4 expert predictions for 2021 in accounting

If 2020 was a lesson in anything, it was to expect the unexpected. Who could have predicted a year of such unprecedented worldwide disruption?

With the shock of the last 12 months wearing off, it’s now a great time to look ahead.

One of the many take-aways from 2020 is the importance of preparation. But how can you prepare for the unknown? One place to start is with industry professionals—what are they saying, what are their predictions, what are they and their firms planning for across the next 12 months?

So, here are four predictions from the experts about what 2021 will look like in the world of accounting.

1. Increased focus on company culture, especially in dispersed teams

Without a doubt, COVID-19 has accelerated the work-from-home trend. And the fact that modern technologies like Karbon have allowed businesses to continue to operate throughout many major disruptions means that working from home isn’t slowing down any time soon.

With more and more companies no longer renewing their city head office leases and swapping major city life for regional hubs with staff working remotely, team culture and cohesion has never been more important.

Ron Lesh, Founder & Managing Director, BGL Corporate Solutions, predicts culture as one of the more difficult challenges for businesses to nail in the next 12 months to two years, especially given the work-from-home surgence.

A lot of companies talk about culture, but it’s about implementing it and being able to replicate that with new team members—that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges.
Ron Lesh, Founder & Managing Director, BGL Corporate Solutions

A risk of not strengthening company culture (among other things) is the possibility of your business having little choice other than to be acquired by a stronger firm.

Eileen Adao, Head of Accountant Channel, Collbox, gives this as her big, bold prediction for 2021:

“I think we’re going to see more mergers and acquisitions in the accounting space in 2021.” — Eileen Adao, Head of Accountant Channel, Collbox

She also poses a great question when thinking about the future of your firm:

“Do you have systems in place internally that enable you to keep track of your processes, work flexibly, communicate from anywhere and still be able to build culture?” — Eileen Adao, Head of Accountant Channel, Collbox

The traditional office has all but vanished, so make sure you’re prepared with the right tools to continue operating—and don’t forget your company culture.

2. Preparing for the worst is the new normal

In 2020, many businesses weren’t prepared for the disruptions they faced. As an accountant, if you’re not setting your clients up for the same (or even worse!) situation as 2020, then you’re missing something critical.

Kathy Gregory, Director, Strategic Development and Engagement, LivePlan, predicts the unexpected:

“2020 was the year where small businesses and their advisors saw, for the first time in real-time, truly how important planning and forecasting is.”

For Kathy, 2020 was a harsh reminder for her, and many others, that preparing your clients for the worst is crucial.

For accountants to spend time developing best case, worst case and working case full financial scenarios for their clients is the most important in preparing for 2021.
Kathy Gregory, Director, Strategic Development and Engagement, LivePlan

With that reminder, Kathy expects accounting firms in 2021 to be actively planning for the worst—for their clients and their own businesses.

3. Client interaction to join the cloud

Cloud-based systems have undoubtedly enabled accounting firms to continue operating remotely. On the most part, teams have been able to successfully manage their workflows and collaborate internally.

Jim Buffington, Advisory Services Leader, Intuit Accountants predicts a step further in 2021:

Now it's about engaging more deeply with clients. I think what we're going to see is a lot more applications plugging in that are going to help make client experiences more productive.
Jim Buffington, Advisory Services Leader, Intuit Accountants

Jim expects more automated client communication journeys using tools like Karbon’s Client Tasks, Zoom and Calendly, making the whole process more collaborative and seamless between firms and their clients.

4. People will (finally) see the true value of accountants

2020 was a tumultuous year, and for accountants, it was likely one of the busiest on record.

Firms worked around the clock to make sure their clients’ businesses could continue to operate as well as possible, that they could pay their staff and apply for the relevant subsidies.

For Kylene O’Connor Carse, Partner, BWCO CPAs, Inc., 2021 is the year of the accountant:

I predict that 2021 will be the year that accountants and their value will really start to be recognized. They really will be more acknowledged as being valuable to our clients more so than we already are.
Kylene O’Connor Carse, Partner, BWCO CPAs, Inc.

The next 12 months will be just as busy as the last, so, according to Kylene, expect recognition of your firm’s hard work as you navigate continued uncertainty and disruption.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

So, do these industry expert predictions resonate with you? Or do you have your own bold expectations for the next 12 months? Perhaps a combination of both?

Nevertheless, use this opportunity to go into 2021 with a sneak peak into what the experts are saying—and put your firm in a better, more prepared position to ride the next wave of uncertainty.

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