The stresses and challenges of the preceding months dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus literally tested to breaking point the businesses of accountants and financial planners – but it also demonstrated the resilience, expertise and entrepreneurship of these professional advice practitioners.
However, as calm continues to return and health restrictions eased, accountants and planners should be harnessing the momentum of the pandemic to position their businesses to capitalise on post coronavirus opportunities – of which there will be plenty – but it won’t be easy!
First of all, the clock is ticking to a looming deluge of enquiries from concerned clients when the various government stimulus packages and goodwill of financial institutions, utilities, etc end in September.
Not only do accountants and planners need to prepare for this eventuality, they must do so while simultaneously future proofing their businesses to stay relevant beyond the aftereffects of the virus.
This requires re-evaluating what’s important, where value lies and how this value and the highest standards of compliant client advisory services can be delivered more efficiently and effectively.
Time should be used to shape advisory practices by cementing the client at the centre of the universe and then integrating the appropriate technology and workflows; including upskilling key personnel and staff.
Establishing or reaffirming strategic alliances and partnerships will also be crucial with benefits for clients via more comprehensive service offerings. For the advice business the benefits of alliances include fast tracking growth objectives and capitalising on marketing opportunities.
Reflecting on the lessons of the coronavirus so far, first of all it reaffirmed the need and value of accountants and planners as ‘trusted advisers’ when clients turned to them in unprecedented numbers for solace during the onset of the pandemic as share and property markets collapsed, jobs lost and once viable businesses forced to close.
Not only were accountants and planners required to respond to an avalanche of enquiries from fear-stricken clients; they had to also interpret and articulate government economic stimulus programs while simultaneously restructuring their businesses to operate remotely under strict health and safety guidelines.
This served to affirm that technology is an enabler and advisory businesses can still deliver professional advisory services – and that staff have the capacity to be flexible and manage workflows and administrative tasks both onsite and remotely.
But by far the greatest attributes were the past experiences of practice principals and staying positive and focussed on providing comfort and reassurance to clients and staff.
2020 was not the first economic downturn for the majority of accountants and planners. In the past two decades alone, they guided clients through the Dot Com crash of 2000, September 11, 2002-03 market downturn, GFC, 2015-16 decline and now the pandemic.
Furthermore, history has repeatedly shown that every downturn is followed by growth and new opportunities. The coronavirus pandemic demonstrated once again that accountants and planners have a unique marketplace advantage as the trusted advisers that clients turn to in times of stress.
Hence the urgent need for advice practitioners to act now and ensure their houses are in order and ready for the future by building on this position in the hearts and minds of their clients.
In closing, although the future will a positive environment for established businesses, unfortunately it will be a difficult one for new accountant and planner industry entrants that will struggle to open a practice and establish a foot hold.