Our final speaker Q&A for 2018 features Adrian Sproston, director — accountant division at Sage.  In his opening day Keynote session, he’ll be joined by Michael Office, Sam Carter and Martin Tregonning to discuss how to ‘Be Ready for Making Tax Digital with Sage’.

With almost 40% more practices uncertain about their future prospects and 73% feeling the profession is more competitive than ever — they’ll look at what support practices need to take maximum advantage of major changes to legislation, client demands and technology.

How did you get in to the profession?

The majority of my career has been in financial services, although I have always worked at the B2B level.  I was approached by Sage almost four years ago to join the team and have spent the past 15 months in the Accountants Division.  There’s a fantastic team in accounting and I absolutely love working with my colleagues, customers, accountants and partners.  We are all really focused on making the profession as great as it can be.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

It’s probably having to balance all the competing requirements.  There’s a big mix of priorities within my role such as the education piece (engaging with our accountants and colleagues about regulation, new requirements), pre-sales, post sales, to activities where we aim to develop and progress the profession through our software.  To make sure we answer the customer need with everything we start with ‘what’s in it for the customer’ so often that means having to say no to things.

And the most rewarding?

When we get it right for the customer and they are delighted…that’s what makes my job.  We exist to make businesses thrive so when a solution we develop does that it’s fantastic.

Customer service is at the crux of what we do at Sage and it’s always testament to the hard work and dedication of our accounting team when the NPS score improves.

I love meeting customers.  Our recent roadshow called Sage Sessions, which spanned the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland was very popular and enabled our teams to meet thousands of accountants, partners and customers.

That’s another reason why I’m really looking forward to Accountex – meeting the people we are here to serve.  It’s always so insightful.

What do you see as key trends for the accounting sector in the coming years?

If we look at technology then the obvious one is AI and machine learning, which is an area already impacting the accountancy profession.  But with the explosion on the volumes of data being created because of APIs to 3rd party apps, Bank Feeds and CRM systems, the ability for accountants to do analysis and obtain meaningful insight and predictive modelling is faster and quicker than ever before.  Everything is moving towards data and speed of decision making.

PSD2 or Opening Banking is going to be an interesting development.  The ability for financial data to be more visible and accessible via software services will lead to a wider range of services being available either directly within the accounting product or from the customers online banking portal.  I am watching with interest on the RBS acquisition of FreeAgent.

Automation continues to be key in reducing errors, costs and administrative tasks.  APIs have enabled solutions to connect and transform/streamline business processes and workflow freeing up time and improving the speed that a decision can be made – examples would be OCR , AI , ML and Direct bank feeds all changing data input and the processing of that data.

How important is Accountex to you and the sector?

It’s very important to us.  It’s a great opportunity to communicate with customers, share best practice, gain feedback and interact with peers.  It’s great for the sector as it enables accountants to get a real view of the marketplace and also to understand the new entrants – it’s a real 360-degree approach to knowledge and insight sharing.

What do you want visitors to take away from your session?

We want attendees to understand the journey Sage is on, to take a fresh look at us and all we are doing in the sector, from product innovation to our work with the government to ensure the voice of accountants is heard.

Who or what inspires you to be even better?

There’s two sides to this:
1. Personally it’s my children – having children has taught me to practice what I preach.
2. Professionally, it’s always our customers – I can guarantee from every single chat, meeting, roadshow, presentation, lunch, beer or whatever with them I learn something new.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Pick your battles!

See Adrian at Accountex 2018

For session details and timings, please visit: www.accountex.co.uk/speaker/adrian-sproston.

To register for a free ticket to attend, please visit https://eventdata.uk/Visitor/Accountex.aspx?TrackingCode=ACX108.

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