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March 21, 2017

IFAC survey reveals number one challenge for SMPs

By Stephanie Wix

Accountants around the world in small and medium sized practices are facing increased staffing challenges according to an IFAC Global survey of practitioners operating in small and medium sized practices (SMPs).

The practitioners were asked about the challenges they are facing, market factors most likely to affect them, the services they provide and their performance, as well as being asked about their SME clients.

Attracting new clients was listed as the number one challenge (46%), the majority of the 12 challenges received the same or similar percentage of concern as 2015, except for staffing however. For the first time in the surveys history, attracting and retaining existing staff, the second highest overall challenge, received a markedly higher percentage, a dramatic increase from 33% in 2015 to 42%.

Survey questions addressed the impact of eight personnel and staffing issues such as finding qualified staff at all levels (45%) and retaining them (41%) which were considered to have the greatest impact.

Other new questions in the 2016 survey addressed in detail the impact of technology, personnel and staffing issues on SMPs. Regarding technology issues, 27% to 38% of respondents reported that each of seven technology issues had a high or very high impact on their SMP.

The anticipated impact of technology developments in the next five years has also increased compared to the previous survey results. Moving to the cloud was found to be the top technology challenge, as practices look to stay current with hardware and software.

“The ever-increasing pace of technological change represents both a challenge and opportunity for SMPs,” said Fayez Choudhury, IFAC CEO. “SMPs that keep pace with developments in technology are likely to do better in attracting, retaining, and nurturing talent.”

The largest groups of respondents were from Europe (38%), Asia (28%) and Africa (14%). While the top challenges assessed as those rated as high or very high, varied by region, there were notable similarities.

The global survey, in collaboration with lead researchers from the University of Dayton (USA) received 5,060 responses from 164 countries. The survey has been conducted annually since 2011.

The survey can be found here.

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