The French professional body for accountants (Ordre des Experts-Comptables – OEC) launched its annual congress with 4,800 delegates in attendance, it is the OEC’s 72nd congress and this year the focus is on advisory.
During the opening ceremony the findings of two surveys on the French profession were unveiled revealing a gap in the services accountants can provide to their clients and the ones they actually provide.
Indeed in France the advisory market represents € 80bn ($ 93.97bn), but the accountant’s share of that market is just under 7% (€5.5 bn). At the same time, like in the rest of the world, regulatory and technological disruptions automate the accountant’s core or traditional services or reduce their profitability.
The survey found that 32% of surveyed businesses had not given advisory missions to their accountant because these services had not been clearly offered by the firms. Equally 32% of respondents didn’t know that accountants provided this type of services.
Although this needs to be tempered to the fact that up to August 2015 accountants could only provide advisory to clients as a complement to traditional accounting services. Then in the summer of 2015 the Macron Law was passed, named after the then minister of finance who is now the president of France. The law offered opportunities to accountants to have advisory as the main service line offered to clients.
In the opening ceremony OEC president Charles-René Tandé said that the profession had to come to a realisation when it came to advisory services. “It is not a cost it is an investment, a profitable investment and we really have to all be convinced of this for the good of businesses and our economy.”
In a press conference following the opening ceremony, Tande expressed satisfaction over the number of attendees, as he said this was the record number of attendees for a congress held outside of Paris.
“What is important is that our accountants manage to communicate and valorise these complementary services,” Tande said going back to the theme of the congress. “Advisory is not new, accountants have been doing it for decades, but the technological evolution mean that accountants need to be more present on this market.”
He also mentioned that it was important for accountants to help their clients manage the digital transition; The Accountant pointed that for some the French profession itself had not fully transitioned into digital and in that respect was sometimes considered outdated.
Tande disagreed arguing that while it was true that smaller firms were still lagging behind, a lot of medium and larger firms had already fully adopted digital services decades ago, and that the professional body had itself done and was doing a lot to help in this transition.