Writer: Joey Garrand
2 min read September 2022 — In a not so distant future, someone with a master’s degree in machine learning or programming could become the ideal candidate for accounting firms. In interviews with Invest:, leaders within the accounting industry shared how they’re navigating a changing workforce, technological innovations and a potential recession.
How has the pandemic permanently impacted the industry?
Marty Garland, Pennsylvania Office Managing Partner, Mazars USA LLP
One of the greatest things that came out of the pandemic is adaptability. If you had asked me before the pandemic how long it would take to create a remote workforce that is comfortable and ready to move, I would have said 10 to 15 years. In under two years, we were able to go remote and work effectively within our confines. This development has brought along other changes with it as well. Now we are seeing that employees don’t want to work in the office five days a week like they used to. The challenge is finding the right balance between the office and remote work.
Rick Coyne, Partner-in-Charge, Withum’s Philadelphia and Princeton offices
The accounting industry has changed quite a bit. The pandemic sped up the concept of working remotely. One big difference is that training has to change. At Withum we have a certain culture that we like to follow and that’s not easy to do over a remote environment, so we have to figure out how to incorporate our culture into training that’s not in person.
The whole process of meeting in person has had its ups and downs this year. There were times when it was no problem to have in-person events, and there were times when we had to cut things back because of too many people, which means that dealing with clients has also changed. Clients who would have had us out at their facilities are now having us do this work remotely because we have found it just makes more sense and is safer.
People within the accounting industry also began to take introspective looks at their lives and ask themselves, “Do I really want to be working more than 50 to 60 hours a week?” So, we also see a lot of people cutting back and saying that they don’t want to work over 40 to 45 hours a week. With all of that in mind, we are finding ways to manage projects and communicate with staff and clients better in order to make things smoother.
What have been the largest technological advancements within the industry?
Today it’s probably the different software that the accounting industry is utilizing. DocuSign and Teams are extremely helpful because they cut down the time that is needed for the transformation of information. DataSnipper is also something that we have found to be very useful. It is a financial statement analysis tool that enhances the financial statement review process. New technology for carrying out tasks is becoming more important as there is a smaller pool of talent within the industry.
Do you believe that we are heading for a recession, and if so how would this affect Withum?
It seems likely. We seem to keep putting it off. Certain parts of the economy just aren’t buying into recessionary times. For a firm like Withum, there tends to be more work during a recession as people reach out to their accountants for assistance. We just have to work very carefully and closely with our clients to get them where they need to be during a time like that.
Moving forward, what is the most significant priority for Mazars?
When we look at today, we think about what we need for tomorrow. We don’t know if in five years the best candidate to hire for accounting is going to be someone with a traditional finance and accounting degree or someone with a Master of Science degree in machine learning or programming. This is because the future of accounting is going to need people who have the skills to use and understand the new technology and software on top of their ability to understand accounting, and we are very mindful of that. As we go forward, we are going to continue to look at our tools and techniques for recruiting as we try to find the best candidates for the future landscape of the accounting and financial services industry.
What do the next two to three years look like for Withum?
We are planning on growth at Withum. Our priorities are our people and our clients. There are going to be some changes that come with how we find and retain employees and how we meet with our clients. We have an innovation division that focuses on this constantly in order to build a better work environment and better procedures every day.
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