How accounting firms can tackle the capacity crunch with technology

Currently UK accounting firms face significant challenges linked to both capacity and recruitment; impacting practice growth and risking the quality of service delivered

How accounting firms can tackle the capacity crunch

Workloads are increasing, driven by growing regulatory complexity and heightened client demands. An ageing workforce is seeing more and more experienced accountants approaching retirement just as high stress, workload challenges and broken partnership models are seeing staff turnover rates increase exponentially. The competitive job market further intensifies this challenge, as accountants with in-demand skills are aggressively recruited by other firms and even other industries.

In fact, the ATT predicts a shortfall of 60,000 qualified accountants by 2050, leading to an urgent need for firms to act quickly. This shortfall is leading to capacity issues that are now impacting beyond just the busy periods, creating bottlenecks that further strain resources and staff. With constraints on staff availability and capacity, firms are evenrestricted in their ability to take on new clients or expand services. Ultimately, this hinders growth opportunities for both the practice and the remaining team.

Former PwC accountant and now Silverfin’s UK General Manager, Cameron Ford, says the warnings are already coming true: “The ATT predictions may seem sensational, but areas such as Manchester and Nottingham are already feeling the effects of accountants leaving the profession. Many people are disillusioned by workloads, especially low-value repetitive tasks, inflexible working practices, and compliance demands. British businesses depend on the profession, but they’ll soon face difficulties securing the skills they need to comply and grow.”

Seeking out and embracing technology such as AI and automation tools to handle routine tasks, improve workflows, or even take away some tasks altogether could free up accountants’ time to focus on higher-value or more impactful activities.

Russell Frayne, Director of Transformation at UK accounting firm Gravita, succinctly captures the essence of AI and technology in accounting: “AI is meant to streamline processes, not replace people. By automating time-consuming tasks, AI frees up our time, allowing us to engage more deeply with our clients and focus more on advisory roles, which truly adds value.”

What does this look like in practice? AI can enhance client relationships by enabling more personalised and efficient communication. For example, AI-powered chatbots can provide clients with instant responses to common queries, and predictive analytics can offer tailored financial advice based on unique client data, making interactions more relevant and valuable.

Moreover, while making the practice more efficient in the way it works and deepening client relationships, AI and technology may also help firms stand out to potential candidates in a crowded and highly competitive marketplace.

Alistair Barlow, CEO and co-founder of UK accounting firm flinder, believes that taking a blended technology and people approach has helped it find high-caliber tech-savvy candidates and make strides towards future-proofing its practice: “The way we use technology is attractive to the talent we want to attract, and the new generation of accountants has an appetite for it.”

By proactively addressing these challenges head-on and seeking out technology that enhances and improves day-to-day experiences, accounting firms can improve their capacity and recruitment efforts, ensuring sustainable growth and positioning themselves for success in a competitive market.

Phil Hobden
Phil Hobden

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