Accounting Firms

Executive Search & Leadership Advisory

From transformative technology to stringent regulations and geopolitical risks, a wide range of disruptive trends continue to impact the way accounting firms operate. This unprecedented tide of change has left both industry-leading and small- and medium-sized accounting firms in a perpetual state of transition that demands more time, focus, and strategic thinking than ever before.

While accountants, auditors, and corporate finance experts have always exploited emerging technologies to offer improved services to clients, heading into the 21st century, accounting firms must invest in cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, and social collaboration technologies to stay profitable in an increasingly competitive industry.

Many accounting firms are already leveraging mobile and cloud computing technologies to deliver productivity and efficiency gains, staying connected to clients on the go, and offering self-service features, such as online data vaults that clients can access anytime. These vaults contain reports that their accounting firm and auditors have worked on.

While these technologies offer unparalleled advantages, there are a number of challenges associated with their adoption and use. A move to the cloud exposes sensitive corporate data to security risks. To address the challenges and reap the benefits, accounting firms must invest in the right technologies and the skills of their employees.

In an era where technology has made cross-border communication easy and efficient, many accounting firms irrespective of their size are expanding their reach to untapped international markets. In addition, many businesses are also building their expertise in areas beyond auditing and accounting. According to a Kairos Future report, around a third of revenues of the Big 4 consulting firms come from advisory services[1]. However, the trend is not limited to industry-leading accounting and consulting firms only.

One major area of need for which accounting firms find themselves in demand is helping multinational companies ensure compliance with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which is commonly known as FATCA. Many companies with operations in multiple countries struggle when it comes to meeting the requirements of this law and therefore turn to accounting firms who can help them ensure compliance, as well as manage their global-tax burden.

In addition to consulting and advisory services, audit and assurance services contribute significant value to the bottom line of any accounting firm. However, in recent years, a number of factors together have resulted in a decline in revenue generated through audit and assurance. Regulatory compliance remains the most significant of all these factors. New and more stringent regulations have compelled accounting firms to invest in new technologies, revise technologies, hire more staff, and even reduce their fees and revenue. The change is so intense that even third-party vendors and indirect partners of accounting firms have experienced its impact.

As economic uncertainty continues to plague growth of almost all industries, stakeholders expect accounting and auditing firms to exploit novel auditing methods to drive efficiency and shorten the reporting timetable. In addition, there has been increasing emphasis on the quality of audits. Users today want more disclosure from auditors, particularly of non-financial information.  In response to the changing demands of stakeholders, auditors are seeking ways to enhance the quality of audits and making the annual audit cycle more efficient.

In recent years, the accounting and auditing industry has witnessed a new and unusual trend of freelancing among accounts. Both entry-level and seasoned professionals are embracing independent employment, which is better known as freelancing, to achieve a better work-life balance.

According to Upwork, a freelance platform formerly known as Elance-oDesk, accountants experienced a 43 percent increase in their earnings through freelance work in 2014[2]. This may seem counterintuitive, given the fact that leading accounting firms continue to complain of critical talent shortages.

In order to bridge the talent gap and retain experienced professionals, accounting firms need to understand that they must offer their employees a more flexible environment. Many accounting firms already view flexibility as a selling point to not only retain mothers, but also lure tech-savvy Millennials who are accustomed to work in their own way. Ernst & Young, a globally recognized accounting firm, recently conducted a study that revealed that men were more likely than women to make different career sacrifices, such as a promotion, pay cut, or relocation, in order to achieve a better work-life balance.

Faced with a diverse risk of challenges and a pressing need to adapt to an evolving industry landscape, accounting and auditing firms not only have to focus their time, efforts, and money on future growth and development, but also on strategic planning and development of future leaders in order to gain an edge over their competitors.

At Allen Austin, we understand the strategic importance of talent recruitment and retention for auditing and accounting firms. As a world renowned retained executive search firm, we offer full-service leadership solutions to our clients, helping them save the time, expenses, and personnel resources they would have otherwise spent in recruiting, training, and retaining finance and accounting executives.

For more than 20 years, Allen Austin has been aligning world-class accounting firms with the most sought-after accounting and finance leaders who possess the right attitude and skills to put their company on the path to success. Whether you desire to hire a chief tax officer, a tax partner, or a managing director for your audit department, with our deep industry roots, extensive industry experience, and global professional network, Allen Austin is uniquely positioned to fulfill the leadership needs of accounting and auditing firms of all sizes.

[1] Advisory services, accounting and audit in the future — a journey towards 2025, a Kairos Future report https://www.far.se/globalassets/pdf-ovrigt/branschen-2025/far—a-journey-towards-2025–executive-summary.pdf

[2] In a Job Market That Favors Recent Grads, Many Seasoned Accounting Pros Go Freelance, The New Accounting Firm http://www.crainsnewyork.com/assets/PDF/CN1022061027.PDF