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Warning that technology cannot replace human support, as big four accountancy firm abandons UK small business accounting service

Technology can only work alongside face-to-face advice, warns local expert

Cloud-based accounting systems being marketed as part of the Making Tax Digital programme are not a complete solution to business prosperity and only work if they are combined with traditional, human-based advice and support – that is the warning from a leading firm of accountants.

The advice follows the news that a leading national accountancy firm has announced it is to abandon its small business accounting service in the UK, which provides cloud-based bookkeeping to SMEs – after small businesses said they didn’t want to lose face-to-face support.

James Shipp, partner at Lovewell Blake, said that the high profile U-turn on the part of the ‘Big Four’ firm showed that entrepreneurs are starting to recognise that technology can only ever be a part of the business support toolkit – and that it was only really useful as part of a package of advice which includes the personal touch.

“Driven in part by HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative, some of the bigger accountancy firms initially painted a picture where smaller businesses could do without face-to-face support, and that technology could largely replace it,” said Mr Shipp.

“It is interesting that many small business owners have said that they don’t agree, and now we are seeing the big firms starting to withdraw their cloud-based services.

“Actually, there is a real value to embracing online bookkeeping functionality which provides real-time financial information, but it needs to sit alongside traditional client service. Technology can do a lot to increase efficiency and provide quality information to help business owners make good decisions – but this has to be complemented by personal interaction with a qualified, experienced adviser who really understands the business.

“Those who are trying to use the technology to replace the kind of personal relationships which business owners value are doomed to fail. You cannot automate the relationship a business has with their accountant; of course we embrace technology, and Lovewell Blake are at the forefront of the Cloud Accounting revolution, but we cannot neglect traditional, good quality advice.”

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