Kevin can you share with us a bit about your background?
Kevin: Yes, and thank you for having me. It’s always good to catch up with you. And I know we’ve caught up in multiple continents over the years, so it’s good to sit down and talk online like this. Me, I’m originally from Dublin actually, and that’s where I started my ACCA exams all that time ago, back in 1999, which seems like a long, long time ago now.
Kevin: But I’ve been really fortunate to have an accounting career that has taken me through working for a small to medium practice, working in audit, working for hedge funds in Dublin, moving into recruitment when I went to work in Australia and helping accountants find their career pathway. And then most recently, and in my current role, which is almost six years is working at Xero in both Australia and now leading our business out of Asia and living in Singapore.
Heather: Yeah, we have a lot of similarities in that we both leverage the ACCA qualification to travel and work in many countries and support small businesses on their digital journey. So we have a lot of complementary interests there.
1. The meaning of work. Purpose and meaning from work become important.
Kevin: I think when it comes to purpose, and especially for accountants, it’s really figuring out where your passion lies. And sometimes that’s a discovery. So it’s not an expectation that you know the answer to that when you get started, and no, I certainly didn’t. But something that developed in me is a real passion to help business owners. And I started to learn who the business owners were and understood that the business is actually a family unit behind it. And that was a really interesting perspective that you don’t get when you’re in the uni or school, I guess, and such. You really are going to get it in real-life examples.
Kevin: And that meaning of work then became very much about passion for work and passion for helping people. And I think that’s where you develop your purpose. And I see accountants developing that over their career rather than having it at the start. And it’s a really big trend and I think people are now looking for it and searching for it, and then talking about it more in terms of what is the passion and what do accountants want to do? And I think that’s been a real shift, and certainly in the last 10 years.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And I see accountants who are actually working with their clients to actually help them find their own meaning. And it’s not just about the business, but it’s about their life goals and how the two can complement each other. In some cases, the accountants are just going in and helping them free up time, free up capacity through either digitalisation or assisting them in engaging more staff or growing their business in different ways.
2. Connectivity. Digital drives ‘never seen before’ new opportunities to collaborate.
Kevin: I think we’re a living example of that connectivity and collaboration right now. I’m in Singapore, you’re in Australia. I guess the advantages of connectivity is it’s bringing down some of the barriers, but it also means that there are easier ways to connect with people globally. There are easier conversations to have. Digital networking has never been so prolific. You look at LinkedIn and the number of people actually using it, and that’s a tool. And I think anybody that’s in the industry, ACCA members wondering more about LinkedIn, I would say, jump in and start to learn and try different things and understand that the majority of people that are on LinkedIn are already accepting that they’re there to network. And it’s how you engage with them that’s really important and have your own brand and style and a way of connecting because we’re all different in that regard.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And it does gives us such an ability to collaborate. Just, for example, this month we’ll find out ACCA member. And I both jumped on a webinar, a panel for an accounting firm based in Atlanta called Acuity. And we were able to both deliver amazing content for them because accountancy is an international language. And we were able, both of us, Will being in Norwich in England and me being in Australia, able to deliver value to that panel discussion.
3. The ‘A’ word. Automation frees up professionals to focus on higher-value work.
Kevin: I love this topic as you know. Automation is here to stay, I think. It’s fascinating to see how much has changed in the accounting industry in 20 years, but also how much hasn’t. And I always, when I’m speaking to members I say, “Okay, this is the way I used to do my work back in 2000 and 2002 when I was working in a practice.” And I actually find that a lot of them are still working the same way. And it’s amazing to see that automation isn’t everywhere yet, but it is definitely very powerful in the places where it is being used. And it changes the game for accountants.
Kevin: We shouldn’t, I think the exams are hard enough and the studying is a big commitment. You don’t need to do that and then go into a business and do data entry for your career. You need to be in there looking at the insights and what it means and storytelling about the business. And really automation as has had a big impact on the industry. But I still think it’s got a long way to go, actually.
Heather: Yes, absolutely. Smart people shouldn’t be doing stupid things and embracing automation just frees us up to really think about and help our clients. And I look for automation in every everything that I can find. Any process I can automate, I find a way to automate it.
