A new report has showcased the five biggest trends set to impact businesses in the accounting and finance spheres this year.
According to Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), key business predictors indicate a number of challenges and opportunities arising for accounting and finance experts over the next 12 months.
The first lends itself to cyber attacks, with CA ANZ experts noting that such threats are set to become “more challenging, extensive and dangerous”.
“Cyber security concerns are front of mind as these attacks are affecting not only small businesses and companies, but also cities and countries,” a statement from the professional body said.
“Experts advise to start preparing as if they will be subject to a cyber attack, which includes having a plan for recovery to ensure your business is cyber-resilient.”
A shake-up of the superannuation industry was also identified as a challenge ahead, with experts predicting superannuation matters to be subject to final recommendations put forward by the royal commission, the federal election and in a recently released report by the Productivity Commission which delved into efficiencies of the industry.
“These could bring about significant change for underperforming super funds, APRA and ASIC’s roles in regulating superannuation entities, bans on ongoing service and advice fees, and potential penalties for trustees,” CA ANZ noted.
“Many are also keenly awaiting to see whether the government will be able to finally gain support from crossbenchers to push through its superannuation reforms after a lack of support last year.”
Despite the challenges, there are also opportunities on the horizon for businesses in the accounting and finance industry, particularly when it comes to the SME market, according to CA ANZ.
“Small–medium enterprises have a huge appetite to take their businesses digital,” the professional body noted.
“This year, it is likely that more and more SMEs will look to their financial services experts, particularly their accountants, to help them usher their business into the digital age.”
The strong focus on digital will likely lead to the extension of a single touch payroll system to small employers, CA ANZ explained.
E-invoicing standards are also likely going to be developed and implemented in a coordinated way across Australia and New Zealand. This, coupled with an expectation that the government will announce further initiatives in 2019, is likely to further encourage all SMEs to be digitally connected, the professional body found.
In addition, an increased use of, and openness towards, artificial intelligence will see such technology eventually become the norm, resulting in many benefits to businesses, according to CA ANZ.
“These are exciting times for a field that is historically known for its reliance on paperwork,” it said.
“However, experts advise those who are turning to AI-enabled software to ensure their processes are right in the first place because automating an inefficient process will defeat the purpose of using this software.
“It is also easy to accept AI because of the benefits it offers our businesses, jobs and lives, but also ensure you reflect on the ethical considerations when integrating AI into their businesses.”
Moving forward, CA ANZ said that a stronger push for red tape reductions and better law enforcement across the board will encourage the government to adopt smarter, streamlined regulation affecting small businesses in the accounting and finance space.
It is likely, it said, that the government will increase its focus on “modernising business registers, facilitating better exchanging of business information between government entities, especially to tackle phoenix operators, and improved data analytics to allow the Australian Tax Office to focus on taxpayer segments that were previously considered to be too small, such as small business and individuals”.
“As we embrace the new year, our attention shifts from the challenges of the year just gone, to what’s on the horizon ahead,” a spokesperson for CA ANZ added.
“The reality is that the accounting and finance industry is evolving at a rapid pace — and it’s important that we are agile enough, as both individuals and businesses, to adapt to what’s next.”