The next five years will bring tremendous change to the accounting profession, according to the experts at Boomer Consulting -- and the next 15 will leave it almost unrecognizable.

As part of a wide-ranging panel discussion at the 2016 Boomer Technology Circles Summit, held here this week, the leaders of the technology and management consulting firm were asked how they see the profession changing by 2020 -- and then by 2030.

“By 2020, we’ll see the shrinking of compliance work and the shift toward the more consultative and advisory services you offer clients,” said chief innovation officer Dustin Hostetler. “We’re going to see struggles between older accountants and the younger generation, who want to move toward this new model. We’ll see pain.”

CPA firms will end up much less reliant for revenue on their more traditional services, as these are increasingly commoditized, the panel said. Instead, they will move toward more value-added services.

That move has already begun, noted CEO JIm Boomer, citing a CPA.com study of the Top 100 Firms that found advisory services had grown 91 percent between 2010 and 2014, while traditional services like audit, tax and accounting had only seen single-digit growth. “Those are some pretty drastic differences,” he said.

Technology is driving many of these changes, he noted, citing its impact on the audit field as an example: “Over the next five to seven years, we’ll see major changes in the audit. Whatever date I give for that change, it will probably happen sooner. With the cloud and more integrations, it will happen more quickly. We’re going to have to realign our value proposition to be forward-looking.”

Gary Boomer, the founder and visionary at the firm, specifically pointed out blockchain technology as a major disruptor: “Much of what auditors have been doing will go away with blockchain,” he said. “It’s a real threat or challenge to the profession.”

As painful or difficult as the next five years may be, the change will ultimately come to an end.

“By 2030, the vast majority of firms will be advisory firms,” said president Sandra Wiley. “It will be slow for a while, but that shift will happen."

“Your skillset and who you are hiring will have changed significantly,” added Hostetler.

For all the tumult in store over the next five to 15 years, the panel was optimistic -- assuming firms are willing to change.

“Now’s a great time to be a CPA,” said Gary Boomer. “If you’re a transformation agent, you’re the most trusted advisor, and can be in a very key position. Don’t waste it.”

 

Awards

Earlier in the day, Boomer president Sandra Wiley kicked off the morning by giving a out a number of “Bridging the Gap” Awards to recognize individuals and firms who are aligning technology and firm management.

This year’s award winners were:

  • Adam Odom, audit manager at LSL CPAs LLP, received the Bridging the Gap Emerging Leader Award;
  • Grant Jones, a shareholder at Perkins & Co., received the Bridging the Gap in Firm Management Award;
  • Cody Page, COO of Peterson Sullivan LLP, received the Bridging the Gap in Technology Award; and,
  • Seattle-based firm Peterson Sullivan received the Bridging the Gap Technology and Firm Management Project Award.

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