As part of the firm’s commitment to technology, mgr is partnering with Xero, Receipt Bank and Silverfin, three of the world’s leading software providers to businesses and accountants. mgr held a firmwide ‘digital future’ meeting to showcase the latest advances being made by their software partners to our staff. We were honoured that Xero managing director Gary Turner attended our offices to give the keynote address.
“mgr’s future is digital and that future is now”
Managing partner Nick Muir opened the event by saying that “mgr’s future is digital and that future is now”. He said it was easy for accountants to be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that the profession hasn’t changed much in the past 200 years. But this would be a mistake as digital technology has been around for some time and we must continue to embrace it.
Nick showed a graph of the technology ‘hype cycle’. This sets out the typical lifecycle of technology from conception to maturity and widespread adoption. In the early stages there is a peak of expectation, but this is followed by a trough of disappointment when interest wanes as the technology fails to live up to its hype.
After this comes the slope of enlightenment when the technology improves, and its use becomes more widely understood. Finally, the plateau of productivity is reached when adoption becomes mainstream and the technology comes into its own.
Nick explained that as part of mgr’s continued forward trajectory along the digital path, whilst we have been using the software for some time, we were now formally partnering with three leading software providers: Xero, Receipt Bank and Silverfin.
Nick then introduced Gary Turner, Managing Director of Xero to speak about the inexorable rise of digital.
Gary Turner, Managing Director, Xero
Gary opened by saying it is an interesting time of change for tax, accountancy and technology. The accountancy profession is one of many being disrupted by technology and the important thing is for people to undergo a change of mindset in relation to technology. But, he emphasised, in the new digital landscape, professional people are going to be ever more important.
Gary said that what is happening today in technology has been happening for the past 30 to 40 years, ever since IBM produced the first PC in 1981. Where we are now is a continuation of something that has been going on for a long time and we are simply at the next stop on the same journey. The only difference is that change is gathering pace and the frequency of change is increasing. He gave the example of Blackberry, who were once ubiquitous market leaders but have now disappeared.
Gary then talked about the explosion in the number of small businesses in the UK over the past few years. These now number 5.7 to 5.8 million and this is directly linked to the rise of the Internet. It has never been easier to set up a business or manage multiple businesses. He hypothesised that the adoption of technology could lead to an even greater explosion of UK businesses to 10, 20 or even 30 million over the next few years.
He followed this by giving a brief overview of the rise of the cloud by reference to Hotmail, Internet cafes and the emergence of Firefox. Finally, improved security, the cloud and mobile phones all came together and got us to where we are now.
Gary used Making Tax Digital (MTD) as a great example of how digital is changing the working landscape. Before MTD, if you completed, say, a VAT return online you were still filing in a form; you were merely cutting out the paper. MTD is no longer form-based. It is removing people and the scope for error. In time, everything will move to digital whether tax, accounting or compliance. The idea of someone in 10 years sitting at a PC with all data localised and using a mouse will be the equivalent of a person sitting at a desk with ledger books and pen and ink. “This move to digital is inevitable as it drives productivity,” he said.
“What will this mean for your career?” Gary asked. He answered by saying he wants to reassure everyone. Technology allows you to do more but that doesn’t mean people aren’t important. “We build technology to enable humans to service clients better,” he said. “Xero exists to help businesses be more efficient and pay less tax. And accountants are a key part of this recipe.”
In fact, accountancy is one profession Xero is really positive about. “It’s your time to shine,” he said. All the research shows that accountants are the most trusted advisors to small businesses. If we are moving to an explosion of small businesses then compliance and tax may be going digital but the number of people who are going to need advice will rise too.
Gary forecasted two things. One, that the cloud and technology will accelerate the move to digital from paper and online form filing. Two, the role of advisory services will be just as, if not more, important. The key thing is to combine technology and people.
Twenty years ago, Gary said, UK customer service was poor. Now, consumers have higher standards. Businesses want valued, trusted advisors and it is no longer a race to the bottom in terms of price. The businesses that succeed will be the ones that wrap together digital, service and people. This is the next level to unlock.
Gary concluded by congratulating mgr on embracing technology but warned that it would be challenging and at times disruptive. Having said that, he concluded by saying: “This is the future.”
Nick thanked Gary for his inspirational talk and picked out a couple of key points. First, everyone should think: “What skills do I need to learn?” Second, we need to understand that clients are looking for “an experience”. This is the way to differentiate ourselves. The proper use of technology allows us even more time to continue to offer an enhanced experience and to focus in more depth on our clients.
Presentations by Xero, Receipt Bank and Silverfin
After a short break, practical presentations on the software were given to staff. Aleisha Fletcher, Partner Consultant at Xero, presented an overview of the latest Xero software and how mgr can get the most out of it. This was followed by Ben Hubbard, Account Development Consultant at Receipt Bank and Cameron John, Head of UK Business, Silverfin.
Nick thanked the speakers and Associate Partner at mgr Sunei Shin and her team for organising the event. Everyone who attended from mgr left feeling excited about mgr’s digital future and the changes to the way our services will be delivered to our clients.