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June 19, 2013 | Industry | Posted by Craig Baldwin Craig Baldwin

What Does the Accounting Firm of the Future Look Like?

I think about this question a lot. For the sake of our service firm (and our clients), Sqrl, and frankly my own career. How do I make sure I’m staying with the trends of the future, not just that, but the right trends. This question is extremely difficult to answer. Accounting in the US does not look like accounting in Australia, does not look like accounting in Europe. Perhaps the majority of the firms in existence today have been running the same old stale model that’s been in existence for 100 years. But if it’s still viable, is it really stale?

​The AICPA has a great article, depicting survey info across accounting firms. Perhaps the biggest shocker (while subsequently being no shocker at all) is the list of top 10 tech initiatives for US firms.

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Managing and retaining data? Okay, valid concern, but aren’t we past that? It just shows how much of the industry revolves around conformity. The biggest surprise for me is of course #9 “Leveraging Emerging Technologies.” For someone who’s lived the majority of my life during the existence of the internet, it seems like a no brainer to use the newest and coolest tools. But I also don’t look like the average accountant.

Smaller firms seem to be adapting quicker to new technologies than larger ones, no surprise there. Because of it, we’re seeing a shift in the marketplace to the “Virtual CFO.” An idea Xero has been pushing heavily in their fight against Quickbooks, and rightfully so. With more work becoming commoditized, it’s a sure-fire way to differentiate through personal service, and of course the margins follow.

How does the cloud fit into this? Is it an all encompassing tidal wave unavoidable by the industry? Or will the accounting profession slowly matriculate over, firm by firm, year by year. Perhaps the better question, is what is the best answer for the profession? The Journal of Accountancy has a great post on whether cloud accounting is right for you and you firm.

It appears that demand for accountants is at its highest levels. Of course, as businesses accumulate, accountants do too. A sign of increased demand is a sign in the increase of business. Either that, or the Big 4 firms have run into some major HR problems. Either way, more accountants means more opportunity for the profession, and that’s definitely a good thing.

So what does the next generation of the CPA, accountant, or bookkeeper look like? Will CPAs be vigilant entrepreneurs, or down-the-street, afterthoughts? More than just thinking about the future of individual firms, what’s best for the profession? Will the accountant in 2030 have the same stereotypes as that of the last 30-40 years? Only time will tell, but we’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below…

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