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Expect the unexpected - five key trends impacting Scottish accountancy firms

Expect the unexpected - five key trends impacting Scottish accountancy firms

Expect the unexpected - five key trends impacting Scottish accountancy firms

Businesses are often advised to expect the unexpected and this notion has never been more prevalent than in the accountancy sector today. Political and economic uncertainty, the rising influence of technology and client demand for differentiated services offer both opportunities and threats to firms who are facing a period of transition.

According to the Scottish Chamber of Commerce's latest quarterly economic indicator, Scotland's economy will continue to grow this year. However, the challenges presented by falling incomes and rising recruitment gaps must be addressed if firms are to sustain their success over a longer-term.

These fears appear to be shared by the findings published in the 25th annual *Business in Britain report which revealed that business confidence in Scotland has fallen over the last six months and is now lower than that in England and Wales.

While all UK businesses face uncertainty about the future and must better manage their finances to strengthen their competitive advantage, the following five trends are most likely to impact accountancy practices and their clients. Wesleyan Bank will be advising on these issues and more on its stand at this year's ICAS Conference 2017 (20th September, Edinburgh International Conference Centre).

Opportunities from Brexit - MPs believe that Brexit will have a "positive impact" on the accountancy profession. Due to the volume of trade agreements that will have to be negotiated, accountants can become trusted advisers to clients seeking clarity around the tax, compliance and general financial implications to their business stemming from Britain's exit from the European Union.

In contrast, accountancy firms may experience variations to their cash flow arising from reductions in EU funding and may wish to consider flexible, short-term working capital solutions from a trusted financial provider to spread the cost of tax and VAT liabilities.

Technology is delivering a competitive advantage - Digital technologies are transforming the way accountants collaborate and share information with their clients on the move. Cloud, mobile and artificial intelligence solutions can automate inefficient manual tasks to boost productivity and ensure faster response times to queries and requests for critical financial data.

Keeping up with the latest advancements in technology can be cost prohibitive though for smaller firms who are striving to compete with larger, more established players. Flexible asset finance solutions can help by assisting firms to spread the cost of all types of IT related investments, typically over a period from one to five years, without them having to pay for new technologies upfront in one lump sum.

Greater demand for value-added services - Accountancy firms that keep pace with digital innovations will be able to offer additional value-added services, including more sophisticated analysis into a client's financial performance which far exceeds standard tax preparation advice.

In addition, by leveraging mobile apps and other integrated software solutions, accountants can provide real-time consultancy to position themselves as trusted advisors on all aspects of their clients' business, from cash flow projections, benchmarking and inventory recommendations by having secure and immediate access to accurate financial information.

Cybercriminals target accountants - Online crime figures have highlighted that fraud, including cybercrime, has cost Scotland a staggering £394 million in the past year as small businesses increasingly fall victim to security breaches.

Accountants are attractive targets for cybercriminals due to the sensitive financial data they hold which can be underpinned by outdated and lax IT infrastructure. The repercussions of a cyberattack, both to accountants and their clients, can result in significant financial losses and reputational damage which they may never recover from.

Prevention is often better than cure. Tailored finance solutions can assist firms to introduce robust IT security software and controls as well as providing ongoing cyber awareness training to staff.

Succession planning for growth - amid a rising talent shortage and senior partners retiring en masse, planning for the future is a major challenge which is forcing many accountancy firms to re-examine their succession plans.

 Becoming a partner at an accountancy practice offers several potential benefits, from earning a higher income, influencing a business's future strategy to gaining additional trust and respect from colleagues. However, the transition from salaried employee to profit share can have a major impact on an equity partner's personal finances.

Specialist financial providers offer expert advice and tailored solutions for new equity partners and retiring partners who are selling their share in a practice to guide them through the process to ensure it progresses smoothly from beginning to end.

Wesleyan Bank works closely with accountancy practices to provide flexible and tailored finance solutions, both for short-term cash flow needs, as well as for longer term investments including IT software and services, partner equity and practice acquisition.

In addition to having a large portfolio of commercial finance products, Wesleyan Bank is also able to offer personal loans to accountants and their partners to help spread the cost of significant expenses over time, such as buying a new car or making home improvements.

'WESLEYAN’ is a trading name of the Wesleyan Group of companies.

Wesleyan Assurance Society and Wesleyan Bank Ltd are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Wesleyan Financial Services Ltd, Wesleyan Unit Trust Managers Ltd, Practice Plan Ltd and DPAS Ltd are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.  Advice about investments, insurance and mortgages is provided by Wesleyan Financial Services Ltd.

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