SOURCE: SAGE

Sage

January 13, 2015 10:14 ET

Sage Accountancy Index: Canadian Accountants Embrace Advisory Role With Clients

Canadian Accountants Are Expanding Service Offerings to Take on a Proactive Advisory Role but Lack the Technology to Provide Real-Time Advice

RICHMOND, BC--(Marketwired - Jan 13, 2015) - Sage North America, a leading provider of business management software and services to small and midsized businesses in Canada for more than 30 years, announced today the findings from the Sage Accountancy Index. It found that Canadian accounting firms are shifting their approach to business to become trusted advisors for their clients beyond traditional accounting.

Shifting roles means opportunities for growth
The majority of accountants (59 per cent) are expanding their range of expertise into new disciplines including business mentoring, startup advice and payroll services. Fifty-nine per cent anticipate their firms will grow in the next year, and 32 per cent plan to grow their businesses by increasing customer loyalty followed by making pricing changes (28 per cent).

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"Our goal is to help small businesses to succeed and to do that they need to manage their business in a more proactive fashion. As such, becoming a trusted advisor helps them make quicker, better business decisions, but it doesn't happen overnight," said Debrah Burleigh, owner of Debrah Burleigh Accounting. "To realize this level of proactive guidance, we've started offering services outside of 'traditional' accounting such as consulting, training and adopting cloud technology to access and exchange data with our clients in real time."

Adoption of new technology is slow
Currently, only 37 per cent of Canadian firms have adopted online technology in comparison to 55 per cent of their U.S. counterparts. As such, only 5 per cent leverage online or cloud solutions to collaborate and share accounting information with clients, and 66 per cent most often work with their clients face to face and with physical documents. Not surprisingly, 37 per cent of accountants say the main business challenge they face working with clients is collecting documents on time.

Currently 52 per cent of accountants cannot access, exchange or update client accounting information from anywhere or anytime, and only 16 per cent of firms have these capabilities. Yet more than half of accountants are adopting online and mobile technologies for themselves and their staff (56 per cent). Only 14 per cent have no immediate plans to move to online technologies.

"Small and midsized businesses crave more contact with their accountant, and they don't just want tax and compliance help," said Jennifer Warawa, vice president and general manager, Sage Accountant Solutions. "SMBs want help figuring out where they should spend less money, how they should revamp their business plan, or what other companies in their industry are doing. Accountants must transform their business model to become trusted advisors, but they also need to adopt cloud technology that empowers them with the knowledge to make proactive, real-time suggestions for client success."

Other survey highlights:

  • Canadian accountants are more likely indicate that their top business challenge working with clients is the timely collection of necessary business documents versus their U.S. counterparts (37 per cent vs. 30 per cent).
  • Part of the challenge could be how Canadian businesses prefer to work with their accountants. Two-thirds of Canadian accountants said they collaborate with their clients face to face and with physical documents, while only 58 per cent of U.S. accountants indicated the same.
  • However, Canadian accountants expect to see a shift in how mobility and technology play a role in their future:
    • Sixty-three per cent of Canadian accountants believe that mobility will be most useful for communicating with clients.
    • When asked whether they foresee a time when their company changes the mix of skills looked for in staff as technology becomes more critical, 53 per cent of respondents agreed with this statement.
    • Forty-six per cent "foresee a time when my company works 100 per cent through online and collaborative tools."

Additional resources:

Note to editors: As part of the global 2014 Sage Accountancy Index, Sage interviewed 1,260 accountants at Sage customer businesses in eight countries between July 29 and September 30, 2014, including 383 accountants in Canada during the same time period. All data is available on request.

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We provide small and medium-sized organizations with a range of easy-to-use, secure, and efficient business management software and services -- from accounting and payroll to enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and payments. Our customers receive continuous advice and support through our global network of local experts to help them solve their business problems, giving them the confidence to achieve their business ambitions. Formed in 1981, Sage was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1989 and entered the FTSE 100 in 1999. Sage has millions of customers and 12,975 employees in 24 countries covering the UK & Ireland, mainland Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia, Asia, and Brazil.

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