4 Changes that Will Stick with Accounting Long after the Pandemic is over
The COVID-19 pandemic’s far-reaching effects have touched every industry around the world, and CPAs are not immune. Not only were CPA firms working to help the businesses they serve survive economic challenges, but they were fighting their own battles as well. According to one survey, approximately 90% of CPA firms reported concerns for their company, ranging from health to finances and operations. Despite the challenges, firms also reported facing the challenges with innovations like using cloud technology and innovation.
Necessity is the mother of invention — or in some cases, reinvention. The accounting industry was forced by COVID-19 to evolve almost overnight, and not all of the changes that occurred will be going away. Here are some of the adaptations that will be part of the industry going forward.
CPAs have learned to adapt quickly to changes in their work, whether it be major financial programs like the Paycheck Protection Program or adjusting the way they work with clients. Clients have come to expect continually up-to-date information from their CPA anytime they need it, and there will be no going back. Customers will expect their accountants to be able to come up with solutions at the drop of a hat, whether or not there is an international crisis.
Not only will customers continue to demand more agility from CPAs, but there will always be rapid changes that require accountants to think on their feet. CPAs stood tall when the challenge arose in 2020, and the pandemic only made them more able to face any new obstacles in the future.
A lack of in-person interaction could be detrimental for some, but for CPAs, it may have actually been a boon. Trying to work remotely with clients forced CPAs to communicate more effectively. Cloud-based dashboards, video conference calls, chatting online, and sending frequent emails are the norm now, whereas both CPAs and clients may have been reluctant to give them a try before.
Clients couldn’t be left hanging during a pandemic that had major financial implications. They needed fast, insightful information about new programs and how they could help their business, and it was up to CPAs to stay on top of it all and boil it down for them. The result is CPAs who are better communicators for future clients as well.
Flexible work environment
COVID-19 brought about a sudden adjustment as workers moved from conference rooms to living rooms. Though many businesses, including CPA firms, later began bringing workers back, the office landscape has likely changed for good. More workers are staying in their home offices full time or choosing a hybrid option, with some working from home and some in the office. This shift not only affects the way a CPA firm runs internally but also how it will serve its clients — many of whom are shifting to more remote work as well.
CPAs and clients alike learned to work with each other from a distance, and that will add a level of flexibility going forward that will benefit everyone. Businesses will come to rely on their accountants outside of more traditional meetings and scheduled reports, and CPAs will be able to answer the bell from anywhere if needed.
The Paycheck Protection Program was a much-needed life preserver for struggling businesses in 2020, but the intricacies of the program were a lot to work through. Applications, required paperwork, loan forgiveness and other factors could make the program confusing for business owners. CPA firms reported expanding services to help businesses take advantage of the program, making up 39% of new services offered to clients.
Although this service was directly related to the pandemic, firms will continue to expand their offerings even after the pandemic is in the past. In a 2021 survey, 33% of firms reported they anticipated adding new services like financial advisory, cash flow and risk advisory in the next year.
Many of the changes brought on by COVID-19 were already in motion in the industry, but firms got the extra push they needed to move forward. Businesses have been seeking more advisory services from their CPAs for years, and many firms have begun to expand their offerings. The pandemic, and the severe economic impact it had across industries, helped move the transition along.
CPAs have fought alongside their clients through the COVID-19 pandemic, and their work has been vital to businesses’ success through the crisis. The lessons learned from the pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the profession as CPAs continue to adapt and grow for the benefit of their clients.