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PKF’s International Assurance and Tax Meeting + TechFest Gala Roundtable

“The PKF network is about the personal touch – we focus on people and relationships and it’s something we mustn’t forget”.

The International Assurance and Tax Meeting + TechFest, held virtually across 34 sessions in November, held a ‘Gala Roundtable’ as its finale.

The online discussion, led by PKF Sydney and Newcastle’s Clayton Hickey, looked at key themes raised throughout the year. The roundtable’s objective was to outline and highlight ideas that would help shape PKF firms’ workplan for 2021 and beyond.

Discussion kicked off with thoughts on improving the process around cross-referring across the network. PKF International CEO Theo Vermaak noted there were good examples of cross referring working well, and that such examples should be more broadly shared.

‘Embracing digitalisation’ proved an extremely popular topic, with ideas about how this could be leveraged by PKF firms coming from many attendees.

Some of the points raised included taking a ‘customer-centric approach’ to technology - namely, where it enhances the value of a firm’s service. Better helping clients not only embrace, but use, technology to improve the relationship between them and the adviser was also flagged up.

One attendee mooted the possibility of centralising both software evaluations and pricing.

CEO Theo Vermaak agreed with many of the points, suggesting that “we focus historically on how we manage our own functions, and we need to flip it towards the client experience”.

Clayton Hickey, who also serves as PKFI’s global chair of the International Professional Standards Committee, said there was an opportunity for firms to think about how they describe the use of analytics and data tools when pitching to potential audit clients. “Defining that for us and the market would be very valuable,” said Clayton.

Theo concluded that part of the session by pointing out that “the PKF network is about the personal touch – we focus on people and relationships and it’s something we mustn’t forget”.

In the ‘service offerings’ section of the session, PKF Francis Clark corporate finance partner Mark Greaves suggested that the pandemic had accelerated some firms’ automation plans – and, as such, had freed up time for their workforce to consider new or enhanced client offerings. “Diversification of services is therefore a critical area,” said Mark.

‘Culture’ was, again, a key issue when considering the future of PKF’s firms. There was concern about how to instil culture into new recruits if working remotely is prevalent. Others said that staff interaction needed to be encouraged, and that extra effort was required in this area with a more remote working world.

There was, inevitably, discussion about the culture of PKF and understanding how that applied to the firms’ efforts with their people, clients, and the wider communities impacted.

Discussion then moved onto ‘quality’. Again, there was consideration for setting network-wide quality definitions for key services, such as audit. This might tie into how referrals work, for example where a bigger firm is considering a referral to a smaller firm in the network, said Stefaan De Ceulaer, PKFI Tax Director. Ultimately, understanding each firm’s capability within a network is crucial.

Finally, attendees broached the topic of the PKF ‘hub’. PKFI Assurance Director Jamie Drummond believes that the hub will be an important sharing and collaboration tool.

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