Accounting In 2017: Takeouts From This Year’s Count Conference


This year’s Count Conference tackled the theme of what it means to be an accountant within today’s rapidly evolving landscape. Held on 12–16 March in the new Sydney International Convention Centre, the conference was attended by accountants, financial advisers and lenders.

Building on the conference theme, Count to the power of many, a wide range of expert speakers and industry professionals encouraged attendees to think differently about their businesses, their clients and their professional practice.

To stimulate new ways of thinking, the conference’s accounting stream included 12 sessions over three days focusing on topics like practice management, self-development and technical capabilities.

Here are seven things we learned from the sessions about how to be a successful accountant in 2017 and beyond.

1. Be ready for change

Chris Hooper, CEO at Accodex Partners and ‘accounting futurist,’ spoke about the necessity of change – and what an accounting firm in 2027 could look like.

While you can’t accurately predict the future of the industry, the important thing is to embrace change and be ready for it when it happens. This means making sure your business is agile enough to constantly adapt and take advantage of new opportunities.

2. Expand your service offering

At Count, we believe successful accounting firms are founded on three professional pillars:

  1. tax and compliance;
  2. business advisory services; and
  3. financial advice and mortgage broking.

Susanne Bransgrove, co-founder of the In Transition Group, gave practical tips for how to move beyond traditional tax and compliance work and take your business to the next level, by effectively rolling out business advisory services within your firm.

3. Focus on succession planning 

When you’re busy looking after your firm’s day-to-day operations, it can be challenging to think ahead about succession management. So when a staff transition occurs, such as the unexpected departure of a partner, many firms are caught unprepared. That’s why it’s important to plan for any contingency so you’ll be ready for change when it happens.

And for family businesses, it’s vital to engage the next generation so they don’t think of the business as an entitlement, but instead commit to make an active contribution to the firm’s future.

4. Attract and retain quality staff

One of the biggest challenges for accountants is in finding and holding onto the right staff. Alisdair Barr, founder of Grad Mentor, said it comes down to actively sourcing graduates and building strong and long-lasting relationships with them. The best way to retain new team members is to engage them in your business by creating a positive working environment – and also by establishing a mentoring program.

5. Rethink your pricing structure

While many firms now have pricing under control in the financial advisory space, they still haven’t managed to do the same for the accounting side of their business. In particular, some firms have found it challenging to move beyond the time-based billing model – despite its disadvantages.

Tracey Besters, a leading SMSF industry consultant, demonstrated the way that different value-based pricing models could help your bottom line. She also gave insights into how to successfully negotiate price with clients.

6. Beware of cyber fraud

As accounting firms move more of their operations onto the cloud, you need to be increasingly vigilant about cybersecurity. You may not be aware that your electronic communications with your clients – such as emails or even phone calls – can fall prey to hackers.

Session attendees were shown how it was possible to hack into accounting software and redirect client funds, highlighting the risk you’re exposed to if you don’t put protocols in place to protect your digital data.

7. Aged care and estate planning

For retirees, going into aged care can have a significant impact on all of their finances. That’s why it’s so important for accountants and financial advisers to plan ahead, so they can make the process as smooth as possible for their clients when the time comes.

And now that accountants must be licensed to provide SMSF advice, it’s also more vital than ever to understand the ins-and-outs of the complex world of SMSFs. Peter Hogan, the SMSF Association’s Head of Technical, discussed the significance of estate planning for SMSF members. So if a member passes away, their accountant should have the expertise needed to take care of their client’s interests and keep the SMSF running smoothly for the remaining members.