In Series 1 we explained the different functions between accounting; internal or outsourced (Client Accounting) and auditing in general. In this second series we will delve into explaining Client Accounting in some detail. We will be listing out the divergences as well as the pros and cons of this function and service. This will then help us understand why Client Accounting tends to be, in general, the preferred career as opposed to Auditing.
Despite misconceptions that the Accounting profession is boring or that the accountant stereotype is perceived as “a nerd”, accounting as a profession remains one of the more popular careers of choice for a number of reasons, the top three being the following:
- The nature of the work and the job duties
- Positive employment outlook
- Variety of career paths within the field
It's an exciting time to be an accountant!
While not mandatory by statute or legal regulation, any given business will essentially need the services of an accountant to examine and monitor overall performance, income and generated revenue. No company can survive without an adept accounting function. Accounting professionals today have more influence on business decisions. Their expertise is frequently sought to analyse financial data, identify ways to reduce costs and increase revenue and make recommendations that impact the entire organization. Today, accountants do so much more than just crunch numbers. Their influence in business has grown, and their skills and expertise are increasingly in demand. Also, there are many different career paths within the profession that they can opt for should they decide they want a change. Not coincidentally, salaries factor into the equation. In fact, salaries in the accounting profession are continuously on the increase, due to a strong demand which outweighs total overall supply for general accountants, payroll, billing, and other support areas.
When the accounting function is outsourced rather than handled internally by an employee on the company’s payroll, that service provided by a CSP or Accounting Firm is termed “Client Accounting”. Client Accounting is a new service line that has evolved recently over the years and provides affordable accounting services that can be performed in your firm’s office or at the client’s premises. As a service, Client Accounting can vary from basic bookkeeping to more advanced management reporting and advisory services.
Client Accounting and the ability to interact with your clients and their systems in real time, no matter where you are based, has to offer some of the greatest opportunities for accountants. The variety that comes from dealing with different clients and their varied requirements, cultures, systems and business practices whilst still working in real time has to be one of the more popular reasons for opting for a career in Client Accounting.
Working within a Firm or CSP as an accountant you are guaranteed a very supportive environment by your practice and any other professional set up. This includes typically ongoing in-house training and guidance for each member who must remain “au courant” and on top of a continuously evolving profession and its highly regulated framework. This training is free and most beneficial for your career development and in meeting the CPE (Continued Professional Education) requirements.
As a Client Accountant you will be assigned a portfolio of “clients” hailing from different industries and varying in size or structure. You can have 10 to 30 companies to account for which are SME’s (Small to Medium Size). Alternatively you can have 1 large client coupled with a cluster of 5 very small non trading companies. Therefore, you may spend more than 80% of your time on one single client. This client will be large and high-profile and the exposure gained is priceless in terms of future career prospects. On the other hand, a large client will swallow up most of your schedule and timesheet and you get to have less exposure to other companies and industries.
From a client servicing perspective, if your portfolio is larger, consisting of numerous clients and the size of your clients is generally “small” in size or “holding” and non-trading by nature, you might get stuck with mundane and highly repetitive work on a regular basis. If the client base is such, you get less chance to develop broad base experience and this hardly augurs for a challenging and learning curve experience deemed important for your career development. This could mean frustration as you get stuck in a rut performing tasks which are hardly interesting nor mentally stimulating or motivating.
Ideally you should strive to have a portfolio that will afford you enough diversity and exposure to different industries, systems and structure to keep you engaged and help you develop wide industry experience.
As an in-house Client Accountant, working closely and directly with the staff and management of your client on an ongoing basis you will naturally tend to develop a solid working relationship giving you a high sense of belonging to your client.
Additionally the relationship establishes you as a position of trust, offering you a great deal of respect from your client who will start relying on your expert advice and professional guidance.
Because you are visiting your clients regularly to administer, update and control accounting ledgers and file mandatory returns as necessary you are not working constantly under pressure or within tight deadlines stretching your work well beyond office hours or working days. This usually translates Client Accounting to better hours and work-life balance.
The downside is however, that, given that generally you are based or rotating between companies at their own premises, you can tend to feel very much like an outsider within your own practice to the point that you feel forgotten or left out by your own superiors. This can also lead to difficulties in moving up the ladder to the extent that this becomes tougher or slower by comparison.
One must not forget that if you are generally visiting clients, you are constantly travelling to different locations which logistically might not always be ideal or pleasurable. As a Client Accountant and a visiting and non–resident employee, you might also be subject to some adverse conditions which might border on a lower standard of practice than what your own firm would normally provide. This can be a makeshift desk, a cramped space in the office or less than user friendly amenities.
Another negative, is that you might be faced with personnel who are not so cooperative, as they may perceive you as a Client Accountant as an outsider with no business taking up their space or time of day.
These last three factors are very similar in nature to auditing and in fact tend to emerge as strong factors why auditing is less appealing as a career in general. This and more will be dealt with in the next article of this series where we will examine Auditing in detail. The Article to follow will then strive to compare the two different careers and examines why the reasons for opting for one and not the other might not always be correct and can, in fact, be often misguided.
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Finance & Legal Recruitment Specialist