Oh 2020, we held such high hopes for you, but you really have not performed as expected!

Although many people would like to forget 2020, no doubt it will be talked about for many years to come. As we approach the end of 2020, which has been dominated by a pandemic, bushfires, political antics in the USA and other places, amongst other things, I thought it would be useful to reflect on the year from the perspective of accounting firms.

As an accounting firm coach, consultant and mentor I have the privilege of working with many quality firms and talk with firm owners and managers on a daily basis. Here is what I have distilled about 2020 from those conversations.

  • Members of the accounting profession are resilient and adaptable
  • Change is possible and can happen quickly if there is a clear and pressing reason
  • Accountants have developed closer relationships with many of their clients, often driven by the work associated with Cash Boost, Job Keeper and other government initiatives (Please keep this going.)
  • Clients have in many cases increased their respect for, and trust in, their accountant due to the great support they have provided during trying times
  • The use of video meetings with some clients is here to stay
  • Working from home (WFH) is now embedded as part of the normal way of working. In many firms the policy is that for roles where WFH makes sense it can be done for up to two days per week
  • The development of less experienced team members goes better when working in the office with others around them
  • The value of “socialisation” provided by the office is high although not always directly measurable
  • Notwithstanding the value of the office some firms are re-evaluating the size and setup of their office spaces
  • For most firms the year yielded solid financial results with cash holding up well – not what was expected by most in March and April
  • It has been a similar situation for many clients, except those in a few sectors really badly impacted such as the arts, hospitality and tourism. This seems to indicate that the federal and state government stimulus and support measures have been effective
  • Leave provisions have built up but most firms are taking an extended Christmas break which will help reduce them, as well as providing the much needed rest for team members
  • The shift to digital for firms who had been behind the curve was rapidly accelerated
  • Digital signatures and digital exchange of documents remain somewhat of a work in progress in many firms but there is strong momentum moving away from “wet” signatures
  • The value of effective communication between director/partners and the team has been reinforced
  • Auditors have found ways to complete audits fully remotely including stock takes via video, the use of drones and many audit clients have also got a better understanding of the volume of work auditors get through
  • Everyone has been busy, busy, busy
  • It’s time for a rest!

If you think I’ve missed something significant please let me know.

If you are interested in more about my views on life post pandemic here is a video session I recorded and am making available to all: What next for accounting firms post Coronavirus?