The bookkeeping industry has firmly positioned itself within the SME market as trusted advisors says the Institute of Certified New Zealand Bookkeepers (ICNZB).
Bookkeepers in New Zealand are at the forefront of small and medium businesses, supporting them at a grass roots level, ensuring their systems and processes are robust and current, supplying accurate data with which clients can make sound business decisions, and assisting businesses with their compliance obligations. This position has shown bookkeepers to be uniquely placed to facilitate the recovery of small to medium enterprises in New Zealand in the wake of the halt on trading imposed during the Alert Level 4 lockdown.
ICNZB President, Di Crawford Errington explains: “While many industries have contracted during the lock down, bookkeepers have seen a substantial increase in demand for their services. The value our bookkeeping community have shown to their clients during these troubling times has been invaluable in terms of promoting awareness of what bookkeepers can provide.”
Traditionally bookkeeping has been seen as a “work from the kitchen table” service – but in recent years the recognition from government departments, evidenced by Inland Revenue providing bookkeeper’s agent status, and the increase in bookkeeper engagement, has shown New Zealand that we have evolved from that mentality and are trusted advisors.
During the Alert Level 4 lockdown our members have reported a significant reduction in the requirement for day-to-day bookkeeping services – primarily attributed to reduced trading – and they have seen a large increase in requests for business support. With todays move to Alert Level 3, businesses in New Zealand are set to prepare to reopen and for some this is going to look like quite a different business model.
Julie Feisst-Jones, a Certified Bookkeeper member who operates JFJ Bookkeeping in Cambridge works primarily within the trade sector which, in the majority of cases, saw a 100% decrease in income. “The inability for our clients to operate saw an immediate effect on our services as there was no account activity to manage. Instead, what we have found to be our biggest value add is practical guidance in helping clients prepare for reopening requirements under Alert Level 3. This has included our initiative to prepare and sell PPE packs to our clients so they are able to provide each employee the materials they need to operate safely, and also introducing new procedures into their job management software to comply with contact tracing requirements.”
The shift from desktop software and paper-based accounting records to online accounting and job management systems is something that has been evolving quite rapidly over the past few years. While data from the first annual ICNZB Benchmark Survey is still being analysed, our initial results show that 52% of bookkeeping professionals were already managing their client’s bookkeeping through online software and the benefit of this remote model is more evident now than ever before.
Figure 1: Results from question 28 of ICNZB Annual Benchmarking Survey 2020
Kim Hamill, Certified Bookkeeper and online bookkeeping specialist from Nimba in Ashburton, primarily supports clients in the not-for-profit and agriculture industries: “The surge in support requests from our clients has been unprecedented but this has not been for day-to-day bookkeeping functions. Our team have been fortunate to find ourselves in a position where our client’s operations were already being managed remotely and we had robust systems in place, so we have been able to continue as normal. The farming sector is not known for their online work so we have found our biggest contribution to them has been more educational to show them what technology is available, along with a lot of emotional support and verbal reassurance”.
While bookkeepers have been busy supporting their clients, ICNZB have been busy supporting our members. In the initial rush to lockdown and the constant evolution of the wage subsidy package, ICNZB found themselves in the fortunate position of being able to support their members through our well-established Government relationships.
Ms Crawford Errington further states: “As an association, our mission is to increase the professionalism of the industry and help our members become leading professionals. Part of that support has always included developing relationships with Government organisations to allow a free flow of data. During the initial lockdown announcement our members were flooded with queries about the wage subsidy and how it was going to work. We were proud to be in a position to clarify all of these questions through our well-established contacts at Inland Revenue and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
We also recognised the impact the situation was having on our members mental wellbeing which prompted ICNZB to offer twice weekly online support meetings, and saw us connect members from across the country. The value of receiving this support from those who were experiencing the same levels of stress and uncertainty was evident by our high attendance numbers.”
As New Zealand now waits to see what the future holds for our economic outlook, one thing remains certain – bookkeepers are leading the way with efficient systems, technology and outside the box initiatives – all with the support of their professional body behind them.
Bookkeepers will be at the forefront of assisting small businesses to reopen their doors and contribute towards New Zealand’s economic recovery.
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