Dominic Anthony, of Ashcroft LLP, talks to East Anglia in Business about accountancy’s evolving role.
With the turbulent financial climate and the changing ways that businesses are structured, the role of the accountant is evolving. Over the recent years, corporate clients have been using accountants for guidance on increasingly complex situations and challenges, and, because of this, it is essential that the modern accountant has entrepreneurial experience to add real value to their services.
The evolving challenges
A wide cross-section of corporate clients approach us at Ashcroft for financial and business support. Whether they are a budding early-stage entrepreneur, are already successfully running their own operation, or have just inherited a business; they all fall into the category of ‘entrepreneur’ and face their own unique set of challenges.
With creeping interest rates and another recession knocking on the door, it is no secret that investors and banks have become increasingly risk-averse over recent months. This will have a substantial knock-on effect for all entrepreneurs, making it difficult to secure funding; particularly for those who are just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, since the risk profile of their business is inevitably higher.
In fact, many business owners are not sure how to make their business an investable one or how to address what is often their key concern: fundraising. This is when entrepreneurs should go to an accountant for guidance around how to achieve their goal or simply present their figures in a way that an investor will understand.
The changing role of the accountant
The demand for this additional counsel has meant that accountancy has undergone an overhaul in the past decade, with technology turning the traditional element of the profession into a commodity. With the help of widely available and easy to use platforms, such as Xero, technology has demystified the transactional process, meaning that business owners and entrepreneurs are now better equipped to perform the basic tasks required for the day to day running of their business.
As a result, the clients that we work with at Ashcroft are increasingly sophisticated and know what kind of support they would like to receive from their accountant. Our services have also had to evolve to meet these new demands. Increasingly often, the clients that we work with have a much better understanding of their business, and so, as modern accountants, we have had to upskill our teams to provide a more holistic, complementary advisory service that goes beyond just transactional and auditing support.
Today’s accountant needs to show expertise by taking the time to understand how their client’s business works, identify the root of the issue, and give clear and sage financial advice based on their experience. This is where entrepreneurial experience plays an essential role.
Unlike many accountants, I have been fortunate enough to have first-hand experience in establishing businesses and being involved in organisational boards and committees, building valuable expertise to complement my 20 years’ experience in the accountancy profession. Many of the senior team members at Ashcroft have direct corporate experience at Senior Executive and Non-Executive level; when accountancy firms have partnerships with diverse backgrounds and complementary skills such as these, they become uniquely positioned to help businesses tackle all kinds of challenges.
Providing trusted counsel
With this combined expertise, accountants can provide sound financial, strategic, tactical, and operational guidance to their corporate clients. By having a good understanding of their business and the challenges they face, accountants can build a strong relationship and voice their opinion safe in the knowledge that their clients will respect their advice.
Entrepreneurial accountants don’t just look at the numbers – they consider the business organisation, as well as the financial climate. Instead of simply performing a retrospective review of a client’s accounts, accountants should be able to envisage the journey the client is going on, break down the complexities of a business structure and help advise on how to meet their client’s identified goals, which could be achieved, for example, by giving pragmatic, risk-balanced advice around important events such as growing and exiting a company.
Being able to empathise with a corporate client, and the situation they find themselves in, means that accountants with valuable entrepreneurial experience become an integrated member of their client’s team as a holistic and trusted adviser. This makes the difference between presenting the numbers and providing useful and intelligent advice, enabling entrepreneurs and their business to thrive.