The complications arising from COVID-19, on top of technological disruption, overseas expansion, rising costs and intensifying competition, have placed a great need for some businesses to seek external advice.
While many businesses have been adversely affected, this study tells us that the demand for professional accountancy services has not decreased. In fact, it is now required even more urgently to address the challenges posed by the pandemic, as well as to harness opportunities for business growth.
One trend that is clearly discernible is that professional accountancy services providers of all sizes, from SMPs to the Big Four and other large practices, are diversifying from providing traditional services such as audit, tax and other largely regulated or compliance-based services, to non-regulated services, such as IT Advisory, Risk Management and Governance and Tax Advisory. While the demand for largely regulated services remains stable or enjoys temporary upsurges (as in China currently), our study shows that the long-term demand for non-regulated services is rising.
Evan Law, Chief Executive of SAC said, “I am heartened to know that the demand for both regulated and non-regulated professional accountancy services in traditional and new areas such as sustainability and climate change, is growing internationally. I look forward to seeing our accountancy firms leveraging on these new opportunities by persevering in deepening and diversifying their international connections; and strengthening their enterprise capabilities. This will enhance Singapore’s market position for high-value specialised accounting services, and contribute towards the development of Singapore as a global accountancy hub.”
As the world embraces the new post-pandemic reality, SMPs and the Big Four firms can look forward to burgeoning opportunities ahead in the provision of both regulated and customised, market-driven nonregulated advisory services. SNAI President Li Kouqing said, “As one of the country’s leading accounting bodies, SNAI believes that the report will provide an in-depth look into enterprise preferences for professional accountancy services, as well as promote a lively discussion into what it means to be a competitive and innovative accounting professional.”
This study, a collaboration between ACCA, SAC and SNAI, is useful to policymakers, professional accountancy services providers and businesses as it identifies key demand drivers and growth areas. The report noted that the most demanded non-regulated service category was IT Advisory. These include services that professional accountants can provide, relating to digital transformations that are aligned with an organisation’s business strategy and financial objectives. The least demanded non-regulated service category was Sustainability and Climate Change. The report notes that professional accountants are well-placed to provide services under this category but are not currently being sought after for this. Sustainability reporting, as well as Green Finance, can be seen as natural extensions of the work professional accountants have traditionally undertaken in corporate reporting and corporate finance.
Mr Mark Millar, President, ACCA, observed, “We believe that professional accountancy services providers have not yet tapped into this potentially huge growth in demand expected for services relating to Sustainability. With the US and China working globally to focus the world’s attention on climate change and COP 26 in November this year, it is time for more professional accountancy services providers to innovate their business models to extend their traditional expertise into Sustainability Reporting and Green Finance.”.
Professional accountancy services providers that connect and plug into global accountancy hubs, as identified in this report, will be better positioned to take advantage of these opportunities which are not restricted to a particular country, but span the whole globe. The report will help providers to pivot to services which show the most promise of sustainable revenue streams; and businesses to assess the types of services and external advice that they would need to grow and gain a competitive advantage now and in the future.