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Accountancy report 2022: five ways to future-proof your firm

We’ve identified the five fundamentals for business growth and success in 2022 and beyond. We hope our framework helps accountancy businesses navigate future challenges and take advantage of new opportunities.

Within the report you’ll find a future-proof business checklist, which is based on analysis of performance data, plus interviews with accountancy firm leaders to discover the key issues they’re grappling with.

Is your firm future-proof? The five fundamentals to consider now:
  1. Attracting and retaining talent
  2. The future of work and flexible working
  3. Climate and sustainability
  4. Making sure that expenditure delivers value
  5. Cybersecurity

 

David Weaver, our Head of Professional Services, and chartered accountant Robert Mowbray, author of the report, share their key takeaways here.

1. Considerations for attracting and retaining talent

The fight for talent is the number-one issue for many accountancy SMEs.

A combination of inflationary pressures and large international firms offering more competitive salaries means SMEs are grappling with recruiting skilled people.

Inflationary pressure on salaries could catch up and even overtake the increase in fees that firms have seen in the past couple of years. If fees start to drop or do not carry on increasing, margins could quickly decrease as a result.

Future-proofing tip: To compete for the best talent as an SME, can you think deeper about your culture and values, and invest more in well-being, training and development?

2. Making flexibility work

As firms emerge from the pandemic, business leaders are trying to find a happy medium between the way they worked before and then during the pandemic.

The perfect balance of hybrid working is something some firms haven’t necessarily worked out yet. They will need to think more about how and where their staff want to work, and how any changes will fit in with the need to deliver exceptional service to clients.

Future-proofing tip: Consider ways in which you can be flexible in your working arrangements to keep your people and your clients happy.

3. Taking the lead on climate and sustainability

Accountancy firms have a big role to play in helping to create a more sustainable future, not just for themselves but also for the ecosystems and markets in which they operate.

As a result of remote and hybrid working, there are fewer people travelling in and out of the workplace every day, which has had an impact on energy use.

Meanwhile, many firms have established committees that feed into their sustainable strategic agenda. From eradicating single-use plastic in the workplace, to reducing paper and print, managing partners are exploring ways for their firm to be more sustainable. From an advisory perspective, they are also exploring potential growth areas by helping sectors, firms and customers with best practice and their own transition to a more sustainable future.

Clients are increasingly scrutinising firms on their purpose and ESG credentials – a firm is assessed not just on quality and price but on what they’re doing or not doing when it comes to sustainability. This could become equally, if not more, important than costs and service, and will drive change.

Future-proofing tip: Can you become a leader in sustainability to attract talent and support clients? What steps can you take to understand your carbon footprint on the journey to net zero?

4. Making sure expenditure delivers value

To boost productivity, it’s important to have a clear, long-term strategy, so firms can invest today in things that will deliver their business objectives tomorrow.

Part of this strategy includes investing in technology such as artificial intelligence (AI). Increasingly, firms are also recognising that their great people will not stay if their firm fails to invest in their development.

When we analyse the data, firms that tend to make higher levels of profit are ones that invest more than others on improving processes, training, and the availability of support.

Future-proofing tip: Performance is much more likely to improve with investment, which make fee earners more productive.

5. Addressing key cybersecurity concerns

Maintaining cyber security has been a key issue for the accountancy sector for some time, which means it’s not a challenge keeping SME leaders awake at night.

However, the increase in homeworking since the pandemic means more remote devices are linked to IT systems. Accountants must remain vigilant to ensure they don’t fall foul of cybercriminals.

As the crisis in Ukraine continues, businesses are already aware of the risks of cyber attacks. Accountants are also concerned about reputational damage should sensitive client data be disclosed to third parties.

Future-proofing tip: To cut back on the risk of cybersecurity issues, it’s vital to invest more in staff training and technology.

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of the NatWest Group Economics Department, as of this date and are subject to change without notice.

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