The annual International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) poll of small and medium sized accounting practices (SMPs) has found that 24% of SMPs view attracting and retaining clients as the biggest challenges for them.

This concern was almost global, with 25% of those from Asia Pacific, 30% from Africa and the Middle East, and 23% from Europe saying this was their biggest worry. This was closely followed by fee pressure, with 21% of respondents identifying it as an issue, and 25% in Europe.

Keeping up with new regulation came in third for 15% of respondents. However, this was the main worry for SMPs in North America, 29% of them, while attracting and retaining clients were the biggest challenges for only 14% of them.

Despite attracting and retaining clients being the biggest challenges, both were listed as the two top drivers of profitability in a separate question, for 34% and 33% of respondents, respectively.

The poll also found that accounting and other non-assurance related services were the fastest growing service lines for 33% of SMPs.

In contrast to larger networks and associations, 23% of SMPs said their fastest growing line was audit and assurance, while just 21% said it was advisory. A further 17% said it was tax.

Overall, 47% of respondents expected business to remain the same in 2014 compared to 2013, with 31% expecting a better year, and 22% expecting a worse year.

According to the poll, these are "nearly identical" expectations to the previous poll, indicating the expectations of practitioners have not changed over the past 12 months.

The IFAC SMP poll was conducted between 15 November and 31 December 2013, and involved 3,709 from around the world.

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International Federation of Accountants