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Covid-19: thoughts of the Accountancy sector

Every sector, without exception, has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. To determine how accountants are coping and what their thoughts are about the future, Braemar Finance commissioned independent research* in July, the results of which are outlined, below.

Click here to download 'Covid-19: thoughts of the Accountancy sector' infographic 

When, if at all, do you believe/expect your business will be fully operational again?

On balance, many (40%) accountants feel it will take between 3 – 6 months before being fully operational; more optimistically, 21% are of the opinion it will only take them up to 3 months. One in 10 accountants are taking the longer view and think it will take anything up to a year before things are properly back to normal. 

Do you expect your business to expand or contract over the next 12 months?

Accountancies are almost as likely to expand (15%) as contract (13%) in the coming 12 months; 71% will be ‘staying the same’. 

How do you think your revenue during the next 12 months will compare (in % terms) to levels prior to COVID-19 lockdown?

Eight in 10 accountants predict a reduction in revenue, while 14% are hoping for an increase; the remaining 6% anticipate ‘no difference’.

Have you made use of the government’s furlough scheme for staff?

78% of accountants polled have made use of the government’s furlough scheme, slightly below the Professions average of 81%.

In terms of future staffing, will your business operate with more or less staff?

Given the current circumstances, accountants are relatively positive about future staffing levels with 19% expecting to operate with more staff in future. Over a third (35%) will return with fewer people while 44% predict no change.

Which of the following government schemes, if any, have you made use of? (select all that apply)

With the government having acted to make funding schemes available early on during the pandemic, many accountants have applied for at least one of the schemes, or even a combination; a sizable minority haven’t made any applications.

  • CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) - 36.5%
  • Grants - 55%
  • Bounceback loans  - 31%
  • Non of the above - 15%

Thinking about the future, what, if anything, are your priorities in terms of financial support? (tick up to three)

While accountants are looking to government funding to see them through the pandemic, they are also looking at other ways to ensure they can keep their practice viable, including:

  • Government support and advice - 44.5%
  • New funding - 43.5%
  • Consolidation of loans - 25.5%
  • Payment holidays - 42.5%
  • Other - 4%
  • Nothing is a priority in terms of financial support - 12%

Going forward which of the following, if any, are you likely to rely on funding for? (tick all that apply)

In common with many other sectors and professions, accountants’ funding priorities have seen a necessitated shift towards, for example, enabling more home working and PPE; however, the need to invest in equipment remains high on the list.

  • IT - 51%
  • Equipment - 25%
  • PPE - 23%
  • Cashflow - 42%
  • Hiring new staff - 27%
  • Re-fit - 15%
  • None of the above - 10%

What, if anything, is your business’s current primary source of financial support?

Bank / funder loans are, by some distance, the main source of finance for accountants (41%), followed by government grants (23%) and savings (21%).

What, if anything, is your attitude towards debt?

For 44% of accountants, debt is part and parcel of running a business against 25% who feel it’s a sign of a poorly run business. The remaining number don’t have an attitude towards debt.

What steps, if any, have you taken to reduce your stress or anxiety? (Select all that apply)

Almost every accountant who took part in our research relied on at least one coping mechanism to address their mental wellbeing, ranging from maintaining a routine and remaining organised to being more flexible and giving themselves regular breaks.

  • I have tried to maintain a routine - 44.5%

  • I share concerns with colleagues or friends and family - 33.5%

  • I give myself regular breaks - 33%

  • I'm more flexible with my working day - 34.5%

  • I am staying organised - 39%

  • Other - 2.5%

  • I have not taken any steps to reduce my stress or anxiety - 3.5%

How supported do you feel by your professional body?

The majority of accountants (22% ‘very supported’; 66% ‘somewhat supported’) feel their professional body has done a good during the pandemic; 12% have felt ‘let down’.

How would you best describe your business's current economic outlook?

Accountants are relatively pessimistic about the prospects for the UK’s economy, with close to a third of the view the economy is still declining, with worse to come. Only 13% think it will be a quick path to recovery.

  • The economy is still declining – there is worse to come - 32%
  • The worst is behind us but it will be a slow path to full recovery - 17%
  • The worst is behind us but I'm concerned the economy could decline again - 21%
  • The worst is behind us but it will be a quick path to full recovery - 13%
  • I don't think there will be any true economic growth for the foreseeable future - 16%

Methodology

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a Censuswide survey conducted in late July 2020. The survey canvassed the opinion of over 1200 senior members of the professions across the UK on a range of issues affecting their businesses.