Old dogs, new tricks: Helping senior accountants navigating change


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In a recent presentation, Tyson Flower, a director of Gold Group Consulting in Queensland, shared how his firm made a successful transition into the advice space. According to Tyson, one of the biggest hurdles was the need for a mindset shift – particularly among his senior colleagues.

"Three years ago, we were stereotypical accountants and I was the youngest partner by almost 20 years,” Tyson said. “A relatively large part of our client base was completely untapped because, as accountants, we’d distanced ourselves from advice – especially around things like insurance.”

So when Gold Group Consulting did end up branching into financial advice, Tyson, as the youngest partner, was tasked with steering the firm’s new advice business. Three years on, the entire team are now on board with the firm’s new direction, including Tyson’s senior partners.

So how did he do it? Tyson says that to make the transition as smooth as possible, you need to help your older colleagues come to terms with these five key concepts.

1. Advice helps you retain clients 

As with many other accounting firms, Gold Group Consulting’s expansion into advice wasn’t purely an active choice, but one driven by regulatory change, as well as risks losing business to their competitors.

“When we first moved into advice, it wasn’t necessarily to make money or service our clients any better – it was to protect our current client base,” Tyson said.

2. Diversification is an opportunity

Once Gold Group Consulting began establishing its advice arm, Tyson soon saw the value it could bring to the business.

“Compliance work isn’t dead but it’s certainly getting pushed,” Tyson said. “So what better way to keep our business going then by diversifying with another income stream?”

At the time, the firm’s senior partners could see the dollar value of their traditional accounting business dropping. On the flipside, they also saw growth potential in encouraging their lower-value clients to take advantage of their new advisory services.“Individual tax-return clients can become great financial planning clients,” said Tyson. “That was a real turnaround for us; we had to change our perception.” 

3. Learn, learn and learn some more

Tyson devoted time and energy to studying the ins and outs of financial advice – as well as attending conferences and asking questions to learn all he could.

For the firm to make a successful transition, Tyson saw that he also had to share his newfound knowledge with the rest of his team. At first he met with some resistance, especially from older colleagues, so he decided to treat the team’s regular monthly training sessions as an opportunity to educate his fellow accountants.

“I realised how little the other accountants knew about financial planning,” he said. “So I started talking about diversification and risk profiles, and they walked out amazed. But it did take time.” 

4. Leverage the trust you’ve already built

Accountants are in a unique position to provide financial advice as they’ve already built up strong, trust-based relationships with their clients – often over many years. For that reason, Tyson explained to his senior partners the benefits of becoming advisers themselves, rather than bringing external advisers into the business.

“When I walked into client meetings and said I was also a financial planner, the trust was already there,” Tyson said. “If we’d hired a financial planner, they wouldn’t have had that relationship with the clients. So now we get fantastic movement of clients from the accounting side of the business.” 

5. Every firm needs a succession plan

Getting your older colleagues on board is one thing, but you also need to think about the next chapter in your firm’s story. And when it comes to nurturing the next generation of accountants and advisers, Tyson believes that young recruits with a strategic vision are the ones who will create the firm of the future.

“I’m a big believer in hiring based on attitude over experience,” he said. “I started at my firm as an undergraduate accountant, and was a partner within 8 years. It was because of my attitude, not my experience.”