Do accountants make a difference?

Critics of the accountancy profession often ask,’ do accountants make a difference?’. To many we are seen as a necessary evil, profiting by the requirement of government that individuals and businesses file various returns etc.

The accountancy profession is always aghast at these criticisms. However, there are a minority of accountants (both qualified and unqualified) where they seem to simply undertake the compliance requirements without any thought of how else they could assist the client. Now of course it is true that some clients never want any additional help and if there is a thought that their accounting fees might increase it sends them into some type of frenzy. Whether those are the clients we should be dealing with in the first place is another question, perhaps for another day.

My thoughts were drawn to this as we have recently taken on a number of new good sized clients, who in each case seemed to have deficiencies in their administration and finance functions. These problems didn’t impair the correctness of the accounts that were produced, but meant that employees were wasting their time, often duplicating work.  Any accountant reviewing these businesses  must surely have realised the inherent problems. However, no comment had been passed and antiquated processes and procedures carried on.

Now it might be suggested that the clients had changed their accountants in the first place because of a lack of pro-activity and communication. I’m sure that that was part of the equation but the reasons for changing related to unrelated matters. When I advised the new clients of our initial findings they were dumbfounded, because nothing like this had been previously raised.

Despite nearly two decades of education to the accounting profession regarding client service, there still seem to be quite a sizable minority of practices that have yet to take this on board.

Of course people always remember negative incidents, and will only too readily regale their friends and business acquaintances with horror stories. It would be naive to suggest that all the negativity regarding accountants come from bad service to our clients but it’s something to think about!