A 1958 study cited by the CPA Journal revealed that stress levels for many public accountants spike during busy seasons. The frenetic pace of busy seasons may be the least of worries for many accounting professionals in 2014. According to Daniel Hood of Accounting Today, keeping up with government regulations, maintaining reputations and adapting to technological changes are some of the issues topping the list of concerns for many accountants.
Government regulations are a particularly daunting challenge for many accounting professionals, according to Hood. In an attempt to tighten scrutiny and control of economies and organizations in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis and ignominies such as the 2012 Libor-fixing scandal, governments around the world introduced a raft of regulations. Accounting firms are expected to understand and adapt these regulations in their operations. The process of adaptation is a particular concern for accounting professionals and firms with clients around the globe as accounting rules sometimes vary by geographical jurisdiction.
Tied to the problem of keeping up with labyrinthine regulations is the need to maintain a good reputation. Accounting professionals and firms have a public duty to protect the interests of corporate investors. However, they are also expected to keep their clients happy. Balancing these potentially conflicting goals is a perennial problem for many accountants. Reputational risk is not just a concern for accountants, but for many members of boards of directors as well, according to a 2014 Eisner Amper LLP study cited by Jason Bramwell of Accounting Web. This is good news for accountants as it means that top-echelon corporate executives share their desire to gain, maintain or repair the reputations of both the accounting service providers and their clients.
The rapid change of technology is another concern for accounting professionals, according to the CPA Journal. Accounting software is evolving, incorporating new features and shedding those deemed less useful. The increasing dominance of cloud and mobile computing is forcing a paradigm shift on accounting. However, accountants should not see the changes as threats but as opportunities. According to Darren Root, president and chief executive of Rootworks, the future belongs to those accounting firms that continually adopt new technologies and train staff to use them. In addition, improving technology gives accountants the tools they need to make sense of the massive amounts of data that are an inevitable part of the modern accounting environment. However, Jim Bourke, a partner at Withum Smith + Brown, warns accounting firms to keep a close eye on what is arguably the most pressing attendant danger of technological change in 2014: hacking. Firms should invest in proper cybersecurity products and keep them updated.
The growing trend of accounting firm mergers and acquisitions, the fight to maintain relevance in an environment with myriad accounting firms and the need to train a new generation of leaders to replace the aging cohort in many firms are the other vexing issues on the list of concerns of many accounting professionals, according to Hood. Tackling these challenges successfully may be key to the survival of many accounting firms.
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