Future-proofing anything, be it for business or life, requires preparing correctly and focusing on the things that will most effectively achieve your unique goals. In recent years, accounting practices have been moving more towards technology to accomplish bookkeeping tasks. Since the advent of fintechs in 2018, they have had unprecedented opportunities through the utilisation of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance their services tremendously. Let’s start looking at how to future-proof your practice then. First, it will be crucial to adopt new technology and AI to avoid falling behind, so here’s some ideas on how to do this:

Invest in Cloud-Based Solutions:

The cloud is the backbone of all fintechs, allowing for the secure transferral of data via application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be accessed from any location – presuming you have an internet connection! – at any time. Likely, your practice is already heavily reliant on the cloud. However, it’s a good thing; it means work can be done remotely, allowing for better collaboration between peers and clients. Open banking and cloud accounting fintechs are on the rise, and it is an excellent time to get to grips with what they can bring to benefit your practice and your client relationships. We have extensively covered the subject of efficiency work hacks for accountants if that is a topic you’d like to explore further!

Utilise AI and Automation:

Fintech tools for accountants and SMEs have grown hand in hand with the cloud and are both profound in how they can improve a practice’s operations. Bookkeeping automation means more time can be spent on other valuable activities – namely, getting in clients and making money! Tools to use in-house, like Employment Hero, specialise in automating HR and payroll tasks (and more), offering more options to free up time and enhance the efficiency of those mundane admin tasks. As for client-focused tools, our own Pulse fintech can integrate with your client’s open banking and accounting software to deliver financial insights in a clear and concise manner, helping with business strategy and improving relationships at the same time. We’ll have a closer look at Pulse later.

Regular Technology Audits:

Standard across any workplace that employs the use of technology to improve operational efficiency, technology audits will help ensure that current technology is maintained and updated, and also means you can keep your eyes out for the newest tools on the market. This is especially true of open-source bookkeeping tools, where the community helps develop the tools’ abilities, as opposed to proprietary models. This should also include examining everything from your accounting software to collaboration platforms like Google Workspace or Microsoft Teams, depending on who you use! Basically, the most up-to-date technology is going to keep you either ahead of the competition or at least on par with them.

Adapt to Changing Client Needs

Continuing with more concepts to future-proof your accounting practice, and adapting to and meeting your clients’ evolving requirements will be crucial for maintaining continued relevance as the finance sector grows with AI and machine learning (ML) technology. To improve client communication for accountants, there are a few essentials that are becoming more prominent to address in modern practices:

Offering Advisory Services:

A recent report by Spotlight reporting told us that, of the practices they surveyed – ‘65% of accounting firms now consider themselves to be progressive or hybrid firms, offering substantial advisory services’ – this is a substantial number of practices that have already recognised the business moves they need to make to remain relevant, and it has all been made possible by the ongoing advancements in fintech. Modern clients value the guidance and financial insights that can be offered by accountants who actively work on future-proofing their practices. It means they can help with business growth strategies and real-time decision-making, and effectively means your own value is raised – this can be reflected in value-based service pricing, promoting the scope of your expertise to prospective new clients.

Understanding Client Expectations and Engagement:

We hear from accountants and other financial advisors that clients expect way more than just tax preparation and bookkeeping, which is what accounting services traditionally involve. Modern clients desire proactive advice and valuable insights, especially SMEs looking to gain as much small business financial intelligence as possible. To meet these expectations, we advise maintaining some easily accessible communication lines with clients. Touch base with them as much as they need it, but keep a professional boundary to ensure they don’t become a pain!

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like Salesforce or HubSpot can also help you achieve this by assisting in tracking your client’s engagements. By customising your services according to their preferences, you can build stronger connections, ideally leading to increased client satisfaction and loyalty, as well as increasing the chances of good feedback being passed on about your practice.

Stay Updated with Regulatory and Compliance Changes

The regulations in accounting are always changing, just like any industry sector. We advise staying compliant and up to date with regulations, and really, it’s crucial to adhere to any changes that are brought in to ensure the success of your practice – and also make sure it doesn’t get shut down!

Importance of Compliance:

We’re probably preaching to the choir here, but non-compliance in accounting firms will typically lead to large penalties and, ultimately, not just a loss of trust from your clients, but simply lost clients altogether. You can stay informed on the most up-to-date regulations by signing up for newsletters and alerts, and in the modern year, even watch podcasts from known accounting groups like FASB or IASB, this way you can stay informed about the rules to run your operations smoothly and uphold client trust at the same time.

Diversify Service Offerings

By broadening and diversifying services, you can increase the attractiveness of your firm to new clients, ideally with the aim of increasing revenues and also taking another positive step towards successfully future-proofing your accounting practice. Let’s look at the most common choices our accounting associates discuss on this topic:

Expanding Service Range:

It’s typically the go-to option for any business looking to diversify and is no different for accountants, linking back to the advisory roles that most firms are offering these days. You shouldn’t limit yourself to accounting services only, as most of those can now be completed by fintech and AI. Consider adding services like sustainability reporting – as a single example amongst many available options – as many SMEs are now interested in ways they can improve their environmental impact. It doesn’t need to be entirely financially focused!

Partnerships and Collaborations:

You also explore referral or reseller programs with companies such as the aforementioned Employment Hero. By teaming up with these services, you can effectively enhance the value you offer to your clients and open up new avenues for income. This strategy should let you expand your own services without having to build up skills internally, which is perfect in the early stages of transition.

Invest in Professional Development

It really should go without saying, but investing in development is always going to be key for staying competitive in any field, never mind just accounting, and it will be an ongoing choice that helps you future-proof your accounting practice. Let’s look at some things you can do to keep the ball rolling:

Continuous Learning for Staff:

Encouraging team members to pursue ongoing education and certifications, which not only boosts their expertise but also enriches the services you provide, is a certain go-to. It means all individuals in your practice will be more reliable, and as a team, you will be able to overcome any kind of unique client needs. Continuous learning also goes hand in hand with keeping up with regulations and should be seen as a standard in any firm.

Encouraging Innovation:

Fostering an environment that values innovation by allowing experimentation with an entire range of fintech or business production tools and also focusing on methods leading to more streamlined processes will ultimately lead to an easier time at work. Innovation in the practice should ideally lead to better services, too, and improved client relationships will follow!

Developing Future Leaders:

Last, but not least, look to nurture future leaders through your own leadership. Providing leadership training and growth opportunities to promising individuals who are seeking to excel will help retain top talent in your own practice and ensure that it has capable leaders for the future.

Parting Thoughts

It may sound irritating to some, especially more traditional accountants and financial advisors, but to stay competitive today, practices need to embrace technology. Mastering all the benefits that fintechs and other business tools bring will set you up with a foundation to compete with any level of competition. You can then start focusing on the other things that we have discussed today. Understanding client needs, remaining compliant, diversifying and investing in your self-development will be essential steps to help you future-proof your accounting practice, and by doing so, you’ll not just be addressing present needs but preparing yourself for the future.

Improve your Accounting Services with Pulse

Maximise the informative capabilities of Pulse to enhance your competency as an accountant. Our platform integrates Open Accounting and Open Banking Software to provide a seamless and easy-to-understand overview of your clients’ key financial metrics via our intuitive dashboard. By utilising our advanced fintech tool, you can gain immediate insights, which empowers you to give strategic advice to your clients based on current financial data that is bound to improve their cash flow. Register for Pulse today to elevate your client connections and differentiate yourself from others in the field who lack the x-ray vision we provide.