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Preparing the Accountancy Profession for the “New Normal” ahead

Our senior consultant Robert Kennedy examines the opportunities for Accountants as Ireland and its economy moves into a new stage of the COVID-19 crisis.

As the Irish lockdown plan gradually moves from its first to second phase in the coming weeks, there is slowly growing optimism that the worst of the COVID-19 crisis may be over, at least from a public health perspective. However, this sense of hope cannot be applied to either the domestic or global economy just yet, with mixed signals complicating the overall picture.

Many global stock markets continue to soar as a result of the unprecedented financial stimulus being provided by central banks, but at the same time, job losses continue to accelerate in key sectors such as aviation, retail, hospitality, tourism and food services. Here in Ireland, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said just this week he expects public debt to “increase significantly this year”, predicting a budget deficit of €30 billion as a result of the outbreak. While strict public restrictions seem to have worked in flattening the curve, the real economic implications may have simply been delayed by interventions from the Irish government. For example, the ‘Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme’ has helped to prevent mass job losses over the past three months, but no one really knows what will happen when it is phased out next month. What effect will social distancing requirements have on all business, but particularly B2C companies, in the coming months?

While I don’t want to hazard a guess to how these complex issues will play out, what can be certain, however, is that the Irish business landscape is going be dramatically reshaped as the country emerges from lockdown. This will be particularly true of the accountancy profession, which will play a vital role in this ‘New Normal’. College graduates will most likely be starting their working lives remotely from their homes; newly qualified accountants will be advising clients over Zoom and many professionals will be making the brave switch from practice to industries that are being totally reinvented. Regardless of where you are in your accountancy career, there are a few practical things to remember amidst all the uncertainty of COVID-19.

 

  • Never forget your value: An professional accountancy qualification is an incredible asset, the value of which does not change as a result of COVID-19. While other jobs and professions will be changed dramatically in the coming months, accountants will continue to be in demand as businesses look to navigate the new economic landscape, taking advantage of new opportunities as they present themselves while also mitigating the various issues at play. The Big Four have managed to maintain jobs in Ireland, demonstrating the job security that this career brings, even when faced with the worst crisis since the second World War. Accountants should be cognisant of these aspects of the job when considering their next move – you are in a position of strength.

 

  • Innovation prevails in times of crisis: For those considering the switch from practice to industry, consideration should be paid to the seismic shifts about to take place in many sectors and the exciting challenges this will bring. Many businesses will be radically changing elements of their operations due to COVID-19, from property portfolio optimisation to customer engagement to workforce management. As a result, they will be looking for creative solutions to maximise financial performance during this period, providing experienced accountants from practice with a once in a generation opportunity to bring their expertise and fresh thinking in-house to help completely revamp existing business models.

 

  • Evaluate your skill set: All professional accountants should be thinking about their own skill sets to determine how they can maximise their value over the coming months and potentially years as we move on from COVID-19. While the core advisory areas of audit, tax and compliance will remain important, there will be strong demand for specialist expertise in areas such as corporate restructuring, supply chain management, and business continuity. With plenty to time to spare as we remain largely confined to our homes for the coming weeks, this is an opportune time to learn and develop new capabilities by reading, researching and using online educational resources to retool in advance of the next phase of the crisis.

 

At FK International, we have over 20 years’ experience in assisting our clients and our candidates in the Irish accountancy industry. We are here to support businesses and individuals that may have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and I would be happy to have a confidential discussion about how we see the market and your recruitment options.

Robert Kennedy ACCA

rkennedy@fkinternational.com