ūüíį Think you know what an accountant does? The reality is accountants do a lot more than add up columns of figures. ūüďą

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Accountants survey to plumb ‘the future of trust’

Think you know what an accountant does? The reality is accountants do a lot more than add up columns of figures.
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Think you know what an accountant does? The reality is accountants do a lot more than add up columns of figures.

Chartered accountants are among the most trusted money professionals, even at a time when trust levels in the money men and women have been falling.

But not wanting to rest on its laurels, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand has begun a survey to understand “the future of trust” in its industry.

The findings will be published around the same the updated Top 30 Accounting Firms list, which was first published last year in a partnership between CAANZ and Stuff.

Peter Vial, the New Zealand country head of CAANZ, said the accountancy profession was changing in the face of digital disruption, and “trust” was key to accountants’ futures.

Peter Vial is the New Zealand country head of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
BRENDON O’HAGAN/SUPPLIED
Peter Vial is the New Zealand country head of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

“In a traditional sense, you would see your accountant in relation to your annual report, and your tax return. But that whole business model is changing.

“Accountants are moving away from just¬†doing¬†the numbers,” Vial¬†said.

“Yes, people will see their accountants about those things. But they¬†will also be¬†seeking¬†strategic planning advice, valuation advice. It’s an ongoing relationship.”

“That’s really¬†important. That requires a deeper ongoing relationship built on trust.”

That trusted adviser relationship is key to accountants continuing to prosper in a world where artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics are going to change the profession.

“The profession of the future will be quite different. The robots, the machines will be doing the compliance work, and the accountant will be doing the more added value work, the strategic work, the planning work, the¬†analytic¬†work.”

Accountants are involved in the strategic planning for their clients.
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Accountants are involved in the strategic planning for their clients.

Tax and regulation were both becoming more complex.

“There has to be a human¬†interpretation¬†on all that, and a guiding through all that complexity.”

Accountants were also at the forefront of helping their clients develop their sustainability reporting.

“It’s quite a big shift, and accountants are very good at measuring things.”

The accountancy profession had a strong foundation of trust.

The Edelman Trust Barometer for Australia and New Zealand has recorded a drop in the level of trust people have in institutions, and research from Deloitte in 2018 showed trust in financial services companies dropped sharply.

But among the money and professional industries, accountants remained highly trusted, topping bankers, lawyers and “consultants”.

In the G20, roughly six in 10 people trusted accountants, CAANZ said.

Chartered accountants were trained in ethics, and are subject to a code of ethics and professional standards, Vial said.

Breaches of the code could lead to them being judged in investigations carried out by their peers.

“The¬†process involves members reviewing the behaviour and making a decision of whether there has been a breach of the code of ethics,” Vial said.

As well as surveying accountants on their perceptions of trust, and how they plan to thrive in the face of digital disruption, CAANZ was busy compiling the New Zealand Top 30 Accounting Firms list.

The 2017 list, which followed the format of the Australian Top 100 Accounting Firms list, was headed by PWC, Deloitte, KPMG, EY and BDO, which are the big five of the accounting world.

But new entrants to the list were expected, said Vial, as some companies did not apply for a place in the list last year, and regretted the decision.

Stuff