A recent report from global FinTech company MyFirmsApp, compared the technical and digital capabilities of the US and the UK’s leading accountancy firms.
The report by the company’s chairman Gavin Disney-May gives agencies the potential weak spots in the UK finance industry and identifies opportunities for making new business approaches.
New technologies are disrupting relationships in a global phenomenon that is transforming how businesses are run and the way they interact with their customers. Fuelled by the emergence of social, mobile and cloud computing technologies, new customer-centric business and economic models are changing the way we do even the most basic of things.
On both sides of the Atlantic, there is a general consensus that over the next three years Artificial Intelligence (AI), advances in cloud computing, smarter smartphones and tablets and the development of mobile apps for business process innovation will profoundly impact the accounting profession.
In terms of the exploitable opportunities, the smartphone offers the accountancy industry huge potential for development and while the US leads the UK in terms of smartphone ownership, the UK is a pioneer in the development of apps for accountants, and developers are putting mobile first rather than moving a desktop and cloud software product onto the mobile platform.
It isn’t about IT per se; it’s about evolving and providing up-to-date modern services their clients want and expect and there is huge value and potential to be gained from mobile technology and apps. They cannot be ignored as consumers spent an incredible 900bn hours on Apps in 2016, and app store downloads are forecast to reach 284.3bn in 2020. A mobile presence modernises communication and differentiates the firm.
According to Gartner, intelligent apps are a top 10 strategic technology trend for 2017 and technologies like virtual personal assistants have the potential to transform the workplace by making everyday tasks easier and users more effective.
AI is one of the top nine industries in which the UK leads the world and as we are seeing in the UK, it is fast gaining traction and is already a big talking point for the profession.
Machine learning and chatbots will make e-assistants (or mobile i-assistants) a reality and their role will become invaluable answering routine questions anytime of the day or night. There is the potential for AI to solve staffing issues and at the same time, become the cheapest member of the team.
It is a misnomer to think that the US is more advanced in cloud technology adoption than the UK. While globally there is a massive push for the small business market to transition from their desktop accounting software to cloud based accounting applications, it is New Zealand and Australia that are leading the way, followed by the UK and with the US trailing behind with just 5% of small business having chosen the cloud option.
Rehmann is one of the largest accounting firms in the US and director of consulting James Carpp believes the US is now past the cloud tipping point and momentum is moving away from the personal computer to mobile devices, as well as from in-house solutions to SaaS solutions. This is supported by a recent polling of CPAs in small to mid-size businesses. 25% said they are on their way to full cloud adoption, almost 50% are working on it, and only 10% have no plans at this time.
It seems that there is a fundamental difference between British accountants and American accountants in that CPAs need to see concrete evidence, proof, a user case and ROI before they start paying attention to new solutions. UK vendors will be relieved to hear that American accountants don’t mind where the product comes from and, in fact, they positively prefer foreign vendors as they feel they demonstrate a certain “panache”.
During its long history, the accountancy profession has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to adopt and adapt to changes in business practices, statutory regulations and technology. The flexibility and technical proficiency this demands is part of a professional DNA of both American and British accountants. However, in the digital age, the speed of change and its fundamental nature can make keeping pace difficult, even for the most well-resourced and tech-savvy firm.
In the UK, firms are developing new digital capabilities, such as “anytime, anywhere, any device access” and America is now following in response to trends in business and in government, such as ongoing digital tax initiatives.