In an increasingly competitive world, it’s more important than ever that chartered accountants nurture long-lasting client relationships which go beyond technical expertise.
Accountants are no longer judged solely on technical proficiency, but also on capabilities such as client relationship management, agility, forward planning, business strategy and advice.
Bernard Jones, managing director at IMPACT Corporate Training, believes accountants must build a more flexible skill set if they are to thrive in this changing professional context.
“Most accounting companies aim to be a trusted accounting partner/financial adviser,” says Jones.
“That’s a worthy aim, but if you don’t actually know how the client’s business really works on a daily basis, can you really be a trusted adviser?”
“If you don’t actually know how the client’s business really works on a daily basis, can you really be a trusted adviser?”
It’s why Jones and his team devised The Virtual Client Simulation Workshop, a series of action-learning modules based around a competitive business exercise. The immersive course sees CAs practise core skills such as business acumen, relationship management and stakeholder engagement.
Shifting to a client’s perspective
The Virtual Client Simulation Workshop has participants work in competing teams to run the most successful business. Team members develop a feel for the sorts of everyday challenges their clients face by walking in the shoes.
The program, worth 16 CPD hours, is aligned with the CA Capability+ tool. It explores capabilities in the non-technical domains: business, leadership and personal. Participants focus on those capabilities important to their “business”, helping them become more innovative and responsive to challenges that may arise in their roles.
The competition has five teams operating over four rounds, interspersed with role-plays of client meetings. The participants are constantly interacting in either devising strategies or analysing results, or in role-plays simulating formal advisory meetings.
In the debriefing sessions that follow, participants give and receive feedback, learning from each other and helping each to improve.
“This course gives you an authentic experience that teaches you to appreciate the pressures clients are under,” Jones says.
“It offers participants a unique shift in perspective that will develop a broader, more productive skill set.”
When staff from CA ANZ completed the workshop, one observed that “I not only have a better understanding of my colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses, from a relationship perspective, but also some of my own.”
What are the key learning outcomes?
The business simulation gives CAs genuine insights into the customer experience, giving them a deeper understanding that propels more productive – and helpful – discussions with their clients.
Talking the client’s language opens up the conversation and reveals effective ways to tackle the obstacles they face.
“The simulation means you feel the pain and tension of making decisions the company will live or die by,” Jones says.
“The simulation means you feel the pain and tension of making decisions the company will live or die by.”
“This course actually enables participants to see the business behind the numbers. It shows you what operational activity creates those numbers, giving you a completely different perspective how to deal with your clients.”
As a workshop participant from Standard Chartered Bank noted: “The training has reshaped my thinking process… I will put myself in the client’s shoes rather than ‘selling products’ – and ask relevant and valuable questions.”
Jones says the experience is complex, fast-paced and incredibly competitive. “No-one wants to be the team that finishes last, and everyone wants to win.
“You learn how to have much more valuable conversations with your clients, which ultimately benefits both parties and strengthens relationships.”
Highly interactive, dynamic learning
Along with valuable learning outcomes, another big plus of the simulation is its interactivity for participants, whether they’re graduates or partners.
Fletcher Building, one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies, found the business challenge workshop particularly valuable for a new cohort of staff.
“It is a great opportunity to develop a large number of Fletcher Buildings graduates at the same time in a critical skill for our business,” said the company’s Learning & Development Manager.
At the end of the day, the highly interactive and dynamic simulation is about helping CAs strengthen client and stakeholder relationships and build more profitable practices.
Says Jones: “This unique simulation teaches CAs to get closer to their clients so they’re genuinely able to discuss the things the client wants to talk about. It’s all about building long-term, productive relationships.”
Chartered accountants get a 25% discount on the public rate for this inaugural workshop
The Virtual Client Simulation – 24-28 May 2021
10am to 2.30pm (Sydney time)Register here