Date posted: 20/04/2020 5 min read

How are accountants going in the COVID-19 lockdown?

Now, more than ever, accountants are stepping up to help clients and provide a shoulder to lean on.

In Brief

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is an important time for CAs to step up their role as a trusted adviser to both clients and non-clients.
  • PwC’s staff careline and ‘Pets of PwC’ G+ community is helping keep up morale during the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • For some smaller practices, being forced to work from home has fast-tracked their uptake of technology.

By Matthew Brace

Luke Kemeys CA
nextAdvisory, Auckland 

“Many people see chartered accountants as trusted advisers. This is the time when we need to step up – not just for our clients but for our communities, our networks and our friends and families – and give them sound advice, with or without a fee.

“It’s not all about the timesheet at a time like this. This is an excellent opportunity for CAs to add value and build respect for our profession.

“It’s not all about the timesheet at a time like this. This is an excellent opportunity for CAs to add value and build respect for our profession.”
Luke Kemeys CA

“A lot of people have been getting in touch for advice on the New Zealand government’s COVID-19 Wage Subsidy. Most of these requests have been from non-clients who are just after some general advice and we’ve been happy to give that.

“We’re planning to use Zoom and Instagram to interview experts from different areas and give people in our network the chance to get that knowledge to help their businesses. That will all end up on our website so everyone can benefit from it.

“We’re also talking with our outsourcing partner about whether we build a template for cash-flow modelling for clients and non-clients who don’t have that, to help them apply for new lending as it becomes available.” 

Matt Graham FCA
Managing partner, Assurance
PwC Australia, Sydney, NSW

“PwC Australia has 8500 employees across Australia. Team members are getting online in their homes and having lunch together on camera. They’re also inventing themes for their daily video check-ins, such as Silly Hat Days or Bandana Days, to support certain charities.

“The work is still getting done but this kind of thing is good for keeping people’s spirits and productivity up.

“One online community that has ‘gone off’ in PwC Australia nationally is Pets of PwC, set up on the G+ app within the Google suite. People can post photos of their pets and comment on others’ photos, a bit like Facebook.

“Pets of PwC is now the most popular G+ page on our site. It’s breaking down barriers and helping people to get to know each other better, taking something that might otherwise be a distraction and celebrating normality instead.

“We’re also trying to share knowledge about the early signs of stress, anxiety and depression. As a result, we are having much more open conversations than we’d otherwise have, helping ensure our people know what help is available.

“We have a careline that all our people can access and a wellness team led by a very senior clinical psychologist, in which we work through a variety of mental health issues. Also, every member of our staff has a team leader and those team leaders are checking in with staff daily to see how they are feeling, instead of chasing the status of their work.”

Pets of PwC 

Pets of PwCPictures: Pets of PwC. Images supplied by Jade Weller and Niamh Toohey.

Mike Day, Managing director
Mercury Financial Group
Queanbeyan, NSW

“We’re a fairly small firm. Clients drop in to see us and we drop out to see them in their homes or places of business. That way of doing business has pretty much gone now and we’re trying to do the exact opposite, which is very different for us.

“Many of our clients are not used to video-conferencing and neither are we, so the vast majority of contact with them at the moment is by phone.

“One possible silver lining is that this situation has pulled us into the tech space quite sharply – which we may have been a bit tardy with up until now. We’re looking at Skype calls and video-conferencing now, so it’s forcing us to learn new skills.

“Also, even though this is very painful for our clients now – and clients for all firms in Australia and New Zealand, I’m sure – I am hoping we can use this as a way of encouraging clients in the future to be more risk-averse and factor in more mitigation for those risks.

“The prudent, conservative message that accountants generally give to their clients about the need to build buffers and reserves, etc, might be better received after this period because so many people will have walked this path.”

Mike Day, Managing director, Mercury Financial GroupPicture: Mike Day, Managing director, Mercury Financial Group.

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