Trust in accountants built on that personal touch

Tuesday 22 May 2018

* Small business owners have more trust in personal, face-to-face relations with their accountants. – They also want more financial advice than just filing tax returns.

* Charles Sturt University researcher surveyed and interviewed nearly 450 respondents from across metropolitan and regional Australia as part of the study.

* The most widespread advisor is not necessarily the most trusted advisor.

Michael CherryA Charles Sturt University (CSU) researcher has shown that small-to-medium business owners trust their accountants more when they meet them face-to-face compared to meetings held over telephone or via email or other online communication.

Doctoral student Michael Cherry has found that while small-to-medium business owners continue to increase their use of online communications in their business, they still prefer to meet their accountants over a table.

“Public accountants advise clients on matters of statutory compliance such as taxation and on business improvement and growth,” said Mr Cherry.

“As part of my study, I defined trust as the confidence of a small business owner that a public accountant will act proactively in their interests and not exploit their vulnerabilities.

“Small business owners want more from their accountants than just tax returns. I found they placed more trust in accountants who provided advice on the financial performance of their business rather than just assist in completing the annual tax return.

“What makes this study different is that I looked at various aspects of trust in this business relationship, at both the professional and deeper, personal levels. I found clients are more trusting of accountants who form these personal relationships. This was particularly important in Australia’s regional areas.”

In his doctoral studies with CSU, Mr Cherry investigated how Australia’s small accounting firms, which number over 30,000 nationally, service the needs of around 60 per cent of the accounting services market, which are mainly small-to-medium sized businesses. He surveyed and interviewed nearly 450 respondents from across metropolitan and regional Australia as part of the study.

“The research shows that public accountants who take more time, effort and resources to meet face-to-face with clients gain more trust and have more personal relationships. These added services might not be available or possible through the large accounting firms. This indicates a niche for smaller accounting enterprises.

“The findings also provide food for thought for the manner in which public accountants manage their relationships with their small business clients and the services they choose to offer.” Mr Cherry concluded.


Media contact: Kate Fotheringham, 63386521

Media Note:

For interviews with CSU doctoral student Mr Michael Cherry, contact CSU Media.

The full report of this research is:Cherry, M, McGrath, D, and Baumann, C. Client Intimacy & Performance Advice: Determinants of Trust in the Public Accountant - SME Client Relationship, Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal, 12(1), 2018, 3-32.