What is an “accountant”?

When I am asked what I do for a living, I say that I am an accountant. So, what do people actually think that accountants do?

Here are a few definitions taken from the internet -

Collins English Dictionary – “A person concerned with the maintenance and audit of business accounts and the preparation of consultant reports in tax and finance.”

Oxford Dictionary – “A person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts.”

The Free dictionary – “One that keeps, audits, and inspects the financial records of individuals or business concerns and prepares financial and tax reports.”

So, is this what I do? 

When I passed my exams, finished my training and achieved my professional qualifications about 12 years ago then I would have said yes – these definitions of what I do are broadly accurate.

As a Chartered Accountant, being bright and technically competent are a given. What occurs post qualification is then what shapes your destiny within your chosen career. In my opinion, as well as experience, the most important thing that I developed are my people and relationship skills.

I was about to type “business is about people.” Out of interest, and to support my statement, I then googled it.

The top hit on google is from Richard Branson – no less!....”When it comes to business success, it is all about people, people, people.”

Apart from my personal development in the last 12 years, the world itself has obviously evolved enormously.

In this modern, fast paced, dynamic, technologically advanced world, what do businesses actually want from their “accountants?”  and how does this compare with the services that the vast majority of accountancy firms offer?

It is without doubt that there has been a change in the demand and supply curves for the differing “accountancy” services from the core services of historic accounts and tax returns to the role of a true business advisor and all that this encompasses. 

This role is much more “touchy-feely” and the adviser will need to adopt an holistic approach to seek to understand their client's needs and to help them navigate a path whereby the client can achieve their goals, both business and personal.

How are/have accountancy firms coped with this shift in needs and demand from their clients? The firms that have embraced it quickly are finding that they can add real value to their clients and are appreciated as a necessity to the success of the business.

This is a totally different mind-set and refreshing approach to relationships with clients which really cements the role of the “accountant” as an advisor who is a vital part of the team. The dynamic of the relationship has changed – the accountant is in a very fortunate key position where he/she should know everything they need to know about the business in terms of the sensitive financial information to be able to understand the business and then stand back and help add a different perspective to discussions around important decisions.

It is a very obvious statement – but to get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow, you need to be clear about where you are going.

These things take time – but it is vitally important to take strategic advice from your trusted advisor. Planning strategically will help you to optimise the outcome – whatever that desired outcome may be.

Have you created a road map to arrive at your desired destination? Have you identified your Key Predictive Indicators (KPIs) to help you measure and track your success and your journey along your road map?

I am delighted to say that I am an accountant who is a trusted advisor who encourages constant communication with my clients and pride myself on being supportive and being able to offer dynamic, flexible advice. Our strap line at Armstrong Watson is “We’re with you” and I think that this fits perfectly with what an accountant should be.

Rohan Day, Partner

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