Company: BKR International
Name: Jeremy C. Vokt, Managing Partner, Bland & Associates PC
Title: Chair, Americas Regional Board
What is the biggest challenge facing the profession?
The biggest challenge that the accountancy world is facing at the moment is people. Getting people with the right skills and keeping them in the profession are major problems globally.
There appears to be a serious shortfall of young people wanting to join the profession. Those who join need to be given the right skills throughout their career to develop their professional expertise, especially as technology develops. Strategies need to be developed to keep staff engaged and ensure their competencies are relevant. The profession needs to “think outside the box” to see how we can bring new talent into the business from other appropriate sectors.
Our people need to know that they can develop their careers in a meaningful and satisfactory way. The appropriate staff need to be identified for specialist, technical or leadership roles and developed accordingly.
The correct transition to partnership should be highlighted, and firms should understand and plan for succession. Finally, the profession needs to show partners how to retire in a way that is appropriate for themselves and their firms, and that allows business to continue seamlessly.
These are major challenges, but firms that have the right structures in place and invest in their people will reap the benefit in the longer term and, thus, improve their bottom line.
What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today?
The one piece of advice I’d give to those entering the accounting profession is to consider a non-accounting minor. Whether that focus is on data analytics, IT, business communications or marketing, it will provide that graduate with the tools to succeed as the accounting profession continues to evolve over the next couple of years. It will give that graduate the background needed to be a consultant rather than an accountant. It will allow that graduate to help advise the client on all aspects of their business and not just on debits and credits.
How do you see BKR changing five years from now?
BKR is currently focusing on a strategic plan to lay the foundation of where we are going into the future. In my opinion, I feel that the accounting firm associations and networks are going to change and evolve at the same pace as all the current M&A activity — it’s only a matter of time. In addition, in BKR Americas, we have spent a considerable amount of time improving our member value. We look at how we can provide resources to improve and support all aspects of a firm. We continually look at strategic partnerships and current trends in the industry and then align our offerings to assist our member firms. I see that type of process only expanding in the next five years as firms will be looking at associations and/or networks to add to their expertise and offerings to clients.
How is BKR approaching training and staff development right now?
BKR has always been at the forefront of providing leadership training programs at the partner and director level to our firms. Our Leadership Institute program has been attended by the majority of the Americas’ firms, and multiple partners and directors within those firms have graduated from the program. One of the benefits to BKR as an association is that this strengthens the relationships between firms and allows more sharing of ideas, practice management tools and even resources between member firms.
In addition, BKR saw an opportunity three years ago to enhance all member firms’ Client Accounting Services (CAS) practices. BKR created an annual, two-day training program for member firms’ CAS teams since there was a lack of staff development opportunities dedicated to that practice. This training program allows BKR member firms to come together and share ideas in a unique format each year.
What is the biggest and sometimes often missed opportunity for firms / the profession?
The last two years have shown that as profession we can change and, for that matter, change quickly. Many lessons have been learned and the profession now finds itself in a position of having to continue to evolve in a strategic way for the clients we serve.
BKR has a significant role to play in supporting its members during these challenging times, but I also see as a period of opportunity. I believe at core of driving success within our profession and within organizations like BKR, we all must better understand the individual skills and needs of our people, continually look to improve the processes and technology we use and then make sure that we all work in a better and smarter way.