Accounting has traditionally played a core role in the success of any business, whether maintaining control of finances or determining the most cost-effective resource allocation.

Conversely, the role of the modern accountant is moving away from the stereotypical image of someone who keeps an eye on the numbers to one who directly contributes to strategic business decisions. To remain relevant, accountants around the world are embracing change within the profession.

The Sage Practice of Now 2019 report surveyed 3,000 accountants globally and reveals several fascinating insights into this topic. More than two-thirds of respondents are either ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ in offering general business management advice to clients, 82 per cent are considering recruiting from a non-traditional background, while 62 per cent agree that current accountancy training programmes are not enough to run a successful practice by 2030.

The vast majority (90 per cent) of those surveyed believe the profession is undergoing a cultural shift as it is about to enter the next decade. This trend is ushering in changes in hiring practices, business services and attitudes towards emerging technologies.

Amid the wave of digital disruption, governments and the private sector in the Middle East are investing heavily in innovative technology, and accounting firms are no exception.
Machine learning, robotic process automation and secure systems built on blockchain are just some of the latest solutions that enable accounting firms to widen their scope and boost the value they provide to their clients. Accountants are now offering intelligent, personalised services that are driven by data and insights. In addition to enhancing business efficiency and productivity, technology also helps accounting firms redirect their human capacities towards more meaningful tasks.

Furthermore, accounting firms are recognising that a more diverse workforce and hiring practices can improve the business, and that new hires ought to have industry experience or training beyond traditional accounting. Skills such as technological literacy, relationship building, and business consultation are growing in importance for running a successful practice. This also means companies need to upskill their existing employees so that they can keep pace with innovation and dynamic client demands.

Traditional core skills of bookkeeping are still vital for a solid foundation, but accountants are increasingly seeking to disrupt their domain. We see evidence of the continuing shift from a transactional profession to one focused on partnership and guidance. To stay ahead of the curve, accountants are looking outside their field to acquire the necessary expertise.

It is obvious the outlook for accountants is positive. However, it is also clear that to succeed in the years to come, they need to embrace change.

More than half of the accountants surveyed have already been empowered to offer more advice, support and value to their clients through better technology. Yet, most also believe the profession in their country needs to accelerate technology adoption to enable the desired change. The role of accountants is changing, and the clients they serve are poised to reap the ultimate benefits.

Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances, Sage