make the whole landscape more efficient: quicker submission of data, fewer errors, access to real-time figures, reduced paperwork and pre-populated returns.

Recruitment in accounting is changing

According to Accountancy Age, four-in-ten accountants are considering quitting the profession. Their reasons are all mostly related to accountants worrying over their jobs being obsolete in the future. Automation has created a huge amount of anxiety in the community and it is directly affecting staffing. Some of this sense of panic was felt at Accountex too.

Ad Valorem’s Nikki Adams and Alex Black’s session on the fallout of resources in the industry talks about some of these issues that are plaguing the industry at the moment. They also talked about engaging with the millennial talent and how to retain the talent they have already trained.

Even though accounting is entering new territories, the issues with staffing are not to be left behind. Accountex brought this major impending issue to the attention of a lot of its visitors.

Accountants metamorphosing into Advisors

Everyone’s trying to raise the bar of what they are doing. It could be from an urge to stay ahead of automation but more and more independent smaller accountants, in particular, are looking to grow out of their roles of being mere record-keepers and financials for their client.

Paul Shrimpling of Remarkable Practice led a panel discussion which kick-started all kinds of questions on how accountants can earn fees and profits from advisory work along with accountancy work. It’s clear that accountants want to evolve as advisors and develop more complex skills, which something we should all be watching out for in a few years.

There was also a sense of entrepreneurship and curiosity amongst attendees on how to make the most out of this disruption. Amanda Watts, Mark Telford and Alastair Barlow were spot on when they teased a roundtable discussion on ‘The entrepreneurial mindset.’

Watts laid out some major pointers to follow so that one can work on developing a growth mentality themselves and then create a ‘freedom-based’ business or ‘performance-based business.’ After all, in this transforming accounting landscape, there might not be much that you can control but your mindset.

Whether it’s advisories to entrepreneurial start-ups, Accountex showed that accountants are ready to grow out of their traditional roles.

Technology to do the heavy lifting
Accountex was a major eye-opener for those who weren’t very receptive of the digital wave. For them, it really meant shelling out a lot of pounds in upgrading themselves; or maybe they are still gearing up to upskill their staff members to fit into new complex roles.
However, tech isn’t the bad guy here. Automated systems were introduced to wipe out entry-level accounting tasks so that accountants have more time to focus on business development and marketing their practices.

Sam Allert of Reckon talked about how automated processes can create capacity for value, add services and streamline workflow through cloud software. This year’s Accountex was a harbinger of development in the industry and a glimpse into what the future of accounting would look in within the next decade – it’s all things tech.

Accounting Marketing is the new ‘it’ thing

Sometimes, disruption could be a crucial time for some much-needed introspection as well. Sadly, most accounting firms do a comparatively poor job of marketing. However, this year’s Accountex showed that digitisation might have freed up some time for practices to look into their marketing strategies and where they stand in terms of their outreach.

Stuart Pringle of PracticeWeb delivered an energy-packed session and brought us some juicy bits on what really works in accounting. He pointed out how the difference between high-growth and average-growth firms lies in their marketing.

Here are some of the buzzwords trending in accounting marketing :

1. Personalisation: Everything is about YOU. From subject lines in emails to article headlines – research shows that, that when it is directly addressed to “you” to receives more footfall on the internet. Make it about your audience, even in the images you choose for your website.
2. Paid and Social Research: Social advertising is a blessing for accounting practices in these times. It lets you steal the limelight and stay visible 24/7. You’ll be able to precisely target your audience and deliver a higher return on your ad investment. In short, showing up on Facebook or LinkedIn could be the answer to all your marketing problems.

3. Reviews: The word of mouth matters. A Google survey has proven that people trust online reviews about the same as referrals from friends and family. Let's not debate the logic of it - good work will give you good business through good reviews.

This year’s Accountex was gigantic – with a cavernous floor space, multitude of attendees and some well-known speakers. But with all that said, Accountex was still Accountex. It was an exciting display of some big trends in accounting to hit us this year and a reminder of how we’re all together in these times of transition in the industry.