Kevin: Yeah, and it’s even our personal lives are so automated. So it’s really, I find it fascinating when I meet an accountant and speak to a lot of ACCA members and you see they’ve got the best smartphone. But the business they work in is probably using really old technology. And it’s a very diverse situation for them to be in because personally, they’re using the best technology available to them, but professionally they’re not. And I wonder how that actually impacts their career, what are they learning?
4. ‘EmTech’. Emerging technologies redistribute work between man and machine.
Kevin: I always look to you for EmTech. I think you’re really across all the technology that’s coming up for SMEs and SNPs. And I actually think that that growing wave of emerging technology in SME space is just incredible. If you actually pinpointed say 10 or 12 years ago, the idea of an ecosystem of technology available for SMEs didn’t really exist in a very comprehensive way. And I think emerging technology is just, it’s so important for accountants to be on top of it and actually link up with people like yourself to find out what’s the new, latest and greatest technology that’s available?
Kevin: Because when I’m speaking with members, there is a lot of answers to, “Did you hear about this technology?” “I didn’t know that existed, how do we get it? How did you learn about it?” The curiosity is there, but I think it’s actually been a bit more curious to learn about what emerging technology is coming out.
Heather: Yeah, and I think that curiosity is a really important part. And whether that would be you or someone in your firm to actually go out and explore, and take the time to actually learn what’s out there. And I know that some firms actually will dedicate a person and give them time to just not bill and to just explore.
Heather: And I know for myself, I will follow interesting newsletters. And as soon as I see a tool that is perhaps new on the market that’s boasting about AI and machine learning, I’ll try it and see whether I think that’s something that either is going to be a benefit to me, or it’s going to benefit my clients, or it’s going to benefit someone I know. And just those efficiencies, I really like to embrace.
5. The rise of data. Data possibilities become ever central to the roles of professional accountants.
Kevin: I find it fascinating because it’s, accountancy for me is also about facts and really looking at the data to give you a bit more understanding of the facts and the aggregation of data that we’re doing in certain regions where we have a lot of SMEs using the platform, is really fascinating to see the storytelling that comes out of it.
Kevin: And even though this time of COVID-19, we’re starting to see trends that are very similar in New Zealand, Australia and the UK across the SME market, which would even suggest that there is much more correlation internationally between SMEs than maybe we expected. And you could nearly pinpoint the change and the rise of increment of those businesses, the bounce back as we’re calling it. And I think that’s where there’s an opportunity for accountants to dig into that data and say, “Okay, what does this mean? What story is this telling us about our businesses? How do I help my client?”
Kevin: But you can only get to the point of having rich data if you have the right tools to surface it. And I think that comes back to the whole topic of digitalisation. What does it mean? What do I get from it? I really think there’s a big conversation to be hard. And some discovery for members around, well, digitalisation of bookkeeping, accounting, a tax audit is one thing, but what you get from it is where the real power lies. What is the impact of it?
Kevin: Because accounting hasn’t changed for a very, very long time. Debits and credits have not, and will not change, but how do you actually get them into the system? And then what do you use that general ledger for which is a database in the cloud? How can you take advantage of that?
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And with that information, and with those insights from the data, you can actually talk to your clients. One of the things that did come out of that insights report, as well as small businesses, were hit hard but rebounded faster, was that cities moved from looking like a fried egg with everything happening in the middle of the yoke, to more looking like a scrambled egg with activity happening all around the edges.
Heather: So if you’re now talking to a hospitality client, you may be saying to them, “Well, maybe the next restaurant you open, or maybe the restaurants that you’ve got, you would actually benefit from moving them out into the suburbs.” And as an accountant, you can put the data in front of them to tell them that it’s not their data, it’s macro data, and that’s really, it’s free, it’s available to everyone, and that’s really exciting.
Kevin: Yeah. I agree.
6. Generation Z. A new tech-savvy generation enters the profession.
Kevin: I would definitely agree they are tech-dependent. And I have a nephew who’s six, and he’s probably used more tech in the first couple of years of his, from four to six than any kid I’ve seen before. He’s got his tablet. He knows how to use it. He can access education. He can get entertainment. He can watch videos. And I just find that fascinating. And that then becomes habitual, it becomes normal. And yes, then habits become dependencies. So I really agree that that’s a good observation.
Kevin: I actually see Gen Z as an opportunity for me to learn from, so I go and see and ask them, “Hey, what are you using in your business? What are you doing?” Because they see technology as easy whereas I think a lot of people and a lot of accountants see technology as a big implementation. It sounds like there’s going to be a lot of disruption, whereas Gen Z has got a completely different perspective on it, and the barriers to change just are completely dissipated.
Kevin: They’re already in the process of discovery. What can this technology do? What else can I get? Whereas, maybe some other generations, which I’m in, are more about, “Let’s slow this down first. Let’s find out what it means. What do we need to get ready?” And I think there’s much more exploration of technology from Gen Z.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree with that. And I know that I have, with the Gen Z that I’ve dealt with, I’ve said, “Come and look at my setup, how can I improve it?” And the funny thing that they told me was, “Get a giant gaming mouse pad.” So my entire desk is actually a mouse pad. And it’s that small micro efficiency that just runs through my entire day, it just makes my experience seamless with my computer and my mouse. And I know it’s silly. It was super cheap, but I would never have thought of that.
7. Longevity. An older workforce and 5 generations in the profession enrich the talent base.
Kevin: Yeah, and it’s … There’s a big opportunity there. I look at it in maybe two ways. You look at the different generations, but historically we’ve probably looked at it through the lens of the technology adoption curve been under the role that I’m in and you end up with the early adopters and the laggards.
Kevin: And there’s a fair assumption to say the laggards are the oldest generation. But what I’ve seen over the years is that they recognise that digitalisation is a really key thing that they have to do. And they generally jump the curve a little bit quicker. Part of it is because they might see the wider opportunity for their clients. Their clients are starting to demand more. They’re looking at their own businesses and they will, “How do I keep the value in that business so it might be a bit more pressure to actually digitise?”
Kevin: So I think having a mix of generations and different people to speak with, I think that’s really key because you get different perspectives and everybody’s had different technology journey. So I think it’s cool. And I think we can learn from both so if you’re in the middle. These people who’ve been around a little bit longer and seen different trends and different things. Some of the youngsters coming through, you can learn just as much from so yeah, a good time to be in the business.
Heather: I absolutely agree. And the other thing is that your client base, maybe if you have elder people in your office, if they’re dealing with the client base, the client base who are elder may actually prefer that. And I know that some businesses may even have the father-son type of relationship in that, the elder person in the business deals with the father and the younger person that business deals with the son, but it is a family business and it just resonates better with them. So, yeah. So, hopefully, that’s another one for the people to take advantage of.
8. Beyond the lattice? Career paths become much less obvious and more variable.
Kevin: Yeah, and it’s always been historically going to an audit firm, generally one of the larger ones, do your studies, get the experience and then you start to move on from there into different. And it might be a continuation of the audit firm or moving into corporate. And certainly, I saw that when I worked in audit, but also I saw that when I worked in recruitment.
Kevin: The amount of newly qualified accountants that had worked in an audit firm for four or five years, far outweighed the people that were coming from a smaller accounting practice or even had worked in an SME. And they, as a result of that, their perception of the world is very much large corporate, and they’ve never really been exposed to what else is out there.
Kevin: And some of them actually moved to a smaller, maybe even a suburban accounting firm. But what they discovered was that firm was way more nimble, utilising modern technology, were closer to clients, they were more involved, and then the passion for their career actually changed. And I guess in the case of myself, it’s, I was in accounting, then I was in audit, then hedge funds, then recruitment and now technology. And a big part of the reason for that is the ACCA experience, and the ACCA training, and the business training that I got.
Kevin: And as you mentioned earlier, having the ACCA qualification was also an opportunity to have a passport to travel, a professional passport. So I think the lattice is definitely key and I’m seeing people rather than chasing the direct career growth to get to a set path really quickly, they’re looking a bit broader and saying, “Okay, well, what’s happening in different industries? What can I learn? What would I like to do?” And going on more discovery around their career, which is good.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. I know as a young ACCA member, I actually lived in Wolverhampton in England for a whole of period of time. And during that time, I knew I couldn’t get a job because I was only going to be there a short period of time. But what I did was I took, through a recruitment agency, lots of casual work. So I did three weeks at a train company. I did six weeks at a book company, and it actually taught me an amazing amount of stuff that I was then able to bring through into the latter stages of my career that I potentially could have stayed there two years and maybe not learnt more than I needed to in that six-week period. So lots of different skill opportunities through that.
9. Rent a CFO? The rise of the gig economy changes the composition of teams.
Kevin: Rent a CFO, online CFOs, cloud CFOs, I’ve never seen so many available in my whole life and it’s a win-win for both parties. You’re getting a really capable, qualified individual who maybe doesn’t actually want the full-time role or doesn’t need it, but they still want to be helping, they still get a lot of enjoyment from helping businesses, and they can dial in like this and have great consultation. And obviously, a big part of it is having the right data and the tools and the technology. And generally, a lot of the CFOs for rent now will demand that their business is using their cloud tool.
Kevin: What I’ve also seen is some very progressive accounting firms, even in Hong Kong actually, have a range of CFOs available. So the client will come to the business, and if they feel that they would be better suited to having a CFO on hand for a couple of hours a week, or a couple of days a month, they’ve got 10 to 12 CFOs to choose from. And they’re not all in Hong Kong. So they’re in different places in the world. So they’re doing introductory services to CFOs who are really capable of using cloud technology.
Kevin: And I find that space really fascinating because there’s an opportunity for people who are maybe thinking about new ways of working. Do they want to be locked into one city? Do they want to travel? And I think that opens up a world of opportunities. But for an SME, you get somebody who’s really capable, maybe you didn’t have that experience before with a CFO, that it was just the finances were done by yourself and you had an external party to do it, but imagine you could get one day a week with somebody who’s really experienced in business to really help. So, that is a really fast-growing trend.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And as you said, some people don’t want to work full time. And that was very much me. I was working around my children’s school hours, and I was jumping into client businesses and assisting them with their accounts. I had clients, I had a skateboarding shop in Panama. I had a juice shop in Seattle, and absolutely I can jump in and tell them what their numbers are telling them and explain that to them and help them on their journey. And as an accountant these days, you can, if you’re not dealing with that compliance side, work from anywhere and your clients can be anywhere through that opportunity, and the small businesses benefit so much. It’s, as you said, win-win.
10. Command to collaboration. Flatter structures, collaborative teams, virtual working.
Kevin: Big changes to this. And I think it really comes down to the topic of future of work. How are we going to work? What’s the new hierarchy? Because I do feel … I was thinking about this reasoning, years ago, the hierarchy was determined by who had the corner office, but now we’re all online. And if we continue to work like this, how does maybe a new individual go into a business or understand, “Well, is there a hierarchy? How do I navigate it? What are the politics in the office?” As much as we don’t want to have them, sometimes they do exist.
Kevin: But flatter structures and collaboration really only comes when everybody drives it. One of the things I do is I make sure that I spend quite a lot of time with the newest and probably the most junior members in our team. And that’s a purposeful style that I have because I think that that splice to the rest of the team, that there is no hierarchy.
Kevin: If we want to get stuff done, if we want to learn, if we want to respect everybody’s opinion and make them feel really welcome in our business, there’s got to be a direct correlation between the actions that I take and with the newest and most junior people on our team. And that’s one way that I’ve seen it happen.
Kevin: Information as well. We use Slack internally. That’s just really key to collaboration. And what I really like about it is, the language is probably a little bit less formal, the business, and it’s obviously, it’s still very professional, but it gives people the opportunity just, I think, to work quicker. It’s not sitting there and thinking about sending them an email that’s going to take 15 minutes and reread it. Communication has become a lot quicker as well. And I think that’s actually really helped collaboration nowadays.
Heather: Yes. I probably I’m on the other end having to Google all the three-letter acronyms that end up in Slack going, “What are they telling me,” but that’s the older person in the workplace. But I do think that as we move towards digitalisation, it’s very much, I need the skills out of you, I need the talent out of you. And I know from my own remote working experience massively reduces the politics involved in any situation.
Heather: Because I’m not at the water cooler, I’m not involved.
11. CV R.I.P.? Future CVs focus on skills attained not job titles acquired.
Kevin: Yeah, and I haven’t worked in recruitment for three and a half years. Individuals write CVs to really show progression and that they’ve done really well, and it’s, they can be quite generic. So I used to see maybe 80 to a 100 CVs a week when I worked down in Robert Walters. And I could see the form that was the same, especially if people that are coming out of the audit, it was exactly the same. And there was no flavour to it.
Kevin: So it really was difficult for me to determine, “Okay, well, what skills do you have?” Not what have you actually done? It’s a list of tasks basically, and it was amazing. The number of times that I had to encourage someone or coach someone on rewriting their CV because they would tell me things that weren’t on the CV, because they sat down to write their CV to impress.
Kevin: And it was more related to progression, to show seniority and experience, but it had less about skills and wins and achievements. And it was a very interesting world to live in, and I’ve seen so many CVs, and then you see a new style, and people have pictures, and different things and charts, and I think CVs need to go.
Kevin: I think it’s really to get to know the person. I would love to see one page or half-page content description of me. This is what I can do. And it would be fascinating if they never said where they worked. I think that would be a really fun way to actually present yourself to a business, say, “I can do A, B and C, if you need me to do these jobs, this is where I’m really proficient.” And less about the bias of the brands that you’ve worked in because we’re seeing this now on LinkedIn. So many people in their titles are from X big business, X big business. “I used to work here.” “What? That’s nothing about your skills.”
Kevin: That’s about, it’s nearly like I know this person, and it’s not good enough I think for accountants to have that. I think they need to be talking about skills, they’ve attained businesses, how they’ve helped them, whether that’s in growth or turn around our culture in SME’s. In time, CVs will really start to die off.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. You raised some really good points there. And to add to that, I also think the work that you’re doing outside maybe of your career may also be you can bring that to the profile.
Heather: So for instance, during my university years, I worked at every restaurant on the Gold Coast. So I had an excellent customer facing skills. I could talk to anyone underwater. And those sorts of skills bring them into an accounting world are really important. So if you, whatever you’re doing, whether it be leading scout groups or leading tours or other activities or volunteering, which is very important, highlight the skills that are coming from that as we’ve discussed.
Kevin: Yeah, and I think Heather, I think there’s, it will work both ways. So hiring managers need to understand that they might have a bias towards where someone has worked rather than what they’ve learned.
Kevin: We used to test some of this when I worked at Robert Walters. It was we removed the name of the company where somebody worked, and see would that CV have attraction? And it was funny, sometimes you took the name of the company off and they would say, “Oh, I’m not really interested,” because they read some of the tasks and they were like, “I’m not that impressed.” But if they saw that they worked at a business that was quite similar to theirs in a similar role, that was a safety hire. They’re actually, “Okay. Yeah, we should hire this person.” And they didn’t really look at the skills.
Heather: Yeah, I do know of someone who says he actually delivers a graphic. It’s just a made up visual graphic of his resume, an Infogram of his resume rather than an actual resume. So something for the accountants to think about who is hiring, different options there, and something for the accountants to think about if they’re actually looking for jobs.
12. Skills transformation. As careers adapt, ACCA’s professional quotients rise in relevance.
Kevin: Yeah, I think the ACCA has done a great job actually investigating, surveying and figuring out what’s really needed in terms of skills transformation and I know they’ve published a lot on this in the last couple of years. I would really encourage ACCA members to spend some time actually sitting and looking at these and saying, “Okay, where do I fit in? What do I need to learn?” And maybe grade yourself on each one.
Kevin: And it’s funny, there’s always talk about soft skills and the development of soft skills, they’re sometimes the hardest ones to develop. It doesn’t come from a book. The concepts do but the practice and everything like that are really different. So, that’s definitely a big area that I think accountants need to really develop.
Kevin: And we are known to be great at doing accounting, but generally it’s the other side of the business where SMEs are looking for that storytelling, the enhancement of the data, what’s actually happening. And I think that’s where this trend is really highlighting that we as accountants need to continue to develop and be able to story tell.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And that may be looking at micro-courses like actual writing. I know I’ve done a lot of writing. I’ve done a lot of storytelling courses, and I’ve done a lot of speaking courses which is through groups such as Toastmasters to actually build on those skills and actually speak in front of people who don’t know accounting about the excitement of accounting.
13. Continuous learning. Professionals need to continuously reinvent themselves and re-learn.
Kevin: CPD is the railway to do this. It gives you the structure to do it, but if you’re an accountant now in 2020, and you are not being curious about digital technologies available for your clients, yourself, then you are not in a mode of continuous learning. And I think that’s critical for ACCA members to really have this, not a character trait, it has got to become a habit of really being curious.
Kevin: And it’s very easy to discover where this learning is. You start with Google. You start to find out what technology is popular. You start to look at ecosystems and see what are people using? And even go out and ask people in your network what are they using it in their own businesses. I just try to do it, if I go into a cafe or I’m speaking to a retail store like, “What payment system are you using? Does that connect to your inventory management?” And you find out all these amazing things. And I think that’s where accountants probably don’t see that world of continuous learning and the opportunity that it is actually quite easy to get in there and keep up to speed on what’s happened.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of the solutions do offer a lot of free webinars that are easy to access in different formats. So Xero puts out a lot of excellent content that’s worth accessing. And a lot of the big apps that sit in the accounting technology, that sits around Xero, put a lot of interesting information out there.
Heather: ACCA releases a lot of podcasts and I think go down the route and explore it. And if you like it, dive in deep and see what you can make of it. You never know what’s going to come of it. And if you don’t like it, well, that’s fine, pull out and then explore something else. But it’s interesting because all areas can actually bring you back to what you’re doing in the accounting world, because they all do compliment it.
14. Learning culture. Learning culture at work evolves in the face of skills transformation.
Kevin: Actually I had a great conversation with an ACCA member in Singapore about this recently. And she blew me away with what she was doing in her job. And she had been working, she is actually working in a small to medium practice. They’re about 50 people. They service a few hundred clients.
Kevin: Her job is actually RPA. So the Robotic Process Automation and finding opportunities initially in their own work flow. So what else can they do in the business to figure out what can they leverage on? What APIs are available on accounting software platforms? What APIs are available on the banks? Using tools like Zapier or different things in the realm of business to, I guess, digitise their own workflow.
Kevin: Part of their job is then bringing that to all of their clients. And that for me was a great example of learning culture. Very supportive bosses, given extra time to work and clearly it’s something that she really had a passion to do. And I just thought that was a great example of somebody living that learning culture. Really, really cool to see.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things that, I’m a solo operator, one of the things that we do is we actually connect in with a number of other people, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, and we actually have watch parties to watch webinars. So we get together and we actually, we’ll arrange to watch a particular webinar. I think in a few days we’re actually going to watch a webinar on how to deal with your mental health and wellness during the pandemic. And we’re all going to get together and watch it. And then we chat, and we stop, and we talk about it.
Heather: But as a solo person, yes, I still can embrace learning, and embrace it with the community. So yeah, fabulous. And that buys into everything that we’re talking about in terms of connectivity, opportunity, learning. And what it means is other people throw in things, “Do we want to do this together? Do we want to do that together?” And it’s fantastic. It’s really nice. It’s really nice way to spend some time and feel part of the team.
15. Digital learning. Technology drives an explosion in learning opportunities.
Kevin: I would wholeheartedly agree with this. Earlier, prior to this year, I decided to try and learn Indonesian. And I’m still on the pathway for learning it so I won’t even try to speak some of it today. But I was curious about how I would do it and what it meant, and did I need to be sitting with somebody?
Kevin: But I found a platform called Preply, which is P-R-E-P-L-Y, and started to read some reviews about it. And it came from me Googling, “How can I learn Indonesian online?” I found the platform. Within 24 hours, I’d gone through and read some reviews and teachers that were there. I had contacted a couple of teachers, and within two or three days I had my first lesson.
Kevin: It was paid from Lion. They’re a SAS business. I could say I had a diary management tool, so I could go in and book lessons for a year ahead, and see the diary availability of the teacher. We could talk to each other through the platform itself, like in message, and she could send me some homework. So, for the first time in a long time I had some homework to do. And I just, I was like, “Actually, it can be this easy. It really can.” And that was a very affordable learning solution.
Kevin: It was just incredible and quite easy to do it. So yeah, digital learning, I’m all for it.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. I decided the other day I needed to improve the keyboard skills of my left hand. And I actually found a tool online that lets me practise my left hand only, and it’s free and I just jump on it once a day every day, and just will slowly improve that. But I think …
Kevin: Oh, wow.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. If there’s something that you identify that you’re going to enjoy learning, benefit from, jump online and see what’s available to you. And there’s lots of courses. And I just love that. And I do think that, I see you going on holiday there. I see you embracing the culture there and I just see it so much enriching your life, just learning that skill that you actually did remotely.
16. Inclusivity. Accounting teams become more diverse because it makes good business sense.
Kevin: Yeah, to be fair, I think this is broader than just accounting teams. But diversity and inclusion is so critical. It’s very close to me because look, I’m an Irish guy living in Singapore. So, for me to immerse into the culture of the team, I was very conscious around what could I bring? What flavours could I bring culturally? What does it mean for the team when they have me coming into the team as well?
And it’s, there is a very heartwarming scenario, and you feel really welcome. And I think that gives you then the opportunity to be really who you are. And who you are is when you can actually do the best work of your life. And it’s all tied down to your passion and your happiness. And I think when you have that experience, it’s way easier to share with other people as well. So, it’s like a perpetuating cycle of positivity and inclusivity. It’s basically saying, “Okay, well, I can feel it; therefore, I want everybody else to feel it.” And then it’s a really great place to be. And when people can be themselves, that’s when you get really good outcomes and learnings and collaboration, which translates into great business outcomes.
Heather: ACCA is a global passport, and we should be able to work from anywhere. If we want to work from anywhere with people, when people from anywhere come and work with us, we need to embrace them.
Both of us have used the word ‘perspective’, different perspective, many times because everyone’s perspective brings so much to the actual organisation. I fully embrace inclusivity and diversity and am constantly learning how I can continue too embrace that because sometimes quite rightly. They say, “Okay, you had some unconscious bias there”, harm. Constantly learning in this regard, but fully actively try to embrace inclusivity wherever I can.
17. Business models innovate. Professional accountants have new opportunities as business models change.
Kevin: It looks as if 2020 where COVID I think has forced business model innovation. And innovation come from creative sources but also from really challenging times where you have to come up with a solution. And I think ACCA members have such a good exposure to model’s changing all around the world at the moment like what business they do to survive? What business do we do to capitalise on an opportunity? And then what does it mean for the people?
Kevin: And I think you’re a great example of showcasing that you can do this. And I just said, you’re a solopreneur, but the impact that you have out to the community is way more than what one person could have done 10 years ago. But using the right tools and having a good, innovative business model, you’re able to do a really great range of things. And so yeah, well done.
Heather: Yeah, but I think it’s not even trying to rebuild what was in the past. Don’t necessarily try and build those old structures that are there. Work out what works for you. Work out what actually works for you and what’s going to suit you.
18. Trust and ethics. There is a growing need to trust, a refocus on ethical behaviour in the stakeholder society.
Kevin: So, when I started as an accountant, I really recognised how much trust clients placed on me straight away. And that was a huge level of responsibility. And the example I would give was, I had clients that would come to me to talk about situations in their family, or they needed legal advice, or they wanted other advice that they felt I could find out that solution for them.
Kevin: And it really showed me that accounting industry had to be highly respected. And we have responsibility as members to continue that. It actually show that we do the right things and live obviously within the guide rules of ethics. And make sure that we reinforce them as well and show society that we will continue to be a very trusted profession over the years.
