“Accountants” Will Soon Be Extinct

Richard Kleiner

At Gerald Edelman, you’ll never hear anyone refer to themselves as an “accountant”, and it’s not a word you’ll see on our website, either. Actually, that’s not quite true — if you Google “Gerald Edelman” the first thing you’ll see is: “If you’re looking for just an ‘accountant’, you’re in the wrong place”. We’ve made a fairly decisive rejection of the term. So why have we decided to shun a word to describe people who offer auditing and compliance services, when that’s something that we do?

My thoughts are that “accountant” describes what certain professional advisors did in the past. It’s limiting and outdated and does not describe the depth and breadth of services that the 21st-century accountant actually offers. I don’t feel comfortable using “accountant” to describe what I do, and as a firm we prefer not to use it to describe our role with our clients.

Instead, we choose to focus on our ability to “think beyond accountancy”. A lot of compliance work will soon be done by machines and the future of the profession requires us to move beyond the traditional understanding of what accountancy means and find new and innovative ways of helping our clients.

At the heart of this is the idea that today’s clients demand far more than old-school accountancy services. They want creative solutions, new business ideas and memorable experiences and at Gerald Edelman we always aim to deliver these to our clients.

Clients want firms that add real value, offer thought-provoking challenges and introduce them to interesting and useful contacts. It’s a given that you’ll be good at compliance. Doing tax returns nicely is not a strong selling point. Clients want professionals who can help them to grow and assist them in all sorts of ways. That’s why we encourage them to ask us, quite literally, anything. We aspire to be their first port of call, whatever they need.

By “going beyond accountancy” rather than “being excellent accountants”, we make an important distinction between ourselves and the rest of the market. The definition of “beyond” is “superior to”, “surpassing”, “above” — so “going beyond” means having the aspiration to always try to go that extra mile; to always attempt to surpass expectations.

Our “beyond” philosophy is at the core of Gerald Edelman’s bloodstream and sets a clear, simple target for the firm. Like all good targets, it floats on the horizon, pulling the whole team forward while remaining tantalisingly beyond reach. Our goal is to be genuinely exceptional in everything that we do and ensure that we deliver this in every interaction — whether with clients, intermediaries, suppliers or colleagues. Each interaction should leave the other person feeling inspired — but the most important thing to remember is that you’re only ever as good as your next interaction; your last one doesn’t count. You can never rest on your laurels. You can never sit back and say: “I’ve nailed it”. Life is not like that. You can’t afford to be complacent.

So, will accountants soon be extinct? The truth is that accountants who offer nothing but the traditional, robotic services of compliance and auditing may well quickly disappear. When Gerald Edelman says, “If you’re looking for just an ‘accountant’, you’re in the wrong place”, it’s because we recognise that clients today demand something beyond that and that’s what we want to deliver.


Richard Kleiner is the CEO of Gerald Edelman, a firm of accountants and business advisers, aiming to offer their clients so much more than accountancy services. Richard has been an accountant for over 30 years and acts as a non-executive director for various companies, as well as being the Steering Committee Chairman of XLNC and a member of the Institute of Directors.


XLNC MAGAZINE | No. 03 | May  2019

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