The transformation of the accounting profession in Australia and New Zealand over the past forty years has been driven by various factors, including technological advancements, evolving client needs, and market trends. This article explores the key elements of this transformation and the shift towards providing value-added advisory services, especially through the ‘52-Week Business Enhancement System’. Here is a summary of the main points covered:
Origins of the Transformation
The transformation of the accounting profession in this region began around 40 years ago when the Financial Management Research Centre (FMRC) was established at the University of New England. The FMRC encouraged accountants to innovate and provide more than just tax services to their clients.
Impact of Technology
The emergence of small computers and specialized software packages designed for accountants, such as Wang Computers, Hartley Computer Software (HAPAS), Solution 6, MYOB, and Xero, enabled smaller accounting firms to efficiently handle tax compliance work. However, modern technology eventually outpaced the traditional tax-focused business model.
Decline of Tax-Based Model
Even the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) acknowledges a decline in demand for basic compliance work. This decline has been driven by the ATO’s push for digital transformation through technologies like digitization, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
Two major trends are reshaping the industry. First, the ATO’s digital initiatives are reducing the need for basic compliance work, driving accountants to offer more value-added services. Second, team members are seeking more engaging and challenging work beyond routine compliance tasks.
Value-Added Advisory Services
Accountants have shifted from traditional accounting services to value-added advisory services. Clients in 2023/24 require more than just an annual set of accounts and tax returns prepared months after the financial year.
The 52-Week Business Enhancement System
Firms like ESS BIZTOOLS envision a comprehensive system known as the ‘52-Week Business Enhancement System’ that they offer to Accountants to assist their SME clients. This system is designed to help SMEs navigate challenges and manage their businesses more effectively.
The transformation begins by introducing clients to a basic external Chief Financial Officer (CFO) service, starting with the client’s bookkeeping system. The goal is to ensure timely preparation of daily Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other essential information for management.
Weekly and Monthly Reporting
The 52-Week Business Enhancement System includes daily, weekly, and monthly reporting. This includes ‘Weekly Performance Reports’ and ‘Monthly Financial Accounts’ that offer real-time insights into business performance and identify areas for improvement.
Business Planning and Predictive Accounting
Business planning, predictive accounting, and budgeting for various business activities are integral parts of the system. This includes forecasting key drivers like debtors, creditors, inventory, cash flow, and projected balance sheets.
The article discusses various methods of raising capital, including Section 708 of the Corporations Act, Early Stage Innovation Company (ESIC) status, and Crowd Sourced Funding Equity Raising. If the business is unable to borrow money should consideration be giving to raising capital? You could then explore with your client the capital raising opportunities that are available for a SME:
Utilising Section 708 of the Corporations Act
A company can raise up to $2 million in a twelve month period from no more than twenty investors. The company is unable to advertise or market that it is trying to raise this capital.
Early Stage Innovation Company (ESIC)
ESIC could be an opportunity for a company that has been incorporated for less than three years and in some cases less than six years with income of less than $200,000 in the previous twelve months (not including any grant funds from the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant) and expenditure of less than $1 million in the previous twelve months.
The company then has to pass one of two tests – the first test is known as the ‘Gateway Test’ in which the company needs to accumulate 100 points.
The second test is the ‘Principles Test’ where the company has to supply answers to five questions and those answers are then submitted to the Australian Taxation Office and AusIndustry for review to determine whether the company will be accepted as a company that can attempt to raise capital as an ‘Early Stage Innovation Company’.
The Australian Government was aware of the difficulty that small start-up businesses, that have been involved in the development of new technology, systems or methodologies have in securing funding and for this reason incorporated special “carrots” for investors who invest in a company that is deemed to be an ‘Early Stage Innovation Company’.
The investors receive 20% of their investment in the company up to a maximum of $200,000 for a Sophisticated Investor and $10,000 for a Retail Investor, off their taxation liability.
Those investors who have held the shares allocated as part of this process for more than twelve months and less than ten years avoid having to pay any Capital Gains Tax when shares are sold.
The benefit for the company is that they have been able to raise the capital.
Crowd Sourced Funding Equity Raising
This is another funding opportunity available for a company with an international turnover less than $25 million and gross value of assets of less than $25 million and not listed on a stock exchange anywhere in the world.
The legislation requires Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) to appoint ‘Crowd Sourced Funding Intermediaries’ to coordinate this capital raising process. The company will need to appoint one of these Intermediaries because it is only via those organisations that the capital can be raised.
A company can raise up to $5 million in a twelve month period by utilising this methodology of raising capital.
These are some of the fundraising opportunities that are available for your clients. Virtually all SMEs require professional assistance for any of these capital raising processes.
Each of these companies is going to need:
- Financial Accounts preferably for the last three years
- Statement of Net Worth for the company
- Business Plan analysing the next three years
- Predictive Financial Reports:
- Cash Flow Forecast
- Projected Balance Sheets
- And other specific reports required by whichever capital raising process is being used.
This is a brief overview of some of the initial services that accountants and bookkeepers could make available for SME clients.
Virtual CFO Services
To meet evolving SME needs, accounting firms are encouraged to offer virtual CFO services. This transformation requires accountants to gain a deep understanding of their clients’ businesses and provide real-time financial data and management insights.
Learning from the USA
The article draws on the experience of firms like Summit CPA in the USA, which offers a range of professional services, including predictive accounting, back-office services, and tax return preparation. Predictive accounting is considered a crucial component.
Accountants and their teams are urged to gain an in-depth understanding of their clients’ businesses, adopting an “inch wide and a mile deep” approach to their knowledge.
The transformation emphasizes a client-centric approach, understanding client needs and concerns through tools like the SME Needs Analysis.
Talent Attraction and Retention
Engaging in more challenging and interesting work is expected to attract and retain talented professionals for accounting firms.
Firms embracing this transformation have the opportunity to position themselves as industry leaders, providing clients with meaningful financial data and insights that contribute to their success.
This evolution in the accounting profession highlights the need for accountants to adapt to changing technologies and client expectations by offering value-added advisory services. The ‘52-Week Business Enhancement System’ serves as a comprehensive package to deliver relevant financial information, KPIs, metrics, and budget comparisons to SMEs throughout the year. By providing these services, accountants can engage in real accounting work, attract and retain talent, and differentiate their firms in the market.
Want to know more?
If you would like to have a discussion about how this concept of virtual CFO services can be supplied by Australian accounting firms please ring our Managing Director, Peter Towers, on 1800 232 088 and we will arrange a complimentary 45-minute Zoom meeting to discuss your firm’s position and to give you our advice.
We believe that this is the blueprint for the delivery of an enhanced range of services by Australian accounting firms to assist SME businesses to add value to their businesses and to assist accountants not only to attract but to retain outstanding talent who want to be involved in the delivery of “real accounting services”.
Peter Towers – Managing Director | ESS BIZTOOLS Pty Ltd
1800 232 088 | email@example.com | www.essbiztools.com.au