How Well Prepared Are Professionals to Meet Future Client Needs?
“Very prepared” firms that report they can leverage key industry trends to engage clients now and in the future are able to put cash in the bank 10 days faster than those reporting they are “less prepared.” That’s one of many eye-opening results identified in the 2014 Wolters Kluwer, CCH — Accounting Firm Preparedness Survey and new white paper: Charting a Course for the Future: A Report on Firm Preparedness. The independent, nationwide survey of close to 500 accounting professionals was conducted in August and features responses from a wide variety of firms, including some with as few as two employees and others with more than 500.
Teresa Mackintosh, President and CEO of Wolters Kluwer, CCH, presented survey details in a keynote address this morning to tax and accounting professionals from across North America attending the CCH Connections User Conference 2014 in Orlando, one of the tax and accounting profession’s premier educational and peer networking events of the year.
The survey was designed to pinpoint attitudes, thoughts, actions and behaviors of firms that consider themselves “very prepared” to leverage key trends affecting the future of the profession, compared to those indicating they were “Less Prepared.” Two core questions served as the foundation for painting an industry picture of where firms stand:
1. What trends will have the most significant impact on accounting firms and their clients over the next five years?
2. How well prepared are accountants to take advantage of these trends?
“There are ample opportunities for all accounting firms to boost productivity and profitability, but what’s critical is knowing where those opportunities exist and how to leverage them to improve client satisfaction,” Mackintosh said. “The combination of understanding these survey results along with listening to industry peers describe how they capitalize on key trends to succeed can be highly influential in charting a course of future business growth.”
What Makes a Firm “Very Prepared”?
The 2014 Wolters Kluwer, CCH — Accounting Firm Preparedness Survey reveals that the most significant outcome of “very prepared” firms isn’t just a high overall level of confidence, but results. In addition to reporting being more productive and more profitable, “very prepared” firms strongly believe that technology is the key to managing change and driving better business results.
But who are the “very prepared”? According to the survey, only 18 percent believed they were “very prepared” to take advantage of the profession’s most significant trends — those that were identified as having the greatest influence on the future of the accounting profession.
Top 5 Trends That Will Have Most Significant Impact on Firms in the Future
|1||Increased Focus on Client Service|
|2||Technology Integration Changes|
|3||Digital Mobility Opportunities|
|4||Talent Management & Succession Planning|
|5||Social Media as a Business Tool|
Overall, the firms which felt they are “very prepared” to embrace the top trends said they make a concentrated effort to think ahead, anticipate future needs and use technology to add value for their clients. Being more proactive is another common theme in the survey expressed by “very prepared” firms — they believe it is a fundamental trait of who they are and how they operate.
These same firms also state stronger growth objectives. In fact, the majority of “very prepared” respondents project firm growth of 6 percent or greater over the next three years.
Client Service and Technology Integration
The top two trends reported as having the most significant impact on the industry’s future are connected on many levels as firms of all sizes meet changing client needs in adopting a continuous loop of engagement opportunities. Whereas 24/7 firm availability was once the exception instead of the norm, the speed of technology and the importance of client relationships continue to intersect.
Examples include secure cloud solutions, such as client portals, providing around-the-clock digital access to documents and data, on-demand file sharing and the advantage of safely exchanging information, even away from the office.
|Q: Is technology having a very significant impact on your firm?||A: Yes it is|
|Very Prepared (18% of firms surveyed)||69%|
|Less Prepared (82% of firms surveyed)||37%|
Of those surveyed who said they are “very prepared,” 76 percent said service and support provide added-value and retain existing clients — which is double the 38-percent response from “less prepared” firms. Furthermore, where “less prepared” firms tend to view technology integration as more of a tool to meet a single, functional need, “very prepared” firms view the power of technology more holistically in addressing future challenges, improving client satisfaction and driving new business.
While playing an important role in the future of accounting as a stand-alone trend, digital mobility adds a deeper dimension to client service and delivers real business value when enabled by technology integration. Enhanced mobility includes on-the-go access to accounting research libraries by providing professionals fast access to trusted information when and where it’s needed.
According to the survey, nearly 80 percent of “very prepared” firms say digital mobility opportunities will play a “very significant role in their business within the next five years. Respondents also said leveraging mobile devices and digital platforms help firms reduce capital costs, increase client service and improve employee productivity.
Talent Management & Succession Planning, Social Media as a Business Tool
Trends #4 and #5 zero-in on different levels of attraction. Not only are firms looking to attract and retain the best people, they take advantage of opportunities to use social media as a business tool in creating new communications channels to attract and retain clients.
According to the survey, nearly seven out of 10 “very prepared” firms are ready to take advantage of talent management and staff succession planning in looking at the future, compared to only 30 percent of “less prepared” firms.
Leveraging social media opportunities is another way firms are looking to create value and stand out among the competition. Nearly 70 percent of “very prepared” firms surveyed have already implemented social media as a business tool compared to 55 percent of “less prepared” firms.
When firms were asked about the greatest benefit to having a social media presence, their responses drew a direct connection to the top overall industry trend — to enhance client satisfaction.
For More Information
Complete Wolters Kluwer, CCH — Accounting Firms Preparedness Survey results, statistics and viewpoints from key industry thought leaders are available in the new Wolters Kluwer, CCH white paper, Charting a Course for the Future: A Report on Firm Preparedness. For free downloads, please visit CCHGroup.com/PreparednessSurvey.
Follow the 2014 CCH User Conference
About the Survey
The 2014 Wolters Kluwer, CCH Preparedness Survey was conducted online in August 2014, with 440 accounting professionals specializing in tax, audit CFO/consulting and other financial services at CPA-led firms with two to 500+ employees. This survey was conducted for Wolters Kluwer, CCH by Toluna, a major market research company in conjunction with Golin, a leading marketing consultancy.
About Wolters Kluwer, CCH
Wolters Kluwer, CCH (CCHGroup.com) is a leading global provider of tax, accounting and audit information, software and services. It has served tax, accounting and business professionals since 1913. Among its market-leading solutions are The ProSystem fx® Suite, CCH Axcess™, CCH IntelliConnect®, CCH® IntelliConnect Direct, Accounting Research Manager® and the U.S. Master Tax Guide®. Wolters Kluwer, CCH is based in Riverwoods, IL. Follow us on Twitter @CCHMediaHelp.
Wolters Kluwer, CCH is part of Wolters Kluwer ( www.wolterskluwer.com), a market-leading global information services company. Wolters Kluwer had 2013 annual revenues of €3.6 billion ($4.7 billion), employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide, and maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Its shares are listed on NYSE Euronext Amsterdam (WKL), on Bloomberg (WKL NA) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY).