Navigating choppy waters during a storm is tough. And in the UK, the accounting industry is in the midst of one of the most calamitous storms we’ve ever seen. You could say it’s the perfect storm, but that depends on how you seize the opportunity.

Yes, there’s been a gradual move towards more advisory services, but what we’re talking about is a monumental industry transformation.

Taking stock

Let’s take a look at the lay of the land. Although the Making Tax Digital shift will now be more considered than originally laid out, it is still very much a key focus. The digitisation of tax and compliance by HMRC meanwhile is also an area for consideration, while we of course can’t forget about the impact of Brexit. Many small businesses will be thinking long and hard about how they maintain business as usual, or see success on a new global marketplace.

We also have the new European general data protection directive launching. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), going live in May 2018 will take existing government regulations and rules to do with the management of personal data and information, and maximise it beyond anything we have ever seen before.

And finally, there is PSD2, the sequel to the European Payment Services Directive currently in place. This will bring with it a deregulation of the banking sector, with small business finance at the heart of it.

Where to start

With this level of regulatory change, combined with the adjustments already impacting accounting – now, more than ever, small businesses will look to accountants and bookkeepers for advice.

These small businesses need to learn how to effectively manage these changes – not in the future, but straight away. Ultimately, most business owners want to continue to trade, and they might not necessarily be up-to-speed with the latest data protection regulations and payment directives. This is why it’s really important to provide useful, trustworthy counsel when it’s needed most. As a result, the role of the accountant has moved far beyond what it was traditionally.

How the cloud can help

Today, the success of a business is determined by whether or not it uses cloud computing. And it’s clear that maintaining pace with transformation just isn’t possible unless your clients are using a cloud accounting platform to facilitate continuous change. Cloud software gives you incredible connectivity with small businesses.

Machine learning and AI is driving this digital transformation further forward. We all see it in our day-to-day lives with the likes of Siri and Google, and it’s also enabling accounting software to get smarter. Systems learn how to speed up processes, freeing up time.

Whats next?

As we’re confronted with these changes, accountants and bookkeepers are encouraged to take the time to think ahead and put a plan in place for the year ahead. Seek out what it is you need to make that happen.

You could just try and weather the storm, or you could make your splash and ride it out. In the position of a trusted adviser, accountants and bookkeepers will play a crucial role in times to come.

Gary Turner is co-founder and managing director at Xero UK.

Gary is speaking at Accounting Live at the SEC Glasgow on Wednesday 1 November. Don’t miss Scotland’s dedicated event for accounting and finance professionals – you’ll need to register in advance online for free entry into the event.

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