Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read September 2021 — Rand Meyer, managing partner at professional services firm DHG, spoke to Invest: about the continued need for accountants in an increasingly complex world. DHG experienced growth in spite of the pandemic, Meyer said. The industry has been improved, as well, by the technological evolution the crisis of 2020 prompted.
What factors are driving the bulk of your work today?
There are several factors. First, our fiscal year just ended, and it was a strong year for us. If we rolled back the tape and asked a year ago whether we were going to have a record year for FY21, most of us would have said no. We feel very fortunate for that. Most of our clients have recovered quite well and are able to restart projects that may have been postponed early in the pandemic. Every client was hit differently by the pandemic. In terms of the opportunity COVID has presented, we have seen growth in every service line — audit, tax and advisory. Throughout the pandemic, audit requirements never really went away. Our Tax and Advisory teams saw some uptick due to helping clients navigate the various relief packages offered by the government, such as the PPP loans and Employee Retention Credits.
How did the pandemic affect specific areas of insurance?
I’d say the pandemic had the biggest impact on insurance lines where you’re insuring automobile and transportation risks, since a lot of that activity declined as people simply weren’t driving as much. If you think about transportation companies, there was a time there when a lot of companies shut down unless they were considered essential, so that field was affected. Another aspect here is that the cost of everything is going up — the cost of labor, the cost of materials — so that’s had an impact on insurance. On the life insurance side, there was an uptick in mortality rates. The question is, are we going to continue seeing that or was that a one-time phenomenon?
How successful was the adoption of new technology over the last year?
We’re always working to improve technology. The amazing thing is that I don’t think anybody expected pre-pandemic people would work as well remotely as they did. It’s pretty incredible to see this across nearly every industry line. We will continue to invest in technology. If we can find ways to automate and create efficiencies, it will free our people from some of the mundane tasks, allowing them to use their experience doing analysis.
What skills are increasingly important in the accountancy field?
Among the hot fields right now is auditing. There will always be a great interest in auditing. People are concerned that, with artificial intelligence and robotics, we’re going to have to do away with accountants. Nothing could be further from the truth. For CPAs, as the world becomes more complex, there will always be demand. Where we’re really starting to see some new dynamics is in the area of data analytics. It’s huge. Companies are trying to figure out how to access the data they already have at their fingertips, but they don’t yet understand how to navigate. They want meaningful access in a digestible form. Tax is another area of growth. Taxes are not going away and tax codes will certainly not be getting simpler. Cybersecurity is another huge growth area. With that more in the news, companies are going to be more willing to invest in cybersecurity. Frankly, our primary concern is obtaining enough talent to handle the demand. This area is getting ready to explode.
What is the role of innovation in the accounting world?
In addition to the increased use of data analytics in management decisions, the increasing complexity of accounting and taxation rules is also driving innovation to reduce time spent on higher volume-lower risk tasks, allowing accountants to focus on those higher risk and more complex areas.
What is your near-term outlook?
I’d say it’s a bit mixed. Overall, people are pretty bullish on the economy because there’s so much cash in the economy. The headwinds that we face include worries about labor. My clients tell me they can’t find enough people to fill open positions. That’s probably the biggest issue. The second concern is the risk of inflation, which at the moment is the highest it’s been in the last 13 years.
Internally, we think we can grow as a firm over the next year. Similar to many of our clients, our biggest hurdle is having the right resources to allow for that growth.
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