Panel experts at a recent ACCA Singapore roundtable agreed that business advisory services are the way of the future for small and medium public accounting practices (SMPs). This was one of several key conclusions made by the distinguished panel.
Just like many businesses, small and medium sized practices (SMPs) in Singapore and other countries are facing a talent crunch. Additionally, in Singapore, the Committee to Develop the Accounting Sector (CDAS) has made recommendations to the government to facilitate the consolidation of smaller SMPs into larger units through a targeted two year programme. This new environment presents some changes for SMPs to make but there are business opportunities and specialized areas ahead for SMPs to work on.
Several interesting suggestions were made by the panel. SMPs are well-placed to provide advice and assurance on a wide variety of compliance issues. They can also offer niche personalized IT (Information Technology) services and could consider HR and Employment Law advice, HR audit, provide advice on
remuneration schemes as well as on environmental and sustainability issues.
SMPs could consider setting-up boutique firms in these niche areas and brand their practices to increase visibility. The panel also observed that SMPs have special relationships with their clients and are often considered a ‘mother-ship’ – a testimony to the close nurturing relationship that SMPs bring to SMEs.
The discussion also revealed that audit firms, both SMPs and larger outfits, are experiencing skills shortages, particularly with respect to experienced audit staff. Various suggestions have been made to attract and retain more women and older professionals in the profession.
Interestingly, the panel also revealed that accountants are preferred as a first source of advice for SMEs, ahead of bankers and lawyers.
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