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Firm of the Future: Meeting the demands and desires of the next generation of accountants

As thousands of anxious accountants looked on, Rich Preece, global accountant segment leader for Intuit®, kicked off the fourth annual QuickBooks® Connect with a passionate speech, highlighting the remarkable growth in the profession and what firms must do to succeed now – and into the future.

Preece began with how the accounting industry is changing, specifically with its impact and growth from today’s millennials – the next generation of accountants. In fact, according to Emergent Research, accounting is now the third most popular college major (up from 12th in 2000), offering the top median salary after engineering.

But, the buck doesn’t stop there. The rapid growth and popularity is hitting demographics and creating tons of jobs. Now, 54 percent of women are accounting graduates, a huge increase over the estimated 19 percent in 2014. All of this means more accounting jobs, with around 1.38 million today, and 1.5 million predicted by 2024.

But, as the younger generation makes its mark on the profession, firms must adapt, stand out and become more attractive to find and keep the top talent, and ultimately succeed or be left behind. That starts with finding out what these millennials truly desire.

“Through Emergent Research, we looked at trends of the next generation of accountants, seeing who they are and what they value most,” said Preece. “They were most interested in mentoring, networking, real world experience and flexibility. With mentoring, they said that the right firm for them means that the firm is investing in them and making them better every day. With networking, the next generation of accountants wants to join a single entity, as they see everything merged as one. It needs to be an ecosystem as a large group, or if you’re a single entity, speak about the community outreach and impact. For real world experience, they want to be client facing, seeing that as making a true impact. And, they want a flexible workplace. They aren’t sold on the 9 to 5 or static location; they want to live and learn, but they also want the flexibility to work from anywhere.”

When it comes to attracting the next generation of accountants, look no further than ratcheting up your advisory services with automation. The next generation of accountants wants to work with technologies that get the job done in the least amount of time and the most efficient way possible, allowing them ample time to focus on networking and cultivating relationships, learning from others, and meeting with mentors to continually improve. With apps such as EvernoteGoogle DocsTrelloSlack and WhatsApp, they can do just that.

“The next generation sees no differential between their personal and working lives,” said Preece. “In your firms, are you adopting these tools? They’re not only effective, but also how you’ll attract the next generation of accountants. This next generation is looking for some reason to work for you, and these apps do that.”

Automation is already greatly impacting the accounting industry, and if you’re not on board soon, you will be left behind. In fact, about 80 percent of the time bookkeepers spend on accounting activities will be impacted by automation in some way, according to Oxford and the McKinney Institute. And, a staggering 95 percent of accounting jobs will be affected by automation.

But, this is all a good thing, and if your firm truly embraces automation, you will grow and succeed like never before. Just take a look at the results of providing great advisory services, as advisory service revenue has grown 137 percent from 2010 to 2015.

The one outlier in all of this is the next generation of accountants. No longer can firms get by with just sitting behind their desk and crunching numbers; you must actively pursue today’s youth by offering them the flexibility to work from anywhere, a higher purpose to work for your particular firm and a path to success that they’ll desire. This is the difference between a thriving Firm of the Future and one that will be left behind.

In other news, Preece also announced the Global Firm of the Future winner: AIS Solutions. Congrats to all finalists and this year’s winner!

Editor’s note: Check out the FOTF’s Future of Accounting Resource page for more articles on this topic.

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