A business client comes to you explaining that the health care costs it pays for its employees are getting out of hand. What is your recommendation? Assuming changing carriers isn't an option, how about increasing the amount that the employee pays or increasing the individual and family deductible?  It 's not a simple economic decision.   Factors that will have to be considered are whether an increase in employee payments will encourage some employees to go without insurance, make it harder to attract new employees, or adversely affect employee morale. The increase in deductible might turn out to be a better move.

The interesting thing is not what is the best decision, but the fact that the accountant's role is changing. Yes the number crunching is still very important, but the accountant's evaluative and consulting abilities are coming into play more.

This can also be seen when accountants advise on so-called straight business decisions. In the past, besides compliance, accountants tended to assist on advising whether to expand a business, which basically is investing more money for additional bricks and mortar. Now accountants are focusing more on alliances, joint ventures, and the like, so the business can quickly and cost-effectively take advantage of opportunities that it can no longer consider by itself.  Accountants are spending additional time helping to evaluate business partners rather than just computing the return of investment on a new machine or plant.

With this in mind, I would think the college education of accounting and the initial training and development within firms has to change. In addition to being a technician, evaluative and consultative expertise will have to be honed. And throw in some courses on benchmarking, marketing, data mining, and reverse mentoring.

The idea is that accountants need to be trained and be comfortable in their new role much earlier rather than having it forced down their throats by an innovative managing partner. Just as there are courses called "Financial Statements for Nonaccountants," maybe we should have more courses like "Marketing for Accountants."

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