CommBank Accounting Market Pulse. Conducted by Beaton Research + Consulting

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1 CommBank Accounting Market Pulse. Conducted by Beaton Research + Consulting December 15 ( )

2 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Contents Foreword 2 Economic outlook 3 Snapshot of survey findings 5 Business conditions Perceived performance of the Australian economy 7 Perceived performance of the Australian economy by segment 7 Perception of business conditions present to 17 8 Perception of business conditions by area present to 17 8 Perception of business conditions by area and firm type 9 Business priorities Market entry planning and growth 11 Revenue predictions Changes in revenue from FY to 12 Changes in revenue by location over the next 6 months 13 Changes in revenue by service line over the next 6 months 13 Realised rates Expected changes in realised rates over the next 6 and 12 months 15 Changes in expenses by segment over the next 6 months 17 Changes in staffing by segment over the next 6 months 18 Change in operating margins for the next 6 months 19 Adoption of technology Adoption and implementation of new technology all Return on investment from new technology 21 Plans to change the investment in new technology 21 Provision of non-accounting services Provision of non-accounting services 22 Revenue from non-accounting services 22 Changes in revenue from non-accounting services 23 Outsourcing and marketing Frequency of outsourcing to lower cost providers 24 Outsourcing work over the next 12 months 24 Frequency of outsourcing to lower cost providers 25 Is marketing on social media vital to the success of accounting? 25 Expense and profitability predictions Changes in total expenses from FY to 16 Changes in expenses over the next 6 months 16 1

3 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Confidence returns as tackle longer-term challenges Nevertheless, our discussion with key industry players reveal the ongoing concerns with respect to traditional accounting and tax-based work becoming ever more commoditised and price driven. Marc Totaro National Manager, Professional Services Commonwealth Bank I am delighted to present the first-half edition of the CommBank Accounting Market Pulse for the 15/16 financial year, conducted in partnership with Beaton Research + Consulting. This survey, which captures a cross-section of accounting and restructuring revealed a marked improvement in overall business sentiment. Perceptions of current business conditions have picked up materially, with the positive uplift reflecting broader economic conditions. Digging deeper, in New South Wales, the ACT and the Northern Territory are the most optimistic about revenue growth in the coming 12 months. It is also noteworthy that the larger accounting have the most positive perception about both their business and broader economic conditions. That may partly be a function of their continued successful diversification beyond traditional accounting and advisory services. They are giving considerable thought to where they will find their growth, be it in technology advisory, management consulting or broader business advisory. It is great to see that the top three challenges are no longer seen to be so daunting. Previously those industry challenges were rated between 5 and per cent but that has fallen sharply to around 3 per cent. As the managing partner of one mid-sized firm responded in the survey, accountants need to think differently going forward if they are to maintain revenue and margin. Firms are tackling the issue in various ways. There is a constant challenge to cross-sell higher margin services as a way to maintain revenue and remain profitable. Firms are also exploring new revenue streams, with the larger leading the way in expanding into non-traditional areas like legal services, recruitment and digital services. Most continue to look for cost reduction strategies to protect margins. For example, the trend to outsource and/or offshore compliance-based or shared services work to lower-cost providers continues apace. In this regard, the key areas for increased investment in the next six months are staff training and IT hardware and software to support their strategy to become more efficient. CommBank s Accounting Market Pulse captures the industry s latest trends and nuances so it serves as a tool for business planning and benchmarking. We value the opportunity to monitor key financial and operational performance indicators and share the resulting insights with you. Tel : Taken together, these two metrics indicate confidence has returned to the industry. 2

