Accounting is failing our most innovative businesses

Post by
Dan Hully
Accounting is failing our most innovative businesses

The old-fashioned finance function is no longer fit for purpose. It relies on the wrong mix of people, with the wrong skills and performing the wrong tasks. If you’re running a startup and you set up your finance function in the same way companies have done for decades, you’re missing out on significant benefits.


In this article, we’ll look at what needs to change and why. We’ll also look at what will replace the old-fashioned finance department and how Quantico will be part of the solution.


The traditional finance function does not work


Finance functions used to, and in many cases still, consist of:


  • CFO: responsible for running the company’s entire financial operation, a strategic role working closely with the CEO
  • Financial Controller: overseeing the everyday operations of the finance department, focusing on reporting historic information
  • AR & AP (accounts receivable and payable clerks): dealing with money coming in from customers and going out to suppliers
  • Finance assistants: Relatively junior staff responsible for inputting transaction data


In today’s economy, this split is no longer practical. Growing businesses can’t afford to hire such a range of people.  If they can, the funds would be put to better use attracting more customers.  Additionally, technology has put an end to a lot of manual processing work.


The primary reason why the traditional finance function is redundant is that these people have the wrong skills. Modern businesses need a finance function that drives future success rather than focusing on the past.


The new skills


In today’s world of business, CFOs need to have an entirely new set of skills. In a previous article about the modern CFO, I wrote about how:


  • CFOs should be operational experts with a strong understanding of how data flows through the organisation
  • CFOs should use their acumen to promote best practices throughout the business
  • CFOs should be able to build their own function within the business


However, it’s not just CFOs where the requirements are changing. All Finance professionals working their way through their career should be equipping themselves with new attributes.


A large part of the roles in the traditional function have already been replaced by technology.  Right now there is no one size fits all solution that automates every accounting process, but we’ve never worked with a business where we haven’t been able to find efficiencies.  


The accountant of the future doesn’t process transactions.  Instead they design systems that process transactions.


This transformation will require a complete change of approach. Stereotypically accountants are seen as dull and antisocial. They wear grey suits and make jokes about tax rates. We believe the best accountants are charismatic, blending technical expertise with the soft skills needed to navigate challenging conversations.


Businesses desperately want to hire people with these skills, but unfortunately, they are hard to find.  After evaluating over one hundred applications over the last three months, we’ve learnt this the hard way!


Equipping finance professionals with new skills


Why are these skills so difficult to hire for? It’s because the current career path for accountants is outdated and doesn’t work anymore. This ‘broken career path’ is something I wrote about in a previous article.


In this article, I quoted a recent survey by CV-Library:

  • 50% of accountancy professionals are unhappy in their current role
  • Of those who said they were dissatisfied, 42% said it was because of a lack of opportunities for development
  • While 96% of unhappy accountants were looking for a new job


Not only are they unhappy, the majority of accountants do not have the skills necessary to drive businesses forward in today’s economy.


Traditionally, the ‘Big 4’ firms have attracted the lion’s share of promising graduates joining the profession. The problem with training at a big 4 firm is that your exposure to how businesses work is quite narrow. They work disproportionately for large businesses and banks, in specific areas, such as tax or M&A. They do not provide the hands-on training and experience that modern companies so desperately need.


What does the finance function of the future look like?


Finance has never been a sector that embraces change. It's going to have to change now, whether it wants to or not.


At Quantico, we’re building the finance function of the future. We’re creating a world where the finance function promotes growth. We’re making finance a forward-looking function, rather than a department fixated on the past, whose default reaction is ‘no’.


The upside is significant. Finance should set the heartbeat of a business. It should set the standard for operational excellence in every team and provide the planning for sustainable growth. Businesses just have to let go of their ‘how we’ve always done it’ attitude.


How is it delivered?


With Quantico, businesses are freed from the choice of hiring one individual and using an external accounting firm. After all, accountancy firms are excellent at statutory accounts and tax, but they don’t provide the operational expertise you need to drive growth in your business. They won’t get under the skin of your business to look for opportunities.


We don’t think of ourselves as an accounting firm. Accounting firms represent the past, while we look to the future. We’re a finance operations business. We think in terms of processes, systems and people, not invoices and receipts.


We provide expert startup accountants, in our clients’ offices, for the time that they need them. We use technology to give our clients the best service, bridging the gaps between continents. Backing up our service in London, our Finance Operations team provides round-the-clock support from around the world. We’re proud that we can bring the best international talent to create value in the UK.


With the Quantico model, you get access to the right mix of experts, on-demand. There’s no need to spend six months on recruitment and hire people full time when you really one day a week. This is the future of work.


Delivering for people


Most of all, Quantico is building a finance function that works for the people inside them. Businesses are people and you have to make it work for them.


We’ve created a career path that provides the variety and support of practice with the hands-on experience of industry. It’s the best of both worlds. In our business, people aren’t pigeon-holed as ‘accountants’. They work four days a week with clients and one day a week on strategy, marketing or recruitment.


In the future, every accountant will be trained this way. There will be no more choosing between practice and industry on day one, then sticking to it through thick and thin. Right now, we’re taking the best accountants from the old day (Big 4 firms) and turning them into experts in the new way.


What’s next?


At Quantico, we’re on a mission to fundamentally change the face of the finance function.  By the time we’re done:


  • Every business will have access to finance experts exactly when they need them
  • Work will be done flexibly by expert teams, not inflexible departments
  • Every individual will have access to a career path that provides variety, support and fulfilment
  • They will learn the skills they need to thrive in the new economy, not the old
  • Working across a portfolio of projects will become the norm, not working for one employer


The press frequently talks about the Big 4 accounting firms no longer fulfilling their roles in society, whether due to competition or conflict of interest. The time for change is here and a model like Quantico’s is the answer. In just a few year’s time the landscape for these dominant firms will look very different to how it looks now.


If you’re a talented accountant looking for an exciting new challenge, it’s time to talk to Quantico. To find out more about becoming a Quantico Financial Business partner, visit our site today.