What image comes to mind when you think of an accountant? The old stereotype of an accountant as a bean counter in a green visor may be the first one that pops into your head.
But this perception is no longer a reality. The role that accountants play is expanding. Modern accountants are business advisors, teaming up with clients to provide guidance and insights in technology, business strategy, and innovation.
With this evolution in mind, Xero recently announced the recipients of its first U.S. Forward Fund scholarship for students pursuing careers in accounting. The goal of the Forward Fund is to highlight how the accounting profession is changing and inform small businesses about new consultative services, offerings, and guidance that accountants can provide.
The three winners, Jinhua Johnson of the University of Washington, Brody Mandelbaum of the University of Florida, and Mwaka Namfukwe of Eastern Michigan University, each received a $10,000 scholarship to apply to their education.
Xero’s accounting and bookkeeping partners provided the nominations. Xero provided the three partner winners, The QuickSource, Bookeeper Buddy, and Cloud Accounting and Consulting with $10,000 in co-op marketing funds to help them grow their businesses.
The Next Generation of Accountants: Ready for Innovation
Forward Fund winners underscore how the accounting profession is changing, and how these changes are helping them to provide small businesses with more modern, innovative, and valuable services.
This new generation of accountants see themselves playing a broader, more strategic role in helping small businesses start-up, grow, and sustain their businesses. As Brody Mandelbaum notes, “Whether it’s finding new ways to recognize environmental externalities or understanding the tax implications of international opportunities, accountants will be needed more than they ever have been. In a world where accounting is the language, accountants are the translators.”
In this digital age, they view technology as an enabler that will help them to do more for small business clients. Mawka Namfukwe sums this up by saying that “Accounting will change in the future mostly with the technology that’s being used as accountants find ways to incorporate other disciplines into accounting. This will make the more routine parts of accounting automated, so accountants can focus on creative problem solving and improving business practices. Accountants will be able to broaden the demographics that they serve and that will foster more diversity to help people achieve even greater business success.”
Bringing more creativity and diversity into the accounting profession is another prevalent theme, as voiced by Jinhua Johnson: “I strongly believe the future of accounting will be virtual, sustainable and technology-based. Clients don’t just need someone to help them fill out forms. They want a real partner and advisor who can speak their language and support their growing businesses.”
Many small businesses still cling to an outdated stereotype of accountants. But accountants are increasingly well-equipped to offer small businesses guidance in areas beyond accounting—including technology, human resources, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, and more.
In the technology realm, today’s accountants can help you to select the best-fit accounting solution from a myriad of choices. They can also provide guidance to figure out what additional solutions—from e-commerce to time tracking will best help the business.
They can also help you use these solutions to get a better view of what’s going on in your business. Every business owner is laser-focused on cash flow, budgeting and forecasting, and accountants can show you how to get the visibility you need to manage these aspects of your business more effectively.
The new generation of accountants can also save you time and money by helping you to automate clunky, manual processes, from expense reporting to payment processing.
As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) fuel increased automation of the accounting process, the value-add that accountants provide is shifting to the role of trusted advisor. If you’re still relying on a bean counter, consider upgrading to an accountant that can help you to steer your business towards a more successful future.
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