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Accountants and bookkeepers: Stereotypes remain but are they vital to business?

06 Oct 2016

Stereotypes about accountants and bookkeepers remain alive and well, according to a new survey from Xero that reveals the public associates the professions as suit-wearing ‘bean counters’ and ‘number crunchers’.

However, those same professions are likely to be viewed as vital parts of any business, with the survey showing the majority of respondents from all markets viewing them as trusted advisors (58%).

The research from Xero looks at perceptions of accountants and bookkeepers among 3,500 respondents in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the UK.

According Xero, the bean-counting and number-crunching stereotypes, shared by 78% of global respondents, underpin the ‘intimate involvement’ and knowledge that bookkeepers and accountants have of a business’s financials, and the important role they play in business.

The survey found awareness of what a bookkeeper does is low.

Respondents across all regions have a strong understanding of what an accountant does. New Zealand tops the list with only 2% claiming they have no understanding of an accountant's job, while Australians performed the worst with 8% having no idea what an accountant does.

In contrast, across the board respondents are almost three times more likely to have no idea what a bookkeeper’s job entails.

One in four people in New Zealand (26%), Australia (25%), and the UK (26%) have no idea what bookkeepers do. United States citizens fare slightly better on this front with only one in five (19%) having no idea what a bookkeeper’s job entails.

Bookkeepers are responsible for the daily recording of a business’s transactional activities; a fundamental economic function, Xero explains.

“Bookkeepers have come a long way from the old days of manual cashbooks: now, they’re tech-savvy managers of their client’s data and, becoming deeply involved in the day-to-day running of the business,” comments Melanie Morris, head of Bookkeeping NZ, Xero.

“Bookkeepers are the general practitioners for the financials, collaborating between the client, accountant, and other advisors like banks and government agencies for compliance,” she explains.

Despite not knowing what bookkeepers may do, the survey found nearly two in three (65%) respondents across the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand believe accountants and bookkeepers are incredibly important or imperative to the running of the economy

Additionally, the survey found people in New Zealand and Australia are more likely to have considered accounting or bookkeeping as a profession (NZ 32%, AU 33%), compared with 26% in the US and 25% in the UK. 

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