Opportunities for Accounting Firms in a Digital World

Will Farnell on the BD Academy Accounting Influencers podcast with Rob Brown
Will Farnell on the BD Academy Accounting Influencers podcast with Rob Brown

Will Farnell

Will Farnell is the author of the Digital Firm: How to Change Your Accounting Firm to Remain Competitive. He consults and mentors leaders of accounting firms looking to deliver effective digital transformation. He is the founder of award winning firm Farnell Clarke, Xero Award Winners 2017 and 2016 Most Innovative Firm at the British Accountancy Awards.

His firm have been delivering accountancy services fully in the cloud since 2008 with knowledge and experience across the market leading cloud accounting applications and add-on market place. Back in 2008, Will saw an opportunity to utilise technology to drive efficiency and change the way accounting services could be delivered to clients. Farnell Clarke was one of the first 100%-cloud practices globally and the way he deployed technology in the firm was a significant catalyst in the firm’s growth. Shownotes:

  • Why setting up an accounting firm with no practice experience can actually be an advantage
  • The decision to become a fully digital accounting firm arose from wanting to deliver a better experience to clients
  • The Digital Firm book by Will Farnell shares the good, the bad and the ugly of running
  • Not wearing a shirt and tie in an accounting firm – how it set the pioneering culture at Farnell Clarke
  • Fundamental to great client service for accounting firms should be to make things simple and easy for all parties
  • Historically accountants have done two things (1) made sense of double entry bookkeeping and (2) sold knowledge and information
  • Google now does and knows so much of what accountants used to add value with
  • The benefit of being a digital accounting firm is that you can spend more time, not less on clients, therefore adding more value
  • Having access to your client’s data 24-7 is a no brainer for progressive accounting firms
  • Technology is merely an enabler – accountants still have to get right the triangle of people, process and technology
  • The benefits to a client of being served by a digital accounting firm vz a traditional one
  • Clients of accounting firms want more than they used to and expectations are always increasing
  • What happens when accountants own the’end to end’ client experience
  • The optimum digital accounting firms needs the technology and the staff to go with it
  • Accounting firm clients don’t care how long it takes their accountants to do something or how many people it takes – they just care about outcomes
  • Accountants from 25 years ago had brilliant relationships with clients, but compliance change the focus to ‘how do we keep our clients out of jail’
  • Accountants should dictate and the relationship and control the process when dealing with the client to offer the best value
  • Why we are seeing the demise of the tradition firm as both accountants and their clients become more millennial
  • Baby boomer old fashioned accountants who don’t keep their firm competitive and up to date are diminishing their pension pot
  • Firms that are more digital command a much higher multiple if selling
  • Who is in a better position to innovate and digitalise, a large top 100 accounting firm or a smaller agile firm?
  • By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be in the millennial generation, which means that most of your accounting clients will also be millennial
  • How accounting firm Cooper Parry have driven the change in culture, values and vision to remain relevant for clients
  • Less than 20% of the UK’s small business market are using any cloud accounting tools
  • Of the 1.1m VAT registered Uk businesses, only 11% of them submit VAT returns via software
  • It’s amazing the opportunities available to accountants if they get the technology working for them
  • When done right, bookkeeping can become a profitable service line that gives accountants control of the quality of the data
  • Accounting advisory and cloud accounting is just about great relationships and conversations with your clients
  • The biggest barriers to more advisory work in accounting firms are in mindset and attitude
  • Accounting firm leaders must recognise the massive generational shift taking place if they want to be successful
  • The importance of recruiting for attitude and personality vz technical skills in progressive accounting firms
  • An era of collaboration and not competition is dawning between many accounting firms wanting to serve their clients better
  • Does your accounting firm offer unlimited annual leave and 6 hour working days like Farnell Clarke?
  • Too many accounting firms are embracing the status quo and ignoring the evidence for change and therefore not properly serving their clients.
'Less than 20% of the UK's small business market are using any cloud #accountancy tools' says digital firm and cloud accounting expert @willfarnell on the #Accounting Influencers Podcast #accountex #advisory #accountinginsight Click To Tweet

Will Farnell on the BD Academy Accounting Influencers podcast with Rob Brown


From a record shop owner and band manager, through B2B sales and into qualified accountant is unusual for most people, but not Will Farnell. He is a regular speaker in relation to how accounting firms can leverage technology to achieve practice growth and delivering consulting services to firms of accountants supporting them in becoming a digital practice. Will lives in Norfolk, UK, with 4 young children. When not working, he likes taking his long boat out on the local rivers. Contact Will directly:

Will on LinkedIn

Will on Twitter

Will on email