Interview: George P. Christou, Managing Director of Euroaudit, talks about the future of the Cyprus accounting sector, the challenges it faces, the importance of technology in its evolution, and how he envisages the skills required by the workforce of the future.
Having worked in the accounting sector for more than two decades, what would you say are the major trends currently affecting the overall professional services sector and accounting/audit firms in particular?
At Euroaudit, we abide by the principle that there is no substitute in our business for excellent, impeccably trustworthy service. We see this post-pandemic era as one of enormous opportunity, where technology is used in exciting new ways and customer service is still at the core of everything we do. Therefore, the top three trends that are critically important to us are (1) the enhanced use of technology, (2) the renewed focus on client service and (3) the importance of finding and nurturing the best talent available. So, firstly, technology is driving fundamental advances in accounting and auditing, with automation and AI technology being adopted globally to boost productivity and reduce manual operations. This frees up specialists to work on more complex jobs requiring critical and creative solutions. Data analytics is also becoming more critical to identify potential business possibilities and dangers due to the rise in digital transactions and big data. Secondly, the world has now realized that a renewed focus on providing exceptional customer service is crucial for businesses to develop and sustain trusting client relationships, raise client satisfaction, increase client retention, bring in new business, and work together for the best interests of their clients’ enterprises. This is no different for accounting and audit firms. And thirdly, there is the need to reimagine how we work and collaborate with a focus on maintaining work-life balance, remote work, diversity, and attracting and retaining top talent. To achieve this, we are continuously re-examining and innovating our human resources policies, as we believe that a highly skilled and satisfied workforce will provide better customer service to our clients and make our company an excellent one in which to work.
As you say, technology now plays a major role in accounting and auditing. What exactly has been the impact of digital transformation?
The way accounting firms conduct their business, from customer interactions to internal procedures, is evolving as a result of the adoption of new technologies like cloud computing, automation, and artificial intelligence. Technology is creating new sources of income for accounting firms, notably in the advisory services sector. Firms can offer clients insightful information and strategic counsel to enhance their financial performance and accomplish their company goals by utilizing modern technologies and data analytics. Accounting firms can provide cybersecurity, data protection and digital transformation services as well. Nonetheless, there will never be a technological replacement for excellent customer service and collaboration. The ability of any business to fulfil its commitments is increased by working with a strong team that serves as a ‘critical friend’ and is sophisticated and up-to-date enough to guide its clients through the maze of changes happening at lightning speed across industries. Top-notch customer service can assist accounting and auditing organisations in identifying areas for development and making modifications in response to client input. Flexibility and adaptability are paramount. Firms that can respond to shifting conditions, develop new abilities and rework their strategy will flourish and last.
What service lines for your firm do you expect to be on the rise in the coming years?
Changing tax laws, more EU directives and general compliance guidelines present new opportunities and challenges for tax planning and optimisation structures, in addition to financial counselling and advice services. The accounting and audit sector will experience growth in a number of service and revenue lines in the coming years, including advisory/consultancy services, data analytics and technology consulting services related to sustainability, environmental accounting and ESG reporting, tax planning and compliance, and forensic accounting. Our firm will continue to provide service to clients to help them comply with regulations, manage risk and streamline their operations as businesses negotiate an environment of regulation that is becoming more and more complex. As a result of the emergence of big data and digital transformation, accounting and audit firms are increasingly providing data analytics and technology consulting services to their clients. This is done to help them harness the power of data and technology to boost productivity and promote business growth. To assist clients in preventing, detecting and investigating financial crime, forensic accounting and fraud investigation services are becoming more and more necessary due to the complexity of financial transactions and the rise of cybercrime. Finally, accounting and audit companies will be crucial in assisting clients in navigating the tax system and ensuring compliance with the relevant rules and regulations as these continue to change.
What kind of skills and academic backgrounds will you need from your new hires in the coming years?
The accounting and audit industry must adapt to evolving customer needs, requiring new hires with diverse skill-sets and backgrounds, including technical accounting skills, data analytics, communication, business acumen and multilingualism. Candidates should understand accounting laws, be proficient in database management, data modelling and data visualisation. Business understanding is essential in advisory roles and cross-cultural competency is increasingly vital in the global market. At Euroaudit, we are always looking for candidates who can think strategically and offer insightful guidance to clients. We look for exceptional qualifications and degrees in Accounting, Finance, Business Administration and Information technology. A solid background in management, strategy and company operations is also helpful. In today’s worldwide corporate climate, employers are looking for people who speak many languages and have cross-cultural expertise.
What is the future of the accounting/audit/tax advisory sector in Cyprus, as regards international clients?
Cyprus is increasingly known internationally as a business and finance centre and, with such an advantageous geographic location, this can be developed even further. The country’s accounting, audit, and tax advisory industries have expanded in recent years, and new legislation and regulations have increased transparency and credibility. To attract more foreign clients, Cyprus should prioritise simple legal frameworks, compliance with AML and KYC procedures and the faster digitalization of public services and the government infrastructure. The country should also focus on showcasing its proficiency in specialized fields like banking, shipping and energy exploration, and invest in up-and-coming fields like fintech, eco-services, gaming and other digital assets. Cultivating partnerships with international markets is also essential. While there is still work to be done, Cyprus is rising to the formidable economic challenges facing Europe and the world by concentrating on innovation, specialisation and international collaborations.
What needs to be done if Cyprus is to maintain a strong and thriving professional services sector in the coming years?
We must enhance Cyprus’ reputation for engaging in transparent and compliant practices. Out adherence to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) criteria for combatting money laundering has improved but more work is needed. The Cyprus Bar Association and the Institute of Public Certified Accountants of Cyprus, as the regulatory bodies of lawyers and accountants respectively, must step up their efforts to check their member firms regularly to guarantee compliance with all rules and regulations. There are opportunities for young people in accounting but retaining personnel and succession planning are priorities. A diverse and inclusive workplace is crucial, with work-life balance, continual training and development necessary to stay competitive. Accounting firms should also foster a team-oriented culture and invest in professional growth. Businesses prioritising succession planning, diversity and inclusion, work/life balance and training and development will be more successful in attracting and retaining top talent in the coming years.
Established in 2008 as a small boutique firm, Euroaudit has carefully been expanding its scope and breadth and now serves the local and international business community as a medium-sized audit and accounting provider, with over 20 highly qualified and experienced financial professionals and a presence in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca. It is known as one of Cyprus’ best, most reliable and most friendly firms. It is also a proud member of GGI, one of the most extensive independent networks in the world. Thanks to its technical knowledge, service focus and thorough understanding of EU, Cypriot, and international accounting standards and concepts, Euroaudit is built on expertise and has grown by fostering and maintaining long-lasting business relationships. Respect and trust are critical to everything it does.
Phone: + 357 22667734
The interview first appeared as a Special Feature in the March edition of GOLD magazine.