Online payroll software KeyPay’s State of Accounting Report, surveyed 339 public practice accountants in Australia and New Zealand about accounting services and attitudes toward technology. Key findings show 82 per cent of respondents agreed that clients’ expectations have increased significantly in the past two years, while 15 per cent stayed the same. They now expect increased advisory to support economic hardship (61 per cent), faster response times (60 per cent), and increased advisory support to future-proof their business (57 per cent).

56 per cent also said their clients desired increased support and advice surrounding technology, proving that technology is a key focus for many businesses across Australia and New Zealand. 

The findings further support the idea of an accountant’s role moving from transactional to advisory with more than half of practice accountants (55 per cent) stating their clients wanted a holistic relationship with their accountants to ensure stability and growth post-pandemic.

The research confirmed that Covid-19 accelerated digital transformation across accounting firms, forcing practices to eliminate outdated processes and elevate their use of technology in the workplace. Technology affords the opportunity to support an increase in client expectations and is a key priority for many accounting practices in Australia and New Zealand, as they look to embrace the value of automation. 

Findings revealed a largely positive sentiment from respondents toward cloud technology, with 94 per cent of respondents currently using cloud accounting technology. This was followed by cloud payroll software which was used by 68 per cent of respondents. 

Based on organisation size, those who fell into the mid-sized category (11-30 employees) were 24 per cent more likely to use payroll software (84 per cent did). 

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In addition to streamlining practice management internally, the key for accountants will be upskilling in technology and to have the expertise to advise clients on selecting and working with the most appropriate solutions for their business. 

As many accounting firms grow their offering with advisory services, we can also expect to see payroll services near the top of the list of additions with 72 per cent of accountants already offering payroll services and an additional 11 per cent who are planning to introduce these within the next 18 months. Areas of interest for new market entrants include tech consultancy (7 per cent), advisory and training (7 per cent), and implementations (6 per cent).

KeyPay co-founder, Phil Bernie, said: “The research found that a larger part of accounting firms have experienced a surge in client expectations. With economic uncertainty on every business leader’s mind, it’s unsurprising that an increased expectation for advisory support to respond to economic hardship emerged as a priority. With this, we can expect a continued shift in the role of an accountant to a more strategic business advisor, with firms having to adopt a consulting perspective to keep up.” 

KeyPay is an Australian leader in compliance, and since launching in 2013, more than 139 million timesheets have been approved in KeyPay. As one of the only Australian payroll solutions that can automate annual award reconciliations and employee calculations in line with Fair Work, KeyPay simplifies legislation compliance with ease. Its intuitive self-service portal also allows staff to manage their own timesheets, payslips, leave, and more, saving time on employee management.