4 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE JULY 15 Economic outlook Our survey shows that, despite growing confidence about business conditions, Australian accounting still hold a negative view of the Australian economy. Part of this negativity is the uncertainty over Australia s ability to transition from mining to non-mining led growth. Yet that transition has already progressed further than many realise with the decline in mining capex now around 5% complete. And despite the significant drag that the decline has produced, the economy has continued to grow, albeit below trend. Diana Mousina Associate Director Economics Commonwealth Bank Over the past six months, domestic economic conditions have strengthened. Employment growth has exceeded expectations, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.9%, down from 6.4% in early 15. Jobs growth has been concentrated in service sectors like healthcare, accommodation, education and professional services. As a result, consumer confidence has slowly improved, with the average household now optimistic about the economy and its own financial position. Business conditions have also increased leading to higher business confidence. A stronger labour market is not only a plus for consumer confidence, it also encourages income growth and consumer spending. While consumer spending growth is still slightly below its long-run average, it has unquestionably improved, helping to create better conditions for Australian businesses. That, in turn, has given businesses a renewed sense of confidence something very much reflected in this CommBank Accounting Market Pulse. Our latest survey reveals an upsurge in optimism among accounting across the country. For accountants, the outlook for the next two years is increasingly positive. Yet there is still plenty of room for improvement. Business surveys often cite the need for stronger consumer demand to drive business investment. Non-mining investment has been low for some time, especially during the period when mining expenditure was crowding out activity in other sectors. That period has passed, consumer spending has now begun to pick up and interest rates are at record lows yet non-mining business investment has yet to recover. This lack of spending by non-mining businesses is a key cause of uncertainty in Australia, particularly as mining capex is declining. Looking ahead, a falling Australian dollar will aid the transition. The dollar s value is now nearly % lower than a year ago, and CommBank expects it to fall further when the US raises interest rates. An Australian dollar valued between 65 and 7 US cents looks likely for 16. The good news is that a lower Australian dollar makes our exports more competitive internationally, and also helps Australian businesses that compete with imports. On the services side, a weaker dollar attracts foreign tourism, while also encouraging Australians to travel domestically, rather than overseas. As a result, tourism-related spending is lifting in Australia and will be a key driver of growth in the broad retail and accommodation industries. Offshore growth trends are also important. Growth is expected to be slightly below the decade average for Australia s major trading partners over the next two years. This is largely due to slower growth in China, as the Chinese economy rebalances towards service-orientated growth. 3

5 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 While Chinese growth is slowing, the urbanisation process remains in full swing. The middle income population in China is lifting as a result. This shift also offers opportunities for Australia, given our strong trade ties with Asia. Industries that will benefit from Asia s rising middle class include agriculture, education and tourism. Inflationary pressures in Australia are subdued, although a lower Australian dollar means import prices will rise in 16. However, spare capacity in the economy is likely to keep domestic price growth low over the near term. As a result, Inflation is expected to stay within the Reserve Bank of Australia s (RBA) 2% 3% target band, and low inflation gives the RBA room to keep interest rates low as well. At this stage, we do not expect the RBA to cut the cash rate from the current level of 2%, but another rate cut still remains a possibility, particularly if growth weakens and unemployment rises. Real GDP (annual % change) Early 9s recession -2 Sep-89 Sep-95 Sep-1 Sep-7 Sep-13 Trend Labour Market Trends 6.5 Unemployment rate Employment growth (') 3.5 Jul-5 Jul-7 Jul-9 Jul-11 Jul-13 Jul-15-1 Trend 4

6 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Snapshot of survey findings Perception of business conditions 1% 25% 35% 36% 55% 56% W2 W1 At the moment (positive - negative) W2 In 12 months W1 W2 In 2 years W1 Revenue from non-accounting services 75% of Large 29% of Mid-sized % of Restructuring Geographic areas with highest revenue growth expectations (increasing-decreasing) New South Wales 68% Northern Territory 67% Australian Capital Territory % 65% of Other Have 1% or more of firm revenue derived from non-accounting services Top service lines to enter and grow in the next 12 to 18 months Significant difficulty in passing on cost increases to clients and charging for compliance work Large Management consulting services % Top 3 challenges for accounting % Negotiating price with clients 31% Keeping quality staff 31% Finding quality staff Mid-sized Restructuring Other Business advisory services, Management consulting services 71% Business advisory services % Business advisory services 62% 5 (challenging - easy) % of respondents

7 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Outsourcing of work over the next 12 months Operating margins forecast % Large 57% Mid-sized 67% Restructuring 47% Other % Large 57% Mid-sized -67% % Other % who think it will increase (increasing-decreasing) Restructuring The majority of accounting believe the pace of adoption of new technologies in Australia is either faster or on par with overseas markets Level of investment in new technologies In the next 6 months In the next 12 months % % % % % % % 29% Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other (increasing-decreasing) Staff numbers Junior to mid-level accountants Equity partners Directors / Managers Fixed share / salary partners Shared service staff Secretarial and administration staff Top 3 areas of increased expenses over the next 6 months 54% Staff training and development 51% IT hardware and software (increasing-decreasing) 51% Marketing and business development 6

