The post-Covid dilemma for professionals – and why it’s time for change in the accountancy sector
Pandemics and other periods of global turmoil often create lasting shifts in society and Covid is no different. The events of the past 18 months have accelerated the uptake of technology, changed the way we live and work and caused many of us to rethink our priorities.
As we’ve adapted to working remotely, we’ve spent more time with family and discovered a new life outside the office. We’ve had greater flexibility to organise our routine, fit in the school run and make decisions on how we do the job.
Not surprisingly many people are reluctant to return to commuting – especially those for whom a typical day means a 12-hour stint behind a desk. Some will also be questioning whether they could pursue a different career path that gives them greater control.
Unfortunately, accountancy firms have failed to offer the breadth of choice enjoyed by professionals in other sectors. It might be possible to escape the long-hours culture by moving to a smaller firm or less demanding role but high achievers might not enjoy the same quality of work, and may have to compromise their ambitions.
In the legal world this dilemma has been resolved to some extent as a new breed of ‘fee sharing’ firms has disrupted the market, offering professionals greater autonomy. Names such as Keystone Law, Gunnercooke and Taylor Rose are already well established and according to one report, are set to dominate the high street and mid-market within the next five years.
The accountancy world has been slower to catch on. While there are some firms offering similar arrangements, they tend to be at the smaller end of the market or specialise in one area.
Dow Schofield Watts aims to offer a genuine alternative to the big four firms. Its unique licensing model empowers professionals to run their own businesses under our brand and benefit from a centralised office infrastructure. Partners are free to make their own decisions – what they charge, who they recruit, how they remunerate their teams and where they work.
The results speak for themselves. The Dow Schofield Watts network now has 81 professionals across five regional offices, the majority from big four backgrounds, and are fast rising up the ranks of the top 100 firms. The model also encourages diversity – for example, 22% of partners are female, similar to the big four but unlike those firms, Dow Schofield Watts primarily provides corporate finance and transaction services, areas traditionally dominated by men.
The accountancy sector is due for a shake-up. While most professionals have stayed put during the pandemic rather than risk moving to a new role, many are now assessing their options. Increasingly candidates are seeking greater autonomy and flexibility, while younger workers are more values-based.
Challenger firms like Dow Schofield Watts could open up new career options for these professionals, improve diversity, and offer greater choice for clients. Change can’t come soon enough!