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What the public really thinks about bookkeeping and accounting

Posted 7 years ago in Advisors by
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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.


You can read the press release here.


Anja O'Connor
September 28, 2016 at 7.49 am

Fantastic insights. Something us modern bookkeepers can focus on to lift the public’s perception. Bookkeepers are already applying creative solutions to the clients problems, simpler processes, marketplace add-ons etc. Keep shouting it from the rooftops while staying professional and ethical. It may take a little time but I’m sure in the next few years awareness of bookkeepers will increase. Looking forward to same survey next year, different results maybe?

Guilia Porrelli
October 19, 2016 at 3.27 pm

Interesting article. As a long time (20 yrs+) bookkeeper in NZ, I have actually found there is a lot of creativity required. I work with clients on a day to day/week to week basis to understand their business from the staff to the cash register to the systems behind it all and everything in between. They receive crucial information and insights out of the numbers in a way that is accessible to non-numbers people in real time, not a year or so later which is when they might get it from their accountant.

And yes, we have never advertised, do not have a website and yet have remained consistently busy via word of mouth for that 20+ years – good times and bad.

Hopefully Xero will increase the positive and knowledgeable perception of bookkeepers worldwide.

Leah Donaldson
October 20, 2016 at 5.20 am

I see bookkeepes like the gardner and the accountant is the home owner. Accountants and bookkeepers make for great partnerships if we stick to our areas of strength and carry the same vision for the garden. As a creative, I became a bookkeeper, maintaining the day to day branches and weeding out and balancing the ledgers and the accountant makes suggestions based on the gardens current view after putting together a landscape plan with the bookkeeper. I like to think that our minds and heart create the view of a bookkeeper or accountant and its all about relationship. I create relationships around like minded people who carry similar visions. Thinking outside the garden box creatively using the tools correctly, makes for great growth, nutrition and sustainability. LPD Bookkeeping

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