Accountants frequently speak of wanting to be trusted advisors for their clients, and the COVID-19 crisis provided a crucial test of that aspiration. So how did they do? More than 100 MPs weighed in on client feedback and other revelations in the wake of the pandemic in IPA’s latest pulse survey.
Two of the topics the June survey covered were just how much damage their client bases are likely to endure and, looking back, what they could have possibly done to have helped those clients better navigate the crisis.
While the ultimate economic damage from this pandemic and its attendant shutdowns and stay-at-home orders will not be uniform, most companies are likely to take at least some type of hit – and many of the accounting firms that serve them will feel some degree of associated fallout.
The good news is that only 5% of survey respondents see 15% or more of their client base incurring significant damage or going under altogether. Meanwhile, 45% of respondents expect trouble for between 5% and 15% of their client base, 47% believe the downturn will significantly impact less than 5% of their clients and 7% of survey respondents believe all of their clients will recover from this crisis either fully or nearly so. Among the most vulnerable industries or niches in their client bases that respondents identified were tourism/travel, hospitality, entertainment, and oil and gas.
In retrospect, could accounting firms have done more to have helped some of those clients avoid trouble? Most respondents noted that clients didn’t seem to be blaming their firms for not having prepared them for the pandemic and its associated downturn, with less than 4% of respondents reported hearing negative comments from their clients – most of it associated with greater expectations for their PPP experience.
Nevertheless, when reflecting on their own performance during the crisis (while still dealing with it, of course), 25% of respondents believe they could have done a better job of preparing their clients for an eventual downturn like this. While they couldn’t have predicted the sweeping impact of the pandemic, several areas where they wish they would have better guided their clients included advice and consulting on liquidity, cash flow management and capital preparedness issues.
Catch up on more insights from this IPA Pulse Survey: