Our Official Recap of AICPA Engage 2021
Known as “the accounting and finance industry’s premier event of the year,” it went without saying that Aiwyn couldn’t simply attend AICPA Engage 2021, but needed to jump on the opportunity to sponsor and exhibit .
With a theme of “reimagining the future,” what better way than to introduce ourselves as the pioneers in bringing AI into the accounting profession to streamline invoicing, payments and collections? Recently announcing that Aiwyn secured $14MM in funding, it was a great time to showcase our proven Intelligence-Based Billing™ and introduce our new suite of solutions for predictive insights and practice management.
Coining the term “accounting tech,” we exhibited in the category of “AICPA Practitioners and Tech+” both in person in the grand Bristlecone Ballroom at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, while also over a full virtual conference experience, powered by 6Connex.
But let’s get to the recap now, shall we?
As a product developer of 18 years, I would say that my profession has changed in a lot of positive ways, specifically from the advances and adoption accelerations of technology within the last year or so. Our world has seen a drastic increase in the demand for technology that streamlines and simplifies. During the pandemic especially, we saw a real need for these technologies, therefore, more were open to learning about it for the sake of their businesses or firms. It was clear that it changed the CPA and financial advisory professions as well.
Today, we live in a world where we can have meaningful communications with our customers and clients without having to take one step outside of our homes. For many of us, AICPA Engage 2021 was the first event we have been to since the pandemic, and it is clear that sometimes there is nothing better than good, old-fashioned networking. Many of us were able to see others that we’ve known in this profession for years, while others were new to the accounting world and had the opportunity to study and learn. As Vice President of Product at Aiwyn, I took the opportunity to do as much networking and learning within all hours of each day… and in Vegas, the days never end.
In this recap, I’ll tell you more about:
- A must-have in your portfolio
- How firms are doing more with less
- Why “accounting tech” is the new frontier
Everyone wants to know how to fuel their business or firm to grow. It was clear that expanding value delivery and building a better client experience were the top two ways to achieve this. One example on how the accounting firms can achieve this goal was instituting methods to articulate progress and value delivered to the client. In other words, the accounting firms need to be more transparent about what has been accomplished and why the client should know. Another example takes an outside-in perspective on client needs and provides them with a holistic offering.
A MUST-HAVE IN YOUR PORTFOLIO:
If I heard the term CAS once, I heard it a thousand times. New to this acronym? CAS (said how it is spelled) is the better known term for “client accounting services.” Although the definition varied based on the speaker, this article from Accounting Today summarizes it well. And, man, do people like to talk about it.
Erik Asgeirsson, President & CEO of CPA.com, said it best during his appearance on the “Adapt + Thrive” panel. CAS is “a must have in your portfolio.” Client accounting service is the fastest growing service line in this industry according to AICPA president, Barry Melancon. CAS is being positioned in both a client retention and client expansion perspective. In order to retain your clients, you must offer more than just your service. Clients expect their CPA to provide traditional accountancy. But what they want is for their CPA to care about them. Clients want their CPA to provide expertise and guidance. Ron Baker highlighted this example in his “From Transactional to Relational: Subscription Business Model for Accounting Professionals” session. Ron contends that value delivery is in the eyes of the client. They will pay for the value they seek as long as it meets their expectations. The take-away? If you want to compete and succeed, CAS is a “table-stakes” offering. And the “Client” in CAS must come first.
FIRMS NEED TO DO MORE WITH LESS:
The accounting profession is dealing with a huge human capital shift. An entry-level role has a salary now lower than a generalist role. Industries such as banking and finance are seeing a lull in new talent entering the market. Firms are having to do more with less and are finding it difficult to achieve margin goals.
But how do you move forward in this “new normal?” During the Prac-Tech Kickoff session, Shawn Kanungo outlined the five narratives of the industry that must be flipped. One of these narratives was “creating greater value through automation.” Shawn goes on to explain that “machine learning optimizes the past” but “innovation is about creating the future”. In other words, in order to differentiate, you have to create a “meaningful, magical and memorable” experience for your clients. The underlying theme is that innovative technology is a key ingredient to that transformation recipe.
CPAs are leveraging technology to enable growth. During the town hall discussion, it was noted that COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated tech adoption by 5 to 10 years. One technical area related to CAS, but not exclusive to it, was the concept of RPA (robotic process automation). The problem that this technology seeks to solve is to lower production costs and improve margins. By automating repetitive tasks of data collection and assembly, the professional is able to focus on more high-value work for the client. Pair that with other advancements in AI for audit practitioners and their job is certainly valuable.
ACCOUNTING TECH - THE NEW FRONTIER:
The trends from the AICPA Engage conference are sparking more interest and outside private equity investment in accounting tech. AICPA’s own CPA.com accelerator program was showcased at Engage, where five startups were highlighted that each focused on these trends. From RPA to AI powered information gathering, yesterday’s challenges can be fixed with today’s solutions, finding new ways to leverage technology in this profession.
With the embrace of public cloud platforms, the rise in more-secure-than-on-premises cloud computing and the focus on increasing the margins, the accounting profession is ripe for technical innovation. In my role at Aiwyn, I clearly see the opportunities in which we can help our customers in new and meaningful ways. We see our customers shifting business models from more traditional hourly-based products to more client attractive subscription and value-based products. We’ve combined the power of digital experiences and data-driven AI with our dedication to first-principle thinking. This enables us to provide solutions that accelerate cash-flows, increase client satisfaction and free partners from the billing and collection process.
Truth be told, we are grateful to have the opportunity to solve challenges in a way that meets and exceeds the trends that we found at AICPA Engage 2021. And we do not take that for granted.
I invite you to learn more about accounting tech and refresh your thinking on what it can do for you and your clients. Further, I would like to welcome your firm to join us in shaping the future. We work directly with our customers to innovate new solutions to solve their challenges and we welcome customers to participate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Justin Farmer, Vice President of Product
Experienced in software product management and revenue enhancing investment prioritization for a full suite of business management solutions. Follows a customer-first approach to identify market problems and validate opportunities. Builds with an agile and interactive design sprint philosophy to quickly identify possible solutions and deploy the learn-fast mentality. Drive investments to only those opportunities most beneficial to the target customers and the business. Implements a customer focus practice for enhanced product planning and market and internal launch activities. Develops and presents business case evaluations with the goal to increase revenue and profitability. Has organized and managed large product management departments including product managers and user experience professionals. Oversaw multi-million capital budget spend and priorities. Seasoned presenter providing updates on the 25 industry and business conferences as well as key accounts. Prior focus on strategic business planning in the legal and professional services industry, specializing in cost accounting/profitability analysis and business intelligence and performance measurements. Consulted several legal and professional firms to better understand and utilize information to build and maintain profitable operations and high-level customer service.