Date posted: 02/06/2021 3 min read

Careers in small- and medium-sized accountancy practices (SMPs)

The opportunity for small- and medium-sized practices to grow in today’s business environment is unprecedented, but successful growth is critically dependent on attracting, developing and retaining the right people.

In Brief

  • Findings from the ACCA and Chartered Accountants ANZ paper, Careers in Small and Medium Sized Accountancy Practices, point to a world of opportunities for SMPs, although the paper recognises that a pipeline of talent is vital for future success
  • Digital transformation is enabling smaller accountancy firms to reimagine the services they offer
  • Professional service providers must look beyond the numbers and become critical thinkers

The small- and medium-sized practice (SMP) sector is rapidly embracing digitalisation, and it’s predicted four key business models will be adopted by SMPs to asset them in talent management and development:

  • the ambitious sole practitioner
  • the digital start-up
  • the transformed partnership; and
  • micro practice with a strong expert network.

Despite the diverse mix of business models, will there be more commonalities than variations in talent management traits across different practice types and regions? With the flexibility and creativity to match the velocity of change and adapt to the rapidly evolving demands of the client, SMPs have the potential to drive the transformation of the accounting and finance industry as a whole.

However, without the adoption of digital accounting tools, SMPs may encounter threats to their existing business in the form of new sources of competition. Digitalisation frees time and resources by automating routine and menial tasks, which in turn enables SMPs to better understand their clients and offer more value-driven insight and advisory services.

The combination of changing client expectations and adoption of cloud-based digital accounting systems is deeply changing all aspects of accountancy.

This has a significant impact on the skills and attitudes accountants need to be effective in the workplace and build a successful long-term career. Individuals must be able to understand customer expectations and meet desired outcomes. Professional service providers must be proactive in sourcing opportunities to develop into critical thinkers who can provide value 'beyond the numbers' to clients.

Sharing the same values is becoming increasingly important for both employers and employees as accountancy is no longer a numbers game. Attracting talent for many practices is becoming as important as attracting clients, as teams of both entry-level and experienced professionals can offer diversity of thought, perspectives and experience, which generally provides clients with access to varied skill sets to help inform business decisions.

Increasingly, staff retention can be a critical issue for smaller practices, particularly those that hire pre-qualified and experienced staff. Progression is often considered the key to retention as it provides the opportunity for staff to learn and develop new skills - therefore value lies in acquiring employees who can grow with the firm.

These significant changes in today’s business environment mean that it is critical to be prepared for all possibilities. To help to inform this discussion, Chartered Accountants ANZ has partnered with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) to interview more than 60 SMP practice leaders and employes from 20 countries, the results of which are available in the Careers in Small and Medium Sized Accountancy Practices (SMPs).

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