From rocket science to accounting tech advisory, with Ryan Pearcy from Scrutton Bland

A Venn Diagram: the left circle is pale pink with the words 'Ryan Pearcy, Scrutton Bland', the right circle is Ryan's headshot, and where the circles cross over is deep pink.
  • Ryan Pearcy is Director of SB Digital, an advisory arm of Scrutton Bland, that helps small businesses find the best tech stacks for their industry and accounting needs.

  • Ryan predicts a 30-40% growth rate in the coming years for SB Digital, thanks to its specialization and scalability.

  • SB Digital uses the values of efficiency, automation, and flexibility to guide its work with clients. 

Some seasoned accountants might think of their work as easy—they might even say, “It’s not rocket science.” But for Ryan Pearcy, he’s occasionally preferred rocket science to accounting.

Ryan’s path to accounting wasn’t a traditional one. He started off by pursuing a degree in mathematical and theoretical physics. While he loved the coursework, he couldn’t figure out a way to make money unless he continued with many more years of education. 

After exploring his options, Ryan found himself choosing between becoming an actuary and an accountant. He ultimately decided on the latter because of its people-first nature.

“I've always found it funny that I struggled with accountancy early on. My boss would always say, ‘It's not rocket science,’ and I was like, ‘But I can do rocket science,’” Ryan jokes. 

Now, as Director of SB Digital at UK-based firm Scrutton Bland, Ryan helps businesses flourish by bringing their work into the digital age.

He joins Karbon CEO, Stuart McLeod, on episode 56 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast to share the details of his early career, how SB Digital transforms the work of its clients, and what might lie ahead in the UK’s accounting tech rollout. 

The journey to SB Digital

Ryan’s first accounting job gave him a good breadth of experience over nearly a decade. After, he moved on to an audit role but found himself twiddling his thumbs. As he poked around looking for more engaging work, he helped out the cloud accounting team. 

After getting his feet wet converting clients to cloud accounting, Ryan eventually moved on to his current role at Scrutton Bland. By this point, Ryan had worked in small, large, and mid-sized firms. When he was with larger companies, he missed working with small businesses. Fortunately, Scrutton Bland gave Ryan the opportunity to return to that work. 

With SB Digital, Ryan and his team advise clients on any accounting system they choose, including QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage, and more. Essentially, the team helps customize a company’s tech stack. 

We assess how that business operates and map out their processes visually. And then we will recommend systems that fit how they operate.

Ryan Pearcy, Scrutton Bland

Proudly software agnostic, when SB Digital is eligible for a referral reward from a software company, they pass it on to their client. That way, they’re ensuring the client is getting the best system for them, not just what SB Digital prefers. Ultimately, the client is the one who has to use it, so it’s better for them to like it—and benefit from any bonuses.

Driving the greatest value

When it comes to working with small businesses, the tech stack has to pack a punch. Ryan’s work with SB Digital puts owner-operated business needs at the forefront. 

Because of tighter budgets, there’s no room for useless software. For example, a system that only serves one function and doesn’t fulfill multiple needs isn’t the right fit for an owner-operated business client. 

SB Digital uses three values to guide its work in all sorts of sectors: 

  1. Efficiency

  2. Automation

  3. Flexibility

“Cloud accounting enables so much flexibility in how you operate. For our own managed businesses, they need to be able to work from anywhere rather than having to go to an office, especially since the pandemic. As accountants, we understand business owners and what they're trying to achieve,” Ryan explains.

One of SB Digital’s clients got especially lucky with the timing of their implementation: one month before COVID lockdowns. By setting up a remote system, the nonprofit was able to continue operating without being on-site. 

“With what was going on with COVID, they'd had people on the finance team that couldn't come back to work,” Ryan recounts. “And they couldn't recruit… So they needed to find a different way of operating to keep the charity going. They managed to outsource to Scrutton Bland for three months while they recruited [replacements]. They wouldn't be able to do that if we hadn't moved them into cloud accounting, which enabled that flexibility.”

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Thriving into the future

Since its inception in 2018, SB Digital has come a long way. Although it began with just Ryan and a part-timer, there are now four employees working as hybrid accountants and tech advisors. 

Despite the pandemic’s setbacks, Ryan predicts that SB Digital will have a 30-40% growth rate over the next few years. But they’re not stopping there. Other companies provide similar services, though generally more as a side offering and not at the same scale as SB Digital.

We want to set a baseline for what the standard should be [for accounting tech advisors].

Ryan Pearcy, Scrutton Bland

To the forefront

While it’s not rocket science, Ryan has carved out a unique and fulfilling space in the accounting world. SB Digital fills a need that’s otherwise overlooked or left as an afterthought: business and accounting tech advisory. 

With all the efficiency that SB Digital creates for clients, Stuart asks if there’s any chance that a four-day work week is on the horizon for accountants. Sadly, Ryan thinks not.

“The first accountancy firm that is bold enough to adopt the four-day work week is going to be quite a trendsetter. When you're a business that's so dependent on chargeable time from individuals, it's quite a hit to go to four days,” he says. “It's going to be a while before accounting firms properly look to adopt that.”