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What should we be doing for our clients in the brave new AI world?

As AI and automation takes over more and more of our workload, what should we focus on to become even more powerful business advisors and partners? 

We should play to our strengths, and one of those is trust.

According to a 2021 survey by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), 90% of Australians and 87% of New Zealanders trust accountants to act in their best interests. This level of trust is significantly higher than that of other professions, such as lawyers (76% in Australia and 73% in New Zealand) and politicians (18% in Australia and 15% in New Zealand). Accountants’ trustworthiness is likely due to their ethical standards, professional qualifications, and commitment to providing high-quality services.

Trust allows us 3 primary functions for our clients and is, not incidentally, built from these activities:

  • Sharing and explaining information
  • Keeping them safe from regulatory pitfalls (missing filing and payment dates, for example)
  • Adding insights amalgamating our knowledge of the client, and our knowledge of the financial and tax framework in which they operate.

Sharing and Explaining

The first imperative of sharing and explaining information is critically important and should be approached through a multifaceted lens. Communication is key and, because of the volume and importance of our communications, we should be prepared to share and explain in a variety of ways, as our clients learn and understand in a variety of ways.

As a minimum, we should be:

Promptly completing all compliance requirements, such as financial statements and explaining what they mean to our clients in terms of the business information and the tax consequences

Communicating changes to tax or other relevant sector information to our clients

We can also send detailed management letters, provide monthly analysis and perhaps most importantly of all, pick up the phone (or be available on it when needed) and speak to our clients.

Avoiding Tax Pitfalls

This can be almost fully automated now with tax letters being automatically generated and sent, reminders being sent and even advisory around missed (or misallocated) payments. Plugin Accountant has excellent tech to automate all of this part of your business.

Adding Insights

If the above two sections are being largely automated, this allows for more of your time and attention to provide tailored and thoughtful analysis, based on your knowledge of the client and their unique situation. You can supplement these insights with automation (including benchmarking) but ultimately, it is you that the client trusts, and it is you that will create value by helping a client find their way through the complexity of business and tax law. 

You can specifically create value by:

  • Listening carefully to their goals, dreams and fears
  • Understand their financial information, the information from the sector and the larger macro events (interest rate rises, war in the Ukraine)
  • Provide a sounding board
  • Run complex and unique financial scenarios to help them consider their options
  • Advise on the different options as a independent and trusted supporter
  • Provide emotional support through difficult times

The day may come when AI can do all of these things individually, but trust and genuine empathy? That’s where humans come in.

Author: Sue de Bievre

An intrepid entrepreneur and feminist with a penchant for disruption; spotting problems and rolling her sleeves up to fix them makes Sue tick.


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