Kevin: There’s a big element of trust as well that’s happening with businesses now as things move to Cloud. So, how do we bring that element of our characteristics and our beliefs of trust and ethics into the tools that we use as well, and make sure that there is that focus on really ethical behaviour?
Kevin: So, I think it goes to say accountants are very heavily governed professional bodies and we should keep it that way.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely along with our professional bodies, and circle back to them when we do have any issues that our clients bring to us as necessary. And also in terms of the tools that we may perhaps recommend to our clients, make that assessment in terms of, do we trust this and is this going to be as secure as it possibly can be for the current standards?
19. Multi-Polar world. The rise of cities and shifting economic power provides new career opportunities.
Kevin: A level playing field I think for accountants. So, I don’t think there’s as much restriction on maybe where you are currently based because of the way to digitally network, the way to digitally work online. And I would really encourage accountants at the moment to think about the type of work they want to do. And what region would that be in because it’s very much people are going to be looking for talent in different places now.
Kevin: And I think for businesses, even like ourselves where we are a global business, we’ve gone, “Hey, is there talent in different places around the world that we could actually connect with? What about the changing dynamics of the cities? Where is there opportunities for accountants to learn?” It’s definitely going to change. And change even more, I think next year, until we really figure out what’s the impact of us all working from home? What needs to happen next?
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And in terms of workflow and capacity planning, we, all of, say if we talk to an accounting practice, the compliance deadlines are different throughout the world. And I’m actually aware of firms in Australia who make their staff available to firms in England during their quiet time. So during that November, December, January, which is, can be quite quiet time here in Australia is quite a busy time in the UK. And so I just love that model.
Heather: And they’ve told me that in times gone by they’ve actually gone and worked over there physically, but now are doing it remotely. So it’s, if you do need capacity in your firm, there are opportunities abroad and they’re of highly talented people in many different places. And you do have the confidence if they have the ACCA qualification to move ahead with those decisions.
20. Digital recruitment. Technology is transforming recruitment models and networking opportunities.
Kevin: So, digital recruitment is happening right now. And we went through it in Singapore. So we actually hired six people in April and it was all done online. And we had the systems and tools to obviously collect the applications and engage people that way, but all of the interviews were like this. And it was really fascinating for me because my style of interview is really get to know the person, that maybe their skills have already been checked by people in the team.
Kevin: And it’s fascinating Heather because I think you’re trying to get a sense of who they are and there’s digital body language like, “What’s happening? How do you really engage with somebody?” Because making the decision to hire somebody is probably one of the biggest decisions that you make in your business. It can really have a big impact on the team, the business, the cost in the business as well. And I can really feel that this has changed. And actually I’m speaking to some recruitment agencies that I know even they’re saying that it’s massively changed. And they’re actually getting more international applications. And that’s probably part of digital recruitment people saying, “Hey, is there more companies in your region that wants to hire, engage with them in a recruitment process online?”
Heather: And I imagine that some of the tools of technology out there available can actually assist in that process of assessing applications, both through identity checks and scanning the resumes. And identifying different things that you may not have easily identified, and surfacing talent.
Heather: So, thank you so much, Kevin, for running through the 20 trends, changing the world of work and transforming the nature of career in accountancy. I’m sure people who are listening in today will have found it really interesting to hear our different perspectives on this and hopefully how they can take advantage of it depending on where they are in their own career.
Kevin: I hope so. It was really good to chat with you today. Always good to discuss these things and hello to all of our ACCA members listening as well. Thank you.
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About Heather Smith
USA Accounting Today listed Heather as one of 21 people helping shape (and reshape) the accounting industry in 2020.
A technology and lifestyle accountant with a deep understanding of automated integrated cloud business tools and how business apps can be implemented and utilised effectively to improve workflow and surface information useful for data-informed decisions. She extensively shares her methodologies, business strategies and work-life balance practices through the ‘Cloud Stories’ podcast, multiple Cloud Accounting books, the Accounting Apps newsletter, blogs and social media platforms.
A FCA, FCCA, FICB, commerce graduate, and accredited trainer.