It bears repeating: Now is a great time to be an accountant
Amid all the worries about staffing shortages and succession issues; amid the din of doomsayers prophesying disintermediation by blockchain, artificial intelligence or worse; amid the clamor of ever-more demanding staff and clients; amid the tightening competition from within the profession and without; amid the endless pressure to keep up with changes that keep coming faster and faster and never seem to let up — in the midst of all that, it’s good, from time to time, to reflect on all that’s going well for the profession.
Since we here at Accounting Today do our share of sharing the scary news, it’s only appropriate that we sometimes use our various platforms to remind everyone, from entry-level to emeritus, of just how good a time it is to be an accountant. I was reminded of this because one of the questions we asked candidates for our Top 100 Most Influential People list (which starts on page 13) was whether they thought all the changes coming down the pike would end up being good for the profession. Virtually all of them said they would be, and many went even further, expressing unbounded optimism about the future of accounting. We share some of their thoughts in this issue, and the full text of all their responses should be available on AccountingToday.com by the time you read this.
In the meantime, this is a good time to reflect on all the many ways things are, in a Panglossian paraphrase, working out for the best in this best of all possible times for the profession. Let’s start with the confluence of accounting work and technology:
- First off, there’s tremendous demand for accounting, tax and assurance services.
- Second, technology has made it easier than ever to perform all of the traditional accounting services.
- And third, it’s also enabled all sorts of new, more valuable and (whisper it) much more interesting new services.
On another front, the work environment of most accounting firms has significantly improved over the last several years:
- No one’s telling you what to wear! (This assumes common sense — but if you have it, “dress for your day” policies have freed many from the tyranny of business attire.)
- Management is heavily invested in your career and development in a way they never have been before. (Managers may not find this a plus, but we’re focused on the positives.)
- “Working from home” is moving from something you’re allowed to do if you have an emergency to something you’re trusted to do when it suits you.
- Tax season is slowly becoming less of a nightmare, as more firms give back busy-season Saturdays, embrace the pre-emptive extension, and streamline workflows.
- The gradual erosion of the billable hour is unbuckling an invisible straitjacket one buckle at a time, freeing up time, value, imagination and innovation.
That last point neatly leads to one of the most exciting things about the current moment: New things are possible in accounting in a way they haven’t been in decades. New services, new relationships, new careers, new roles for accountants, for firms and for the profession as a whole — most everything in the field can be and is being reshaped to better serve clients, staff, owners, markets and the public.
Some of those new things won’t work out, and others will be scary, but you can face them all in comfortable clothes, confident that someone is working on an app to fix whatever’s scary, and secure in the knowledge that your skill set is much sought after.
In the end, it bears repeating: There’s never been a better time to be an accountant.