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"Bean counters" keep our economy running

NZ public: We think accountants and bookkeepers are ‘bean counters’,
but they keep our economy running

Survey finds accountants are more desirable to date than artists, designers, and personal trainers

WELLINGTON, September 28, 2016 — Professional stereotypes about the accounting industry are alive and well, with a new global survey from Xero revealing that the average member of the public most commonly associates accountants and bookkeepers as suit-wearing “bean counters” and “number crunchers”.

At the same time, the survey revealed that accountants and bookkeepers are likely to be seen as a vital part of any business, with the majority of respondents from all markets surveyed (58%) viewing them as trusted advisors.

The research from Xero looks at perceptions of accountants and bookkeepers among 3,500 respondents in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the UK, and uncovered a number of insights about people’s understanding of the professions.

The bean-counting and number-crunching stereotypes, shared by 78% of global respondents, underpin the intimate involvement and knowledge that bookkeepers and accountants have of a business’s financials, and the important role they play in any business.

Dating By The Numbers
Respondents across all markets would rather date accountants and bookkeepers over tradies and handymen. In Australia, accountants and bookkeepers are even more desirable as partners than artists and designers, and in the US and UK they outrank personal trainers as desirable partners.

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Awareness Of What a Bookkeeper Does Is Low
Respondents across all regions have a strong understanding of what an accountant does. New Zealand, the birthplace of Xero, tops the list with only 2% claiming they have no understanding of an accountant's job, while Australians performed the worst with 8% having no idea what an accountant does.

But across the board, respondents are almost three times more likely to have no idea what a bookkeeper’s job entails compared to that of an accountant. One in four people in New Zealand (26%), Australia (25%), and the UK (26%) have no idea what bookkeepers do. US citizens fare slightly better on this front with only one in five (19%) having no idea what a bookkeeper’s job entails.

Bookkeepers are responsible for the daily recording of a business’s transactional activities; a fundamental economic function.

Other findings include:

Accountants and bookkeepers are vital to the economy: Nearly two in three (65%) respondents across the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand believe the jobs are incredibly important or imperative to the running of the economy

Accounting and bookkeeping as a profession: People in New Zealand and Australia are more likely to have considered accounting or bookkeeping as a profession (NZ 32%, AU 33%), compared with 26% in the US and 25% in the UK.

Word of mouth is king: Referrals from family and colleagues are the most trusted method to find an accountant or bookkeeper, with more than half of respondents in New Zealand (59%), the US (59%), and the UK (55%) relying on referrals (in Australia, the result is close to one in two respondents [45%]).

Comments on the survey

Melanie Morris, Head of Bookkeeping NZ, Xero: “Bookkeepers have come a long way from the old days of manual cashbooks: now, they’re tech-savvy managers of their client’s data and, becoming deeply involved in the day-to-day running of the business. Bookkeepers are the general practitioners for the financials, collaborating between the client, accountant, and other advisors like banks and government agencies for compliance.”

Lisa Martin, Xero Ambassador and Executive Director at Go Fi8ure (Xero 2016 Bookkeeping Partner of the Year): “What a wonderful survey! I’m glad the needle has moved on the “dating” attitude! Bookkeepers are the financial backbone to SME business owners on all things people, strategy, execution, and cash. We are so much more than just people “coding financial transactions”. Any business working with a bookkeeper and an accountant dream-team sleeps well at night knowing their accounts are being filed correctly on time, every time; any pain points are managed professionally; and they always have a clear picture of their company’s financial health for stakeholders in real-time (not a year’s time). If you value your business asset and your time, you understand the value of bookkeepers in your business.”

Robyn Terlesk, Xero Ambassador and Director at BDO Northland (Xero 2016 Accounting Partner of the Year): The accounting profession is evolving and is seeing a major shift away from compliance to added value services with the use of products such as Xero. We can now focus on the future rather than the past and having live data from Xero is essential for this.


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