Hiring the right accounting talent: 5 key skills to look out for

Accounting is going through a transformational period in its history. Technology is revolutionising the way your firm can work with clients' data, and your business clients now expect an increased focus on bringing them value-add services and trusted business advice.

This change in your systems, services and client relationships means you need a new kind of team – a team made up of people with a much wider range of skills, software knowledge and customer service skills, who can meet the challenges of the new age of accounting.

We've identified 5 key skills to look out for when hiring, up-skilling or restructuring your team.

1. Tech-savvy and at ease with the cloud

45% of advisors believe practices must move to digital, if accountancy is to survive as a profession in the digital information age. So there’s a real imperative for your team to be up-to-speed with the latest in financial technology (fintech), digital workflow processes and the key benefits that online accounting software platforms bring to the table.

Key technology skills to look for include:

  • Experience with cloud accounting software and real-time financial reporting
  • A sound knowledge of the app ecosystem and the available cloud-based business tools
  • The ability to tailor and customise client’s software systems to their business needs.

2. Proactive and highly organised

The days of hiring people purely for their number-crunching skills are over. With software increasingly providing the data-input and data-processing elements of automated bookkeeping, what your firm needs is a workforce who can work in tandem with the technology to become more organised, more efficient and (critically) more profitable.

Your core accounting staff must have:

  • Excellent time management skills, so your workflow is efficient and productive
  • A proactive approach to client work and meeting the required project deadlines
  • An affinity with practice management tools, helping to drive the firm’s efficiency.

3. Driven by quality client service

52% of millennial business owners want strategic insight from their accountant. Just delivering the basic ‘compliance’ accounting services is no longer enough. Increasingly, modern clients want higher-level support and financial guidance from your people – and that requires staff who understand client service and the benefits of offering a broader range of value-add services.

To deliver the client service that clients expect, your team need:

  • Commercial knowledge and industry experience, to help tailor your advice to their niche
  • A skill for listening – so they understand the client’s current financial challenges
  • An understanding of the clients’ key needs – so you deliver the most practical services.

4. Forward-looking and creative with their ideas

Forecasting software is opening up new ways to interact with clients. With the latest in-cloud forecasting tools – such as Spotlight Reporting, Futrli or Fathom – your team can start advising clients on the future of their business performance. So it’s vital that your client managers can apply an analytical and forward-looking methodology to their advice and planning.

For your team to deliver future-proof advice, they require:

  • Sound knowledge of the key forecasting and business intelligence tools
  • Agility with analytics, AI and the outputs from management reporting
  • Creativity when it comes to strategic advice and financial solutions.

5. Builds long-term relationships with clients

Building a strong business relationship with your clients is critical, if you’re to successfully grow and evolve your accounting practice. As trusted advisors, there’s a need for your people to invest in each and every client relationship, and to become an invaluable part of their strategic success – helping the client’s company to grow, so you can grow too.

To help these relationships flourish, your people must:

  • Be warm, open and engaging in one-to-one meetings with clients
  • Become attuned to client’s key goals, strategy and core values
  • Have the skills needed to nurture a long-lasting business partnership

For more ideas on how to expand your firm, check out our recent post ‘Grow your accountancy business: 5 key ways to achieve growth'.

Building a team with the right human skills

As accounting enters a new chapter in the evolution of the industry, it’s never been more important to have a team of skilled, talented and flexible accounting professionals in your firm.

The breadth of the ideal candidate’s skillset has widened greatly in the past decade, with your perfect hire having a combination of software knowledge, client focus and analytical ability. But, more than anything, it’s the human, relational skills that really add value for your clients.

As Xero's Gary Turner explained at Xerocon London 2017, your people are actually your future:

“People are the next frontier where we can drive real change and reshape the accounting industry. AI will absolutely have a part to play, but it’s about your people, your customers and the relationships that you have with them.”

To take your practice to the next level, focus on hiring talented professionals who can deliver the numbers, but can also build meaningful, trusted and valued relationships with your business clients – the future is people, so it’s critical that you choose the ideal candidates for the job.


About the Author: Steve Ash is a specialist in accounting, marketing, business software and fintech apps.