Late last week, I caught up with QuickBooks’ very own Bobby Chadha, and asked him on some of his thoughts about what accountants might find at next week’s Accountex 2016 event.
What trends have you seen in the last 12 months at Accountex 2016?
I’ve been going to Accountex for a number of years and one of the most significant things that I’ve seen lately is the number of cloud based software providers that are now present at the event.
In addition, the way that they are promoting themselves at the stand (historically, quite basic, now – colourful and engaging) has changed, which really reflects the software they produce. There is also a lot of integration across software, which is really exciting; as an example, in 2015, we had a number of third party app partners at our stand, which was brilliant because it showed the evolution of accounting software – from this closed, hard coded ledger, to an open platform, which, if you’re a project manager means that you can integrate a particular app that specializes within your industry. It’s brilliant to see that evolution and that change at Accountex.
One of the other things that I’m passionate about is the number of providers who are breaking away from initially coming into the market with a product that only does one thing. What you’ll see now is these providers start to cater for various industries. An example of is our very own QuickBooks – we’ve been the global number one choice for small and medium sized businesses, where we now have two additional products – one for our accountants where we can look after the end to end experience, especially with our integration with Taxfiler; we also look after people who are self-employed, with QuickBooks Self-Employed.
Other app partners like Satago are also doing this. They started off in the chasing invoices space and debtor management, but have since moved into invoice management.
It’s a real reflection of where the profession’s going – adding value by creating these additional features that delight the end user.
Looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, what do you see as some of the future accountancy trends?
I’m extremely excited about the future – a couple of big things are coming. HMRC’s initiative of making Tax digital will be huge. With their plan of having a direct connection from your accounting software to their tax environment taking shape, it means deeming the whole application of tax returns redundant. In the future, tax returns will be updated on a regular basis, which represents a significant shift for us in the profession. There are obvious concerns that accountants have about this, primarily around educating clients around using such software, and even bigger, what it means for the futurerole of the accountant and the impact it will have to firms.
I think the evolution of the profession means that the role has changed – the accountant is more akin to a management accountant rather than just doing tax returns and focusing on compliance. But in order to capitalize on this change, accountants need to embrace the change and technology. This is going to happen. It is simply a matter of how we are going to react to it.
Of course the main concern is whether HMRC are capable of catering for this change. We can all probably remember the RTI change, which wasn’t smooth and prompted clients calling us confused about the new terminology. Similarly for accountants, the experience interacting with the HMRC was a challenging one, with agents being not trained. So, we’ll need a level of confidence that they’ve got the plans in place to cater for this change, and help small businesses. There is a lot to do.
The other thing I’m really looking forward to is seeing how technology is changing; what you can do with Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa – devices that live at your home. Connected to the wifi, they answer questions you might have about your daily commute, the weather and so on. It’s interesting because Clio, a UK start up, have created a bot which allows me to connect my bank account and interact with via text messages, asking it questions on my bank balance, my expenditure and budget – all via a text. The bot will text back with accurate data on my bank account.
Thinking about our profession, what’s stopping us from taking advantage of this amazing tech? We’re not that far from it. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this.
Changing the way we bank is the next thing – Challenger banks like Tandem have no branches, just a mobile app. Your customer service assistant now lives in your phone and through apps and add ons. Due to this agility, the challenger banks are able to scale a lot quicker than traditional banks, utilizing technology and APIs.
Atom bank Were able to offer their first commercial loan via an app by utilizing information from the Credit risk agency and the accountholder having their salary being paid into their account, enabling them to see the likelihood of them being able to pay back the loan.
It’s worth saying again – what’s stopping us from taking advantage in our profession?