Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending the AICPA Executive Roundtable in New York City with approximately 75 peers representing firms, technology vendors and influencers. This was the 10th year of this event and my second consecutive year attending. Last year, I was blown away by the presentations, discussions and future-focused nature of the event – I had no idea. This year did not disappoint either. With a focus on speech-activated artificial intelligence (AI) from a technology perspective, each of the 40 companies offered their perspective on technology, insightful views of the profession’s future, and even a thought-provoking presentation on innovation and disruption. The event was a whirlwind of provocation about a very different future.
These discussions inspired me to share the top trends in accounting for 2019, based on my own studies of this profession over the past few years as an executive within the professional tax business at Intuit®.
- The war for talent – finding training and keeping top talent. One of the top issues firms face is finding, training and retaining top talent, and this has continued to be true in 2019. Firms are looking for more experienced talent to interact with clients, as well as talent that has experience with technology. They’re also looking for talent that can step in and make an impact in their firm right away. Many firms are also looking for more than just technical accounting knowledge; in fact, more firms are hiring non-CPAs in their firms to round out the talent and expertise they can offer to clients.
- Transforming the firm – with technology. There’s no doubt that this profession is and will continue to be transformed with technology, primarily in the cloud. And firms are working to keep pace with adopting technology to drive productivity in their offices in order to better serve their clients. But it’s not easy. There are so many applications coming at firms. Knowing which ones will be the most useful and integrating them into their well-established office processes can be intimidating and disruptive. At Intuit, we’ve seen data that shows firms have up to 20 different apps in their office technology stacks! Ensuring they all work together will be critical, too.
- Transforming the firm – with pricing. Historically, many firms charged by the hour, but there’s a transformation happening to move away from this standard form of pricing to price more in line with the value being delivered, regardless of the minutes it takes to deliver the benefit. One of my favorite quotes I saw recently was, “It has taken me over 10 years to learn how to do this task in 30 minutes; it’s the 10 years I expect to be paid for, not the 30 minutes.” I love this thinking, and firms will need to take on how to set up pricing packages for their firm that make the most sense for their clients. There are extensive resources to help with this issue.
- Moving from compliance to advising. As technology automates the mundane, manual tasks that have been an everyday occurrence in this profession, practitioners will be able to spend less time on those tasks and more time providing advice and coaching to their clients in order to make a difference in their financial lives. This will help them move from just being in the compliance business, and make them look back to ensure they’ve complied with all of the complex rule and regulations. This will also allow firms to be in the advice and coaching business, looking forward to helping their clients achieve their dreams or “power their prosperity” as we say at Intuit. I expect this to accelerate in 2019.
- The impact of AI, machine learning and blockchain on the profession. Although we can’t know for sure what the impact of these emerging technologies will be on the profession, I expect these to continue to be hot topics. Forward-thinking firms and practitioners will continue to learn more about how to leverage these technologies or partner with firms that are incorporating these technologies into their offerings. They will transform their practices, and enable the growth that firm owners and partners desire.
There’s never been a more exciting time to be in the profession. One thing is certain: there will be a lot of change over the next few years. I believe that with this change comes an opportunity for learning and transformation!