For accounting firms, the pandemic didn’t just mean finding ways to work remotely—quickly—it also meant finding new ways to leverage technology to deal with new legislation and relief programs like the PPP and CARES Act, pivoting to online tools to communicate and collaborate with clients, and even launching new services during this new normal. The pandemic highlighted how much a firm’s approach to technology can affect its agility when unexpected challenges arise. Here are three ways agile firms adapted to COVID-19 and how their responses furthered the industry in this time of change.
1. More firms became early adopters of technology
Accounting firms are not notoriously fast at adopting new technology, but when push came to shove, they proved that they can pivot. For example, in 2020, nearly 40% of firms self-identified themselves as innovators or early responders. That’s a significant leap over the 29% who put themselves in that category last year. Firms needed to up their tech game to keep pace with changes required by COVID-19 such as working in the cloud, creating touchless tax return processes, and using predictive intelligence to stay abreast of changing tax legislation. The move paid off too, innovators and early adopters outperformed mainstream and late adopter firms by a wide margin.
2. Agile firms were able to offer new services
Clients had new needs in 2020—such as assistance with PPP and the CARES Act—and successful firms were flexible enough to shift their offerings from compliance services to business advisory services like tax planning and business continuity consulting. Large firms, in particular, benefited from COVID‑19‑related issues with nearly half (48%) of those surveyed reporting that they gained new business from existing clients as a result.
3. Firms found ways to replace in‑person client contact
To work safely in a COVID‑19 environment firms turned to touch-free document drop‑offs for clients, as well as secure online portals for file exchange and electronic signatures. Integrated tools like CCH Axcess™ Client Collaboration facilitated communication with clients and gave them peace of mind with insight into where their return was in the process. Clients may not be as ready as tax professionals for this full digital world, however. In 2020, 62% of firms received less than half of their clients’ documents electronically with 25% of large firms receiving more than three‑quarters of their clients’ documents electronically.
What can firms learn from the accounting industry’s response to COVID-19? Check out all the findings from Wolters Kluwer’s 2020 survey of tax and accounting professionals in the whitepaper “Building Firm Resilience Through Advanced Technologies and Agile Processes.”