Accountants hit conference season with a bang at the start of May, attending both AdvanceTrack’s annual event and Accountex. Kevin Reed covers the main messages coming out of a busy but fascinating three days
On 1-2 May, Europe’s biggest accounting and finance show Accountex saw a record-busting 9,063 attendees – an event in which AdvanceTrack was delighted to take part.
We spoke to some of the key participants to find out what their new products and services are, along with views on the current issues impacting accountants’ working lives. Key topics included: how some accountants and clients have moved down ‘the digital path’ while others still delay; and differing views on the direction of travel set by MTD bridging software.
QuickBooks’ Making Tax Digital Product Suite was being demonstrated at the show, including bridging software. These new tools, and their importance to the marketplace, were a key focus of our discussion with its sales director Nick Williams.
Williams said there had been “lots of work” by accountants to bring themselves and clients towards MTD compliance, and bridging software was a step on that journey for many.
Its pre-Accountex research found that 89% of small businesses were now aware of MTD, with 84% believing they were now compliant.
And for those accountancy firms using MTD as a catalyst for transforming into a cloud-based adviser, there was more good sentiment. QucikBooks also found that 49% of respondents believe MTD will have a positive effect on their business – up from 37% since March.
“The transition to MTD was never going to be without its stumbling blocks for accounting professionals and small businesses, but it is pleasing to see increasing numbers realising the time, efficiency and cost-saving benefits that digitisation can bring,” said Williams.
He believes that the bridging technology, which some industry insiders believe should only sit in place for a year, will continue to be used beyond that period by some advisers and their clients.
“We’ll always see customers in need of support – that will remain with bridging,” he said.
Williams also referenced a number of other innovations, including SmartLook – which enables QuickBooks to work quickly and interactively to resolve any problems users may have via a one-way video feed and screen-sharing; and Online Advanced Payroll – enabling accountants and payroll bureaux to manage multiple businesses with complex payroll needs.
Accountants are “bridging the digital divide”, believes IRIS chief marketing officer Nick Gregory.
IRIS also released new statistics for the Accountex launch: some 215,000 documents were e-approved between accountants and their clients via its OpenSpace document sharing platform in January 2019 – a 328% increase on January 2018.
“Accountants are recognising that they have to be online,” Gregory told InsideOutsourcing.
Gregory said that IRIS’s customers were “pushing” the technology house to enable them to use a more “open” software stack and access via mobile devices.
“We want to use data to deliver more from a productivity point, and to link with third-party applications,” he said.
A key part of this process will be an online “platform” from which services can be accessed – the first application it will make available is an anti-money laundering solution this summer. “You’ll be able to onboard clients and run all the necessary checks,” said Gregory.
“Many accountants are thinking: ‘I’ve got my cloud clients and they’ll be fine with MTD… but what about the great unwashed?’,” said MyFirmsApp head of product management and customer experience Mike Page, when describing how to deal with swathes of clients that still haven’t moved to digital bookkeeping.
Page sees the app as providing a simple solution to get accountants’ clients moving on the digital path. Its new platform will launch in the summer, providing a new user interface for both accountants and their clients. A new version of receipt capture will also be introduced.
MyFirmsApp has also produced “The Definitive Guide to Bridging Software”, after viewing what it described as a “baffling array” of options.
Millions of pounds could be flowing into the coffers of CountingUp, with up to £12m sought in the near future to drive more product development and marketing.
The bookkeeping and banking app is “100% on board with accountants”, chief commercial officer Andrew Garvey said, viewing them as “the most important part of our business”.
“With 4.5 million microbusinesses out there we know how hard it is to get them to use accounting tech,” said Garvey.
Accountants still have many clients “not using anything” to manage their bookkeeping and tax data. “We’re trying to make accountants’ life easier,” he concluded.
In the next year Garvey expects to see greater convergence between accounting and banking from a technology perspective.
A new way to help you transform your firm has been developed by AdvanceTrack. The AdvanceTrack Growth Academy has been launched to guide practice owners and seniors towards positive change for their practice.
In partnership with well-respected consultant Paul Shrimpling, the academy aims to have a profound impact on how you and your team feel about the core work at your firm, in turn helping your team enjoy the work it undertakes.
The academy is focused on two main areas: accountability and motivation. You’ll be held accountable with regular calls and visits to review the actions you’ve committed to and agree any steps.
AdvanceTrack MD and founder Vipul Sheth said the programme would not only inspire accountants to make change, but provide them with the support to deliver. “It can be very lonely at the top,” he said. “We believe that the academy will provide both a strong support network, accountability and ongoing practical advice to help you take positive action to improve how your firm operates.”