We talk to Steve Cox, Head of Accountancy at IRIS Software about the future of accountancy and the new free platform that can help practices adapt to the new world of work.

“The role of the accountancy practice is changing,” says Steve Cox, Head of Accountancy at IRIS Software. “While some clients used to see their accountants as number crunchers, the challenges that clients have had to face within their businesses over the last couple of years is provoking reappraisal.”

“I think many more clients are now starting to realise the value that accountants can add to their businesses – and that shows in the increasingly diverse range of services that practices are expected to offer.”

New challenges for clients will always translate into new challenges for their accountants. No British business has been unaffected by the pandemic or Brexit. But in accountancy, those events create issues to address both internally and externally on behalf of clients.

“The accountancy sector was already in a state of transition,” Steve says. “Digitalisation, Brexit and regulatory changes were plenty for most practices to focus on, but then with COVID-19 thrown into the mix, the situation is completely unprecedented.”

“The impact has been an acceleration of change at a rate we’ve never seen before,” he adds. “In the last 18 months alone, digital adoption has increased fourfold, which shows practices are doing an amazing job of adapting.”

What next for the accountancy sector?

But are we out of the woods yet? To use a phrase that’s been thrown around far too much recently, has the industry settled into a ‘new normal’?

“There will undoubtedly be a few more bumps along the way but overall, I’d say the outlook is a positive one,” says Steve.

“Economic forecasts are looking good, on whole. So long as practices can find ways to protect their margins and diversify their services, I think there will be a lot of opportunities for growth.”

Steve believes that automation and the development of new digital skills will be key to unlocking this growth. Far from being a threat to the services that accountants provide, automation should be viewed as an enhancement, he says.

“Automation has the potential to free up time for accountants. With more time, practices can focus their resources on more value-adding activity. This might be upskilling staff, building new client relationships or enhancing existing ones, developing niche expertise or simply striking a healthier work life balance, which is also really important. If you or your teams are stretched too thin, not only is that going to limit the attention you can lavish upon your clients, but it’s also going to have a negative impact on your productivity.”

As recently highlighted in The Accountant Online, work-related stress is a real problem in the industry with 2-in-5 accountants reporting that they feel ‘too emotionally drained to work’.

Supporting practices to evolve and grow

Recognising that it has been a tumultuous period, IRIS have developed a platform to offer practices the support and expert advice they need. Ask IRIS is a hub for articles, insights and interactive webinars, kicking off with a live Ask IRIS digital event on the 16th November.

As Head of Accountancy at IRIS, Steve Cox will be hosting the inaugural event and giving a talk on the future of accountancy. The keynote speaker will be Sacha Romanovitch, former CEO of Grant Thornton and current CEO at Fair4All Finance. Also joining the panel will be Claire Bennison, Head of ACCA UK; and Carl Reader, small business champion, board member of Young Enterprise, chair of ACCA Practitioners Panel and director of D&T accountants.

“We’re really excited to be launching Ask IRIS,” says Steve. “We’re hoping we can really help the UK accountancy sector by providing a fresh perspective and some tangible, actionable advice. Sacha and the rest of the panel are all very highly regarded by our audience and rightly so.

“Ask IRIS is an amazing opportunity for UK accountants to learn from these talented, highly-experienced figures and to ask them your most burning accountancy questions.”

Attendees can submit their questions to the panel either by visiting the Ask IRIS website, or by using the #AskIRIS hashtag on social channels.

To register for the event, to get involved, or to find out more, Visit ask.iris.co.uk today.

Visit ask.iris.co.uk