We recently surveyed more than 3,500 members of the public in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand to understand their attitudes and perceptions of accountants and bookkeepers.
What we found was that, while the public understands the value of the profession to businesses and the economy, some of their perceived stereotypes are a little dated.
Here are some of the key findings:
The accounting profession is highly valued, despite old stereotypes
When asked to picture a conventional accountant or bookkeeper, respondents envisioned a suit-wearing “bean counter”. This “number cruncher” stereotype is shared by 78 percent globally. However, more than half of respondents see accountants and bookkeepers as trusted advisors.
When asked about the attributes of accountants and bookkeepers, respondents mostly saw them as analytical, intelligent and having strong business skills. Respondents did not see accountants and bookkeepers as the creative types. The survey found that people do not underestimate the value of the profession. Nearly two in three respondents believe the jobs of accountants and bookkeepers are incredibly important for a functioning economy.
Bookkeeping awareness is low
As a whole, many understand what an accountant does but when it comes to bookkeeping, many are a little perplexed. Across all markets surveyed, it was three times more likely for respondents to have no idea what a bookkeeper’s job entails, in comparison to that of an accountant. Bookkeeping awareness is highest in the US, where only one in five were unsure of the responsibilities of the role. Bookkeepers provide a fundamental economic function; tasked with the daily recording of a business’ transactional activities.
Recommendations are the number one sales lead for accountants and bookkeepers
With a proliferation of information readily available to anyone with an Internet connection, it may be surprising to learn that those looking to engage the services of a bookkeeper or accountant don’t generally jump online to find one. Respondents were more likely to rely on their friends or colleagues for a recommendation. In all markets, close to or more than half would ask someone they knew.
Many would take an accountant or bookkeeper home to meet the parents
Accountants rank quite high on the dateability scale, with respondents from most markets ranking them before handymen and car salesmen; perhaps something to do with how trustworthy they perceive the profession to be. In the US those in the profession were ranked only below doctors and firefighters and this same ordering was shared globally when looking at the most trusted professions.
Bookkeeping and accounting isn’t a desirable profession for many
Generally, it’s pretty unlikely that those surveyed had considered accounting or bookkeeping as a profession. Southern hemisphere-dwelling respondents were more likely to have thought about pursuing this career path, with slightly more than 30 percent of Australian and New Zealanders disclosing the thought had crossed their mind. An unfounded perception of the profession may be at play here, with most citing it’s for “numbers people”.
At Xero, we love accountants and bookkeepers; and while survey results regarding the importance of the profession only reaffirm our beliefs, we would love to see the public readjust their “strictly numbers” notions of accountants and bookkeepers and see them for the creative advisors they are.