Technology has - and will continue to have - a profound influence on the accountancy profession, perhaps even more so in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Interestingly however, an emerging view is that the ever-increasing role of technology will eventually eliminate the role of the small firm accountant in the industry. Yet, one business leader within the sector does not buy into to this view.
Chris Viles is a director at Consortio Chartered Accountants, an accountancy, business advisory services and financial planning firm in West Yorkshire. Speaking to The Parliamentary Review, Chris explained that while the profession must remain vigilant to the threats and opportunities that technological advancements present, he believes that the small firm accountant will always have a part to play in the financial services sector.
Outlining his perspective and challenging this point of view, Chris said: “Increasingly, I have been faced with the question from clients: ‘Why do I need to pay for your services when I can get an app on my phone to do the same job?’ My sanguine response is simply ‘beware what you pay.’
“An app on your phone or PC may make it easier to invoice customers on the go, capture information from receipts and even submit your tax return. However, it will be a long time before an app can replace the benefit of speaking to an experienced professional about the challenges facing your business or how you finance that next major asset purchase.”
Furthermore, Chris believes that the smaller accountancy firms who take a genuine interest in a client’s business and are nimble enough to be able to provide a proactive service under ever-changing circumstances will always provide significant value.
Recalling an anecdote supporting his view, Chris said: “We are fortunate at Consortio to enjoy a steady stream of new clients and even more so that this growth is generated from word-of-mouth referrals and speaking to potential clients about their business in general. Our largest client to date came on board following an informal chat with the business owner about research and development tax credits, his business being a prime candidate. When I looked surprised at his admission that his existing accountant, by no means a small firm, had never raised the subject with him, the client asked for my details and joined us six weeks later.
“I firmly believe accountants are not all created equal. Finding one that takes a genuine interest in a client’s business and providing a proactive service will always add real value.”