Riding the waves of the accounting industry with Seth Fineberg from Accountants Forward
Seth Fineberg founded his consulting firm, Accountants Forward, to bridge the gap between accounting tech companies and accounting firms. He hopes to connect the two communities so that both sides can benefit.
As a seasoned business journalist, he believes accountants are the cardiologists of an organization—working to maintain and preserve the healthy heartbeat of the business.
Seth feels the latest trend in accounting is already here: more automation through AI.
All business relationships boil down to one short but powerful word: trust.
Clients must trust their accountants if they want their businesses to reach the next level.
Similarly, accountants must trust their accounting tech products to accelerate their own growth.
Seth Fineberg may not be an accountant, nor an accounting tech firm executive, but he knows a great deal about trust. As an editor and journalist for over 30 years with long stints at Accounting Today and AccountingWEB, Seth understands the critical role trust plays in relationships—both in finding sources and an audience.
“That was the key—getting that trust and cultivating those sources. Being present, being available, and getting the trust there,” Seth says.
His newest venture is a departure from his days reporting on accounting and accounting tech. Seth’s consulting firm Accountants Forward, specifically focuses on bridging the knowledge gap between accountants and the tech that is available to make their lives easier.
“There are so many choices out there. And if you look at the entire field, it can be very overwhelming. Usually in an accountant’s life, it's like, ‘Oh, man, I wish I had something that did this better’. And chances are, there probably is something out there that is [better],” he shares.
By helping accountants find the accounting tech that best solves their pain points, “all boats rise,” he explains.
On episode 73 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast, Seth talks with Karbon co-founder Stuart McLeod about the changes in accounting over the course of his career, and what he sees as the next big wave to break the shores.
Sailing the seas of journalism
Seth didn’t start out as an accounting journalist. His first experiences were in a newsroom and then reporting for a daily metals and mining publication. While that might sound like a deep niche, the metals publication was his first exposure to industry-specific writing.
“That's the great thing about trade journalism…you could really immerse yourself in some new topics,” Seth tells Stuart on the podcast.
But the industry that most captured his interest was accounting.
“Accounting is at the core of all that makes business work. If business is the lifeblood, the accountants are the cardiologists that make sure things are pumping and moving,” he explains.
After a long stint with the US branch of AccountingWEB, Seth developed the idea for Accountants Forward. He hopes to marry editorial and marketing content to provide value for accounting tech firms and accountants alike. He finds this kind of content is needed in the wake of AccountingWEB leaving the US.
“AccountingWEB leaving the market left a pretty big hole. Our approach [at AccountingWEB] was different. It really was less of a publication and more of a resource and a platform for thought leadership to happen,” he says.
The changing tides
Stuart and Seth discussed how traditional accounting tech vendors have had to shift to stay relevant.
Seth thinks the ability to respond to changing trends and needs is what keeps tech firms alive. But he’s found that as tech companies get bigger and serve larger client bases, they sometimes lose that agility.
He believes accountants need to feel like they’re still being considered in product changes and service offerings. Otherwise, in a landscape where there are so many choices for tech solutions, they’ll go find someone else.
“I don't care that you're a multibillion dollar company, or a known name, or they've been using you for 10 years, 20 years. [If] you lose that trust, it's gonna take a long time to get it back—if ever.”
There’s one wave of change that’s already passed over, and it’s the push to cloud accounting.
“We're pretty much at the crest of this wave of change that's been growing for the past 10 years. If you're not riding it already, you run the risk of getting drawn under,” he shares.
Recommended reading: Are accounting jobs safe in a world of ChatGPT and AI?
The next wave rolling in: more automation
Before panic sets in about another new trend to manage, chances are you’re already ahead of the curve.
“It's just the next level of automation. I think it's a misnomer to call it artificial intelligence. It's just another degree of automation,” Seth says.
Automation through AI saves time on certain tasks in the same way that cloud accounting improved efficiency a decade ago. However, just like with cloud accounting, a human element is still required when working with AI.
“A lot of folks were not taught what to do with the extra time that they technically now have. If you're strict about it, you now have that extra time in your day. It's a little scary when you're used to working a certain way,” Seth admits. “The good news for you…is that it's still going to require a human being to interpret some of the data.”
A great day for a sail
Over his years of writing for the industry, Seth established trust and rapport with various players in accounting. Because the US has such a fragmented structure of practices and few dominant large firms, it’s a unique market to serve.
As his voyage continues with Accountants Forward, Seth plans to keep the focus on the community. By bridging that gap between what tech companies can solve and what accountants need, he’ll continue serving the field. After all, that’s what sparked his passion.
“I always felt that even though I was a journalist or an editor with some publication title over my head, I grew to really care about the folks in this profession.” And supporting accountants directly is Seth’s next stop on his journey.