8 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Business conditions Perceived performance of the Australian economy The perceived performance of the Australian economy remains slightly negative among accounting. (positive-negative) Positive Neutral Negative Perceived performance of the Australian economy by segment Of the four segments, leaders of other are the least optimistic about the Australian economy s performance Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other -8 - Positive Neutral Negative 7

9 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Perception of business conditions for Australian accounting present to 17 Accounting firm leaders are more optimistic about current business conditions compared to six months ago, and they remain confident across the long-term At the moment Likely to be in 12 months time Likely to be in 2 years time Perception of business conditions by area Price negotiation, staff acquisition and retention are considered to be the primary challenges faced by accounting. (easy-challenging) Keeping staff fully utilised Accessing capital Keeping expenses under control Competing with other Winning new business Collecting invoices Finding quality staff Keeping quality staff Negotiating price with clients 8

10 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Perception of business conditions by area and firm type Large and restructuring are finding it more challenging across most areas compared to mid-sized and other. (easy-challenging) Keeping staff fully utilised Accessing capital Keeping expenses under control Large Mid-size Restructuring Other (easy-challenging) Competing with other Winning new business Collecting invoices Large Mid-size Restructuring Other 9

11 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 (easy-challenging) Finding quality staff Keeping quality staff - Negotiating price with clients Large Mid-size Restructuring Other 1

12 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Business priorities Market entry planning and growth Business advisory, management consulting, superannuation, wealth management and tax consulting remain the primary areas of market growth over the next 12 to 18 months. 9 8 % Business advisory service Management consulting service Superannuation Wealth management & financial planning Tax consulting Tax compliance Corporate finance (including M&A) External / statutory audit Internal audit % Risk management Property advisory 1 8 Business recovery & insolvency Forensic & fraud accounting Private equity Sustainability / climate change Economic and social policy advice 5 Other 11

13 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Revenue predictions Changes in revenue from FY to At the end of, all firm types other than restructuring were in a better revenue position compared to FY Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other Decreased by >1% Decreased by 2-1% Stayed about the same Increased by 2-1% Increased by >1% Mean 12

14 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Changes in revenue by location over the next 6 months Net forecast for total revenue has increased across all Australian states except for Victoria, down 11%, and the Northern Territory which remained the same New South Wales Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory Victoria Queensland Tasmania New Zealand South Australia Western Australia Changes in revenue by service line over the next 6 months Large firm leaders are less optimistic about revenue across corporate finance, risk management and property advisory service lines. However large firm leaders did forecast greater revenue in sustainability/climate change service lines Economic and social policy advice Large Wealth management and financial planning Mid-sized Superannuation Restructuring Business advisory services Other 86 13

15 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER Tax consulting Large Management consulting services Mid-sized Private equity Restructuring Property advisory Other Corporate finance (including M&A) 43 Tax compliance External / statutory audit Forensic & fraud accounting Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other Risk management Sustainability/climate change Internal audit Business recovery & insolvency Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other

16 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Realised rates Expected changes in realised rates over the next 6 and 12 months All firm types except restructuring now have a more optimistic view on realised rates, compared to results in our previous report. 6. Mean % In the next 6 months (compared to the last 6 months) In the next 12 months (compared to the last 6 months) Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other 15

17 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Expense and profitability predictions Changes in total expenses from FY to Only restructuring had a net decrease in total expenses in compared to FY Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other - Decrease by >1% Stayed about the same Increased by >1% Decrease by 2-1% Increased by 2-1% Mean % Changes in expenses over the next 6 months Accounting firm leaders realise the challenge of retaining existing staff, as well as acquiring new staff, and are anticipating an increased investment in staff training and development as a result. (increasing-decreasing) Staff training and development 55 IT hardware and software Marketing and business development Knowledge management Professional indemnity insurance -5 Occupancy 5 3 Telecommunications 16

18 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Changes in expenses by segment over the next 6 months The increased forecast in staff training and development expenses are being driven by large and other. Mid-sized are controlling expenses across most areas resulting in a lower net increase in expense compared to the previous report Staff training and development IT hardware and software Marketing and business development Knowledge management Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other Professional indemnity insurance Occupancy Telecommunications Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other 17

