The last few months have seen businesses across the UK invest heavily in technology and innovation as they attempt to grapple with the challenges created during the Coronavirus crisis.
A sudden move to home working for many has meant that lots of workers have had to rely on technology to get the job done.
Nowhere has this been truer than in the accountancy profession. The sector has played an integral role in the economy, providing businesses and their owners with support, advice and information that has been critical in decision making.
In fact, their impact has been so great that they are now considered to be key workers by many of the UK’s SMEs, according to online accounting platform Xero.
A new study by Xero showed that nearly half of small business owners think that their accountant played a vital part in the survival of their venture during the pandemic.
A further 37 per cent said that their trusted accountant played a key role in helping them retain staff during the depths of lockdown.
As well as relying on their accountant’s services, the SMEs that participated in the study were also keen to highlight the importance of technology in keeping their business functioning – with 48 per cent saying cloud technology had helped them to work with their accountant.
As the pandemic, now enters a new phase, with the potential for new restrictions, many may be asking what role accountants, and the technology that helps power their support, have to play in the UK’s economic recovery?
It is clear that a key focus for many SMEs is access to funding and finance, which can not only help them to rebuild their businesses but create additional resilience against future crises.
One key source of funding in an age where many mainstream lenders are more risk-averse is via tax reliefs, allowances and grants.
There are a number of sources of substantial financial support out there for businesses, but barriers often stand in their way.
These barriers include, but are not limited to, a lack of knowledge, confidence, time and costs. For many SMEs investing in the services of an accountant to access these sources of income just may not be a possibility or they may not have an adviser with sufficient knowledge to offer assistance.
Once again this is where technology can come to the aid of accountants. For many smaller firms of accountants, hiring a specialist in R&D tax credits or capital allowances just isn’t cost-effective, so in some cases, firms feel the need to either turn clients away or outsource claims to larger practices.
At a time where every firm is looking to maintain revenues, impress clients and build resilience within their own practices this is not an effective approach.
Thankfully, due to the cloud-based innovations introduced by the likes of Xero, QuickBooks and FreeAgent many smaller innovators have sprung up who can provide apps or solutions that can assist with niche areas of accounting.
One such solution is our own Software as a Service, Made.Simplr. Developed by a team with years of experience helping businesses and smaller accountancy firms with R&D claims – helping to raise more than £30 million for SMEs – we have developed a solution that can quickly and easily produce HMRC R&D reports using automation and existing cloud platforms.
The benefits to accountants are obvious, as it takes away the need to outsource services, reduces costs and opens up new revenue streams.
While ours is an example of how technology is playing a role in the recovery and resilience of businesses, we are by no means alone. There are many other new innovations on the horizon that are designed to assist accountants and their clients.
Technology undoubtedly has an important role to play in the success, not only of the accountancy industry but the vast array of businesses they support and to whom they are considered key workers and trusted advisors.
In this new age of innovation, it is unfortunately those who do not adapt and implement technology that will suffer most. Some firms will have to realise that investing in new systems will not lead to the replacement of their jobs or create additional burdens, but rather it will empower them to provide more advice to clients by freeing their time.
What’s more Xero’s study shows that many businesses have come to expect an innovative, technology-led approach from their advisers and in failing to embrace this they may cut themselves out of the market.
With a growing reliance on technology within accountancy practices and a desire in many firms to innovate it is important that partners and directors explore the possibilities that are out there.
Our team is already supporting businesses with their digital transformation journey and is ready to assist more firms during this challenging period. To find out more about our unique R&D tax credit solution, please contact us.