If you have a passion for financial management, there’s never been a better time to begin (or enhance) your training in bookkeeping or accountancy. Across the UK, bookkeeping is booming; according to a recent report published by Economia, as of the beginning of the 2015-16 financial year there are 44,025 bookkeeping and accountancy firms in the country. Compare this to the same time last year, when there were just 41,455 such firms; this signifies a growth rate of 6.2 per cent over the last twelve months.
This recent surge is in keeping with trends over the last decade; in 2008 there were just 31,115 bookkeeping and accountancy firms in the UK, signalling a growth rate of around 15.5 per cent in seven years. To put this number into perspective, the average growth rate for all other professional industries in the UK within the same timeframe was just 5.3 per cent.
According to industry research firm IBISWorld, this growth will not swindle in the near future; “Over the next five years to, the Accounting & Auditing industry is forecast to record steady growth as the economy recovers.” As such, those who decide to pursue a career in bookkeeping can look forward to a diverse array of opportunities becoming available.
The factors behind this growth are numerous, and have a lot to do with changes in the way we work. The present surge in the demand for bookkeeping and other financial services is primarily being driven by:
The Economic Recovery
While bookkeepers and accountants tend to enjoy excellent job stability even during times of recession (as they are needed to handle insolvencies and bankruptcies, the rates of which rise during these difficult periods), the economic recovery has still led to an increase in jobs for those providing financial services. As the Economia report stated, “While it is true that in bad times you still need an Accountant, the profession clearly benefits from an uptick in economic activity. Accountants were focussed on cost-cutting and reducing headcounts during the recession, but the emphasis is shifting so that Accountants with strong resource planning and change management skills are increasingly in demand as businesses grow.”
The Digital Revolution
The rise of online business has facilitated an explosion in the number of small-to-medium businesses present in the UK. Today, anyone with an internet connection who is willing to put in the work and research necessary can open up a small business, and these individuals often succeed as they can access a global marketplace (meaning that, unlike in the past, if there is no local demand for a product or service, the business can still profit). This has led to over 500,000 businesses being started in the UK each year.
As every business, no matter how small, needs bookkeeping services, this development has led to a greater demand for such skills—especially as most small business owners are far, far too busy to even begin to attempt to balance their own books.
Tighter Financial Regulations Being Placed on Businesses
Due to the major corporate scandals of the early 2000s (i.e. Enron, WorldCom), financial service providers are being more relied upon more heavily to help enforce stringent auditing and reporting requirements, ensuring that companies operate in an ethical manner. Today, it is imperative that large corporations keep spotless financial records, and as the laws governing corporate finance have grown more and more complicated in order to close legal loopholes, corporations have needed to hire on a far greater number of bookkeepers and accountants.
The role of financial service providers has also expanded; bookkeepers and accountants are viewed as an essential part of a business’s planning team, helping to devise financial strategies. Today’s bookkeepers are not just “pencil pushers”; they must understand both corporate strategy and human psychology. According to Terrie L. Riportella, director of the accounting and business department at Elizabethtown University, “It is a big item in the corporate world, documenting and testing for control… You need to be able to understand people and the impact of their decisions.”
Many young people, such as Lindsay Crouse, a recent graduate of Penn State University, therefore find working in finance a very diverse and exciting pursuit; “The little experience I’ve had has shown me the diversity of the work that comes along with accounting,” Crouse explains, “It’s not just bookkeeping and basic accounting. You can have a huge impact through the consulting you give to the corporations you’re working with.”
Within the UK, small businesses are facing much tighter regulations as well, notably when it comes to tax law. Small businesses now face the risk of being classified as “disguised employees” as part of the infamous IR35 contractor law, placing them into a much higher tax bracket—and possibly even causing them to owe a substantial amount in back taxes. Enlisting the aid of skilled bookkeepers is therefore essential to many SMEs, lest they make a crucial error in how they handle their taxes.
As such, no matter your exact area of specialty, if you decide to pursue a career in bookkeeping, you are liable to find many doors open to you—and to be treated as a valued, respected part of the team. As a spokesperson for Braant, a leading accountancy firm in the UK, stated following the Economia report, “It is extremely encouraging to be a part of such a resurgence of the accountancy industry, and even better to know that the public now has access to a considerable number of firms perfectly suited to deal with their finances.”