Rachel Barrett is a Director at Duncan & Toplis
Duncan & Toplis is one of the largest independent accounting and business advisers in the East Midlands, providing a range of services across our region and beyond. We have private and business clients from across the region, spanning multiple sectors.
I am head of the Academies sector, and having been a school trustee for eight years, this is something I’ve always been interested in, and having expertise in this particular area is a really enjoyable part of my job. Coupled with that, as part of the Kreston Global network, I have the opportunity to collaborate with other accountancy practices across the country to share our knowledge to help our academies thrive.
"The government has pledged to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy to reach its net zero target by 2050, so it is important to ensure that we can support our clients in this area. "
At Duncan & Toplis we are already on our own journey towards assessing, and reducing, our carbon footprint, working with Net Zero Now and BCorp. Later this year we will be holding a series of virtual events for clients, so that we can share our experiences with them and pass on our learnings in this business critical area, together with highlighting the financial benefits that go hand-in-hand with adopting sustainable practices including lower energy bills, having a competitive advantage, helping with recruitment and retention of staff, and the ability to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to increasing regulatory requirements.
In this ever-changing world, many accountants have the opportunity to support their clients with their environmental and social governance journeys, helping them to support their communities by adopting an ethical approach to business, as we ourselves are firmly on our Net-Zero journey supported by Net Zero Now.
Being a large practice, we have been very fortunate to have our own IT support that meant when the pandemic in 2020 hit, we were already a long way down the route of being able to work flexibly, with most of our programmes being cloud based and our hardware being portable.
In addition to this we have been exploring the use of other technologies to ensure our clients receive the very best service in the future. We know we need to stay ahead of the curve of digital evolution. For example, back in 2012 when Making Tax Digital was on the horizon we were already looking for solutions for our clients to ensure that they were ready for what was going to be a huge change, and we became platinum partners with Xero at a very early stage.
More recently, before 2020, we had started using Inflo to enhance our audit services for our audit clients which turned out to be an incredible tool during 2020 especially for our academy school clients, when we could continue to safely audit their year-end accounts in August of that year remotely. We can see that artificial intelligence is the next technology to embrace and we are already trialling how we can use this to be more efficient in our work.
In my view, the single most pressing issue for practitioners today is rapidly changing technology and the subsequent implications of that. If we don’t embrace new technology, including artificial intelligence, then we’re going to be struggling to keep up with what future generations demand for instant connectivity, and frictionless communication with their advisers. Consequently, our new generation of trainees will not only need to be incredibly tech-savvy but will need to interact with, understand, and have empathy with our clients, which is quite a unique set of skills and yet another challenge in itself.
Accountants are successfully shaking off the ‘bean counter’ moniker as we adopt a holistic approach to support of clients, considering an individual’s lifestyle and a business’ ultimate objectives rather than from just a financial perspective. We also ensure that clients are meeting all of their legal obligations and financial responsibilities to give them peace of mind, allowing them to be confident that the strategic decisions they are making are the right ones, from a legal, tax and lifestyle perspective.