What the world can learn from a survey of Australian accountants

Recently, the annual CommBank Accounting Market Pulse survey of Australian accountants was released. The findings make for interesting reading, particularly in the context of the other major markets around the globe and the future of accounting.

Our CEO Stuart McLeod thought he would add some international flavor to the results by commenting on what he thinks is likely to shape the next 12 months in accounting.


The top business challenge facing accountants across the globe these days is attracting and retaining quality staff. Over the last year or so, Karbon has traveled all over the US, to the UK, Canada and China, and everywhere, with the exception of some southern states in the US, say exactly the same thing: accountants face continuing difficulty finding professionals to produce quality work in a timely manner.

CommBank Accounting Market Pulse April 2017

CommBank Accounting Market Pulse April 2017

Some firms seem to continually attract and retain good people, while others have worked hard over the last few years to transform their businesses by moving completely online, upgrading their client base (no one wants to work for bad clients), introducing flexible work arrangements, and even dispensing with the fixed office altogether.

In the US in particular, we are seeing more workforces being entirely remote. Firms utilize technology such as KarbonSlack, and Zoom to stay close together, and the flexibility of labor allows a much broader pool of candidates. We don’t see this trend as much in Australia, but we don’t think it’s too far away.

CommBank Accounting Market Pulse April 2017

CommBank Accounting Market Pulse April 2017

There might be a definition issue between the US and Australia on “mid-sized firms”, but let’s call it $2m-$30m of revenue and 20-200 people. In our experience, the mid tiers in the US are slow to invest in technology and their people. They rely on acquisition for growth as their current client base has been with the firm for 10 or more years and are not in high growth industries.

These firms are being squeezed by the technically savvy boutique firms at the bottom end, and the large firms who’ve commenced or are well down the technology and cultural transition. These mid-tiers that are still predominantly desktop-based are the ones that will struggle the most over the next 5 years in the US.

CommBank Accounting Market Pulse April 2017

CommBank Accounting Market Pulse April 2017

We often hear that the industry is suffering from change fatigue, however, in many cases in Australia, the hard work has now been done and the investment will begin to pay off. The industry in the UK has certainly turned a corner and the cloud vendors are well positioned to assist with the remainder of the transition. Canada is similar. The US still remains behind, but the fruits of the hard work around education and benefits of the cloud are beginning to pay off.

We’re proud to be at the forefront of many of these technologies and continue to work hard to provide our customers and future customers the benefits of technology to run a more profitable, more efficient, more engaging and more enjoyable workplace.

 A version of this article was originally published by our CEO Stuart McLeod on our Medium account on 12 May 2017.

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