Professional stereotypes about the accounting industry are alive and well, with a global survey from Xero revealing that the average member of the public most commonly associates accountants and bookkeepers as suit-wearing “bean counters” and “number crunchers”.
At the same time, the survey revealed that accountants and bookkeepers are likely to be seen as a vital part of any business, with the majority of respondents from all markets surveyed (58%) viewing them as trusted advisors.
The research from Xero looks at perceptions of accountants and bookkeepers among 3,500 respondents in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, and uncovered a number of insights about people’s understanding of the professions.
The bean-counting and number-crunching stereotypes, shared by 78% of global respondents, underpin the intimate involvement and knowledge that bookkeepers and accountants have of a business’s financials, and the important role they play in any business.
The feedback also revealed that accounting and bookkeeping professionals are seen as desirable partners, ranking higher on the ‘date-ability’ scale than other trades including handymen and car salesmen.
Read about York-based, Hilary Dyson, who certainly doesn’t fit the bill of what you think of when imagining an accountant with 30 years experience.
Other findings include:
- Accountants and bookkeepers are vital to the economy: Nearly two in three (65%) respondents across the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand believe the jobs are incredibly important or imperative to the running of the economy.
- Accounting and bookkeeping as a profession: People in Australia and New Zealand are more likely to have considered accounting or bookkeeping as a profession (AU 33%, NZ 32%), compared with 26% in the US and just 25% in the UK.
- Higher awareness of accounting as a profession than bookkeeping: Respondents across all regions have a strong understanding of what an accountant does. However, the UK performed the worst with 8% having no idea what an accountant does!
But across the board, respondents are almost three times more likely to have no idea what a bookkeeper’s job entails compared to that of an accountant. One in four people in the UK (26%), New Zealand (26%) and Australia (25%) have no idea what bookkeepers do. US citizens fare slightly better on this front with only one in five (19%) having no idea what a bookkeeper’s job entails.
Bookkeepers are responsible for the daily recording of a business’s transactional activities; a fundamental economic function.
- Word of mouth is king: Referrals from family and colleagues are the most trusted method to find an accountant or bookkeeper, with close to one in two Aussie respondents (45%) relying on word of mouth. This is slightly lower than in other markets where more than half of respondents in the US (59%), UK (55%) and New Zealand (59%) rely on referrals.
- Desirable partners: Respondents across all markets would rather date accountants and bookkeepersover tradies and handymen. In the UK and US, accountants and bookkeepers outranked personal trainers. Whilst in Australia and New Zealand, accountants and bookkeepers are even more desirable as partners than artists and designers!
Paul Bulpitt, head of accounting at Xero & co-founder at The Wow Company: “The perception that accountants and bookkeepers are desk-bound, nerdy, bean-counters is still there, but the reality couldn’t be further from this. Technology has revolutionised the accounting industry, and as a result over the last decade we’ve seen a new breed of professionals appear.
“Xero have many accounting partners who are excellent examples of the new-age, innovative accounting firm, whose employees challenge these stereotypes. Accountants and bookkeepers of today have diverse careers and are often playing the role of business advisors to small businesses.”
Melanie Power, head of bookkeeping, Xero: “Bookkeepers may not enjoy the same level of recognition as accountants, but they play an equally important role. Bookkeeping has changed dramatically over the last ten years, and has enjoyed a resurgence from being a cottage industry to playing a hugely vital role in the small business economy.
“Bookkeepers are generally deeply involved with and passionate about the businesses they serve. It’s important to strip back limiting stereotypes and recognise the value they bring not just to small businesses, but the economy as a whole.”