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Accountancy IS a people profession

Survey shows that sociable, outgoing individuals dominate the profession

​An informal survey of working styles and personality types among accountancy practitioners has revealed that sociable, outgoing individuals dominate the profession.

Wolters Kluwer created a quiz with the professional online community AccountingWEB that  probed respondents' working habits, attitudes to technology and personal tastes in food and music.

The light-hearted questionnaire attracted more than 5,000 views and drew nearly 50 comments from accountants who shared their characteristics with their peers. Surprisingly, the classic image of the numbers-obsessed loner was eclipsed by those who fitted the 'Personable Practitioner' profile.

Based on the number of people who downloaded the companion working style guide, just under half the respondents were Personable Practitioners (49.2%). Sociable and outgoing, they are fun to be around and stimulate interesting conversations.

Personable Practitioners work well on the phone and are smooth operators in networking situations where they can broaden the firm's horizons and open up new business relationships.

The other personality profiles that emerged from the quiz include:

  • listTechnical Boffin (20.5%) The classic single-minded expert, who puts all else to the side when they focus on the job in hand. Boffins can be lone wolves who don't always fit with normal routines - timesheets could be an issue
  • Efficiency Ninja (12.1%) Process driven: Ninjas like to work methodically and demonstrate good attention to detail. They know a successful firm needs robust processes to ensure consistency of client service
  • Digital Commando (9.8%) Self-motivated, and results-driven: Confident in their own abilities and keen to exploit the latest tools and technologies. Resistant to bureaucratic restrictions
  • Delegator (8.3%) The leader who sets the firms agenda and focuses attention on collective objectives. They will be good at reviewing performance and giving feedback to colleagues.

This snapshot of the accountancy profession illustrates a couple of emerging social and demographic trends. The low turnout of Delegators suggests that many older practitioners steeped in accountancy's hierarchical traditions are reaching retirement age. In their place, firms are seeing the emergence of a new cadre of Digital Commandos, who are comfortable with the internet, social media and cloud computing and occasionally impatient about using these tools to improve efficiency.

While people-oriented accountants are more numerous, the profession will always have room for Technical Boffins. These are the people who keep compliance standards up to scratch and who can solve tricky financial and tax puzzles that can arise in non-standard situations.

The challenge for practice managers is to integrate Boffins successfully into their teams. If Boffins can be lured out of their ivory towers more often, their insights and ideas could open up new avenues for the firm. They might even discover that winning is more fun when you do it as a team.

While intended as a bit of fun, the Wolters Kluwer quiz was designed to highlight the diversity that exists within accountancy and to help practitioners maximise their natural attributes and smooth the workings of their firms.

No role is better than any other. The characters identified in the quiz can and should co-exist within your team and be valued for what each of them can contribute. Management studies consistently show that teams composed of a mix of personality types are more successful than those where everyone thinks and acts in the same way.

Personable Practitioners are generous with their time, and work hard to ensure their clients are made to feel special. Internally, as well as helping to promote informal communication, they are good at resolving tensions that may develop within the team or with troublesome clients.

While their friendly disposition and curiosity are assets, Personable Practitioners can sometimes be hampered by bouts of over-enthusiasm, or a tendency not to follow through with all their great contacts and ideas.

At the recent Wolters Kluwer National Tax and Accountancy Conference, for example, consultant Stephen Archer warned that relying on good interpersonal skills alone was not enough to sustain a firm's success.

He explained that the emerging business model for professional services is based less on developing advocates in client organisations than on challenging them to identify and confront their problems and delivering on the issues that matter most.

Download the  Wolters Kluwer-AccountingWEB guide for a detailed run-down of the different personas and their working styles.