As the dust settles on Accountex 2019 which took place earlier this month, we wanted to share a few of our biggest highlights and pass along some of the key lessons from our second year attending the event.
Here are our top five:
Techies vs suits: Accountex was buzzing this year, even more so than in 2018. And we couldn’t help noticing that it’s starting to feel much more like a tech conference than an accountancy conference, with colourful t-shirts and hoodies finally outnumbering the grey suits. It’s a nice reflection of the way that accountancy is moving and the level of innovation that is currently underway.
Change is accelerating: In previous years, there was still some uncertainty about the pace and magnitude of change and whether tech was really going to impact the industry, at least in the short-term. But those days are over. Sage’s Jennifer Warawa captured it perfectly in her opening keynote, presenting us with a clear burning platform for change: “Why do we call it ‘emerging tech’ when it has been around for a few years? The reason is that for decades, this technology was only available to large corporates, but now [with the advent of cloud], it becomes accessible to everyone. The pace of change is only going to accelerate.”
We must consider future generations: There was also a big focus on the cultural and generational drivers for change, particularly by QuickBooks’ Nick Williams in his refreshing panel session on the accounting practice of tomorrow. Panelists discussed how skills needs will change and how accounting can attract the digital-savvy Gen Z and Alpha talent it will need in the future. As Williams asked: “Do we hire an accountant that is tech savvy or a data scientist that has good business acumen?”
Real-time accounting is on its way: Emphasis was also placed on real-time accounting and what according to Warawa will be: “Not just a trusted advisor but an ever-present companion.” Tech providers are focused on developing solutions with the power to preemptively solve problems and proactively alert businesses to required actions and potential issues. Ed Molyneux from FreeAgent summed it up nicely when he said: “We want to solve a problem for SMEs before they even realise they have it”
Accountants are the new bank managers: The accounting package, and its ever-expanding ecosystem of services, is quickly being recognised as the main cockpit from where businesses can steer their operations. And as that happens, accountants are taking over from banks as the main channel for financial services. This was the subject of Are Accountants the New Bank Managers?, a panel hosted by Paul Surtees of Capitalise.com, who explained: “Historically banks have sold everything to everyone. Now accountants get all the data and have a better relationship, so they can provide a better service than bankers.” FreeAgent’s Molyneux also explored this topic in his talk on the collision of banking, finance and accounting, describing a “bouquet of services”, encompassing insurance, bank accountants, mortgages, savings, tax, accountancy, and more.
And a few final nuggets to finish:
Competition in the SME space: Looking around the conference, you couldn’t fail to notice how much attention is being paid to the SME market. With so much competition, none of the players can afford to fall behind on product features and really listening to their customers.
Data-led advisory: Advisory was a big talking point, in particular the need for accountants to have real-time data about clients’ activities, in order to advise them effectively.
Sole trader offenders: We overheard a few accountants say that sole traders are bigger offenders for non-payment than SMEs. Something to watch out for!
The MTD moment is over: Interesting to notice (following a comment from CountingUp’s Andrew Garvey) that there was comparatively less talk of Making Tax Digital this year. A big contrast with previous conferences when it felt like we talked about little else!
A flurry of forecasting tools: We were surprised at how big forecasting was. It’s emerging as a whole separate category - which is not astonishing when one realises it eventually branches into alerts and recommendations pointing to other services - we talked about this in a recent blog which you can find here
We’re now busy following up on loads of interesting conversations we had over the two days. The event confirmed once again that it’s a hugely exciting time to be in accounting tech, and we left with loads of ideas and feeling even more motivated than ever about what Hokodo is offering to the underserved SME market. Oh and if you missed out on our super cool Hokodo water bottle let us know, maybe a coffee is in order to get you one.