19 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Changes in staffing by segment over the next 6 months A higher proportion of large expect fee-earning staff numbers to increase, compared to the previous report. (increasing-decreasing) Equity partner numbers Fixed share / salary partner numbers Director / manager numbers Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other (increasing-decreasing) Junior to mid-level accountant numbers Shared service staf numbers (e.g. Marketing, IT, Finance, HR) Secretarial and admin staff numbers Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other 18

20 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Change in operating margins for the next 6 months All firm types except restructuring are forecasting an increase in operating margins over the next 6 months. (increasing-decreasing) Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other 19

21 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Adoption of technology Adoption and implementation of new technology all Mobile and document automation solutions have the highest adoption levels. Web based CRM software and enterprise social media platforms are the least likely technology solutions to be implemented in accounting. % Document automation 6 3 Cloud-based computing / storage Collaboration software Data analytics software Enterprise social media platforms Mobile solutions Web based CRM software Not implemented Looking to implement Currently implementing Implemented but seldom use Implemented and frequently use

22 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Return on investment from new technology Of the accounting who have adopted new technology, mid-sized and other have seen the highest return on investment Large firm 17 Mid-sized firm Restructuring firm 7 Other firm No return on investment Low return on investment Moderate return on investment High return on investment Very high return on investment Plans to change the investment in new technology Large are most likely to invest in new technology over the next 6 and 12 months. (increasing - decreasing) Large firm Mid-sized firm Restructuring firm Other firm Large firm Mid-sized firm Restructuring firm 29 Other firm Level on investment in new information and communications technologies in the next 6 months Level on investment in new information and communications technologies in the next 12 months 21

23 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Provision of non-accounting services Provision of non-accounting services All large, restructuring and mid-sized currently provide non-accounting services % Yes Large Mid-sized Restructuring Others Large Mid-sized Restructuring Others Revenue from non-accounting services Large and other have the highest percentage of revenue from non-accounting services, compared to the last report. % Yes Large Mid-sized Restructuring 5 17 Others Large Mid-sized 34 Restructuring Others Less than 5% 5-1% More than 1% 22

24 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Changes in revenue from non-accounting services The majority of expect revenue from non-accounting services to increase, especially in the longer term % 3 1 Over the next 12 months Over the next 2 years Large Mid-sized Restructuring Other 23

25 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Outsourcing and marketing Frequency of outsourcing to lower cost providers Large and mid-sized are more likely to outsource their work to lower cost providers than restructuring and other. % Large firm Mid-sized firm 34 Restructuring firm Other firm Never Almost never Rarely Somewhat frequently Very frequently Outsourcing work over the next 12 months All large firm leaders forecast an increase in outsourcing work to lower cost providers over the next 12 months Large firm 29 Mid-sized firm Restructuring firm 53 Other firm Decrease significantly Decrease About the same Increase Increase significantly 24

26 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Frequency of outsourcing to lower cost providers Large and mid-sized are more likely to outsource their work overseas, whereas restructuring and other are more likely to outsource their work domestically Large firm Mid-sized firm Restructuring firm Other firm In Australia Overseas Both in Australia and overseas Is marketing on social media vital to the success of accounting? Over half of accounting firm leaders across large and restructuring agree that marketing on social media is crucial to their firm s success Large firm Mid-sized firm 67 Restructuring firm Other firm Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree 25

27 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Notes: 26

28 COMMBANK ACCOUNTING MARKET PULSE DECEMBER 15 Further information For further insights or information, please contact: Marc Totaro, National Manager Professional Services Mobile: Phone: Web: commbank.com.au/accountingmarketpulse For media inquiries, please contact: Nichole Willson Phone: About Beaton Research + Consulting Beaton Research + Consulting is a full-service research firm which offers a full range of solutions for professional services, financial services and associations. Their expertise includes benchmarking, thought leadership, brand solutions, customised solutions and client satisfaction. 27 Things to know before you Can: This report is published solely for information purposes. As this report has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs you should consider the appropriateness to your circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. This biannual report has been prepared independently by Beaton Research + Consulting and is commissioned by Commonwealth Bank. The confidential online survey used to prepare this report was undertaken by Beaton Research + Consulting in September and October 15. The report is based on the views of 36 accounting across Australia with combined revenue of approximately $5.7B. Any opinions, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made based on the information available at the time of its compilation. No representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made in this report. The project was undertaken in compliance with the requirements of ISO 252. Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN

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