How do I choose an accountant?

How do I choose an accountant?

Once your company starts growing, it’s best not to try and manage the accounts yourself as you will be spending your time doing something you’re not trained to do and isn’t revenue-generating. 

An accountant is someone that you technically don’t need to run your business, but they can become invaluable when growing your business. 

A professional accountant can save you a lot of time and money by looking after all the finances while you focus on what’s more important. And you’ll have access to advice and guidance.

Once you are ready to engage an accountant, you may not know what exactly to look for. Choosing one that is right for your specific business needs is important and there are certain things to keep in mind. So, let’s take a look at what to consider when looking for an accountant. 

What can an accountant do for my business?

The first question to ask yourself is what exactly do you want from your accountant. There is a variety of accountancy services, covering different needs and wants. You need to outline the specific tasks you think an accountant can help you with. 

Do you just need them to take care of your basic finances, such as tax, payroll, expenses, utility payments and so on? Or, do you want a hands-on accountant who will give you regular financial advice, provide regular reports and help you understand your business finances.  Will you value help with growth transitions such as hiring new employees and taking on new office spaces?

You may not even have a business yet, but you might benefit from an accountant regarding important decisions before buying or creating a new business. Perhaps you need their advice on the best financial support options for you, such as applying for a loan or an overdraft.

An accountant can help you with a number of things, which is why it’s important that you know specifically what you need from them.

What skills and qualifications should my accountant have?

This might not be important if you simply need your accountant to handle the basic finances. However, there are some business sectors that may require someone that has relevant experience and skills. 

The business model and the way in which finances are dealt with can differ according to the business sector. Here are a couple of examples on specific accounting needs:

  • Manufacturing - Manufacturing requires an accountant to specialise in dealing with inventory, accounts payable, liabilities and so on.

  • Services - The greatest emphasis in the service industry is usually sales and expenses. The accountant may need to analyse different types of sales and related expenses.

  • Non-profit organisations - These operate on charitable donations and giving, but they are still required to record the contributions as sales receipts. There are specific governmental requirements for charitable organisations which an accountant needs to be aware of.

  • Hospitality - Hospitality is one of the most complex industries when it comes to finances, so it’s important to choose an accountant with relevant experience.

    These are only a few examples on how different industries may require specialised accountants. If you are one of those businesses, you ought to look for accountancy services that are right for your company’s specific needs. 


Formal accounting qualifications

There are a number of different accounting bodies that award formal qualifications.  These are the ones you will normally see:

AAT : Association of Accounting Technicians

This is the UK's leading professional membership body for accounting staff, and has over 150,000 members in over 90 countries worldwide.  If you choose a bookkeeper it’s recommendable that you insist on an AAT qualification.

Note:  AAT members are not Chartered Accountants

ACCA : Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

One of the leading accountancy bodies with global membership and recognition.  Fully qualified members can be awarded Chartered Certified Accountant status.

ICAEW : Institute of Chartered Accountants, England & Wales

One of the leading accountancy bodies with global membership and recognition.  Fully qualified members can be awarded Chartered Accountant status.

ICAS : Institute of Chartered Accountants,Scotland

ICAS is a global professional body for Chartered Accountants

Chartered Accountants Ireland

Members work in senior positions in practice and industry.

CIMA : Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

CIMA accountants focus on operational, management and strategic accountancy for businesses.  Fully qualified members can be Chartered Management Accountants or Chartered Global Management Accountants.

CIPFA : Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accounting

CIPFA is the only professional accountancy body in the world dedicated to public finance.  The professional qualification is Chartered Public Finance Accountant

Get proof

Providing you with an accountant's practicing license and Public Indemnity Insurance shouldn’t be an issue for any certified accountant. So, don’t be afraid to request a copy of those for proof - this will give you some extra reassurance that you are dealing with a qualified professional.

Besides proof of qualification, you should also ask as many questions as needed to make your decision. You want to make sure that your accountant is right for you and the way they operate aligns with your business. For instance, ask questions about ways they will keep in touch with you, what issues will you discuss regularly, what additional considerations your accountant has for your type of business, what softwares they use, how they will make sure everything is done on time, etc.. Don’t pick an accountant whose answers are not satisfactory for you. 

Do your research

Don’t just consider the first three accounting firms that came up on your Google search. That doesn’t always mean they are the best ones out there - they are just good at getting listed in your search.

According to the regulator’s report on the seven UK chartered accountancy bodies, there were 350,000 members just in the UK in 2018.  There is no lack of accountants for you to choose from - so be very picky. 

Consider looking into your social networks, as sometimes the right accountant for you is the one that is always used and trusted by your family members or friends. Maybe you are connected to a great accountant on your LinkedIn page or someone has a great recommendation.

Always do background checks. One way to know if an accountant can be trusted is to see if they have positive reviews online and read client testimonials. It’s also useful to look at what sort of companies are leaving good reviews - if it’s only small businesses that are happy with their services, their experience likely won’t apply for a larger company. 

Do I need a local accountant?

This is completely up to you and your preferences. If you will be working closely with your accountant and want the option of seeing them easily, a local one may be best. Some people like the convenience of popping in to their accountant’s office for a meeting, or having them come to theirs. You also get to meet the whole team.

It’s not always the case, though, and some businesses are happy to have an accountant that is located in a different area or even country. You may find Zoom meetings more productive and you may not need to communicate with them quite as often. The good news is that it will give you lots more accounting firms to choose from. 

What should I pay my accountant?

When considering your budget you need to take into account the value that an accountant will  bring to you.  You’ll save time and money in the long-run and have access to professional advice which could save you more than the fees.  

While some accountants charge hourly rates many will offer a fixed fee accounting option to include all of the services you need for a single monthly payment.  It will help you budget your finances more easily.

Get a Letter of Engagement

There’s nothing more important than keeping your business safe in every possible way. The majority of business owners are mostly concerned with protecting their companies from cyber threats, fraud and scams, but forget to cover themselves in case of any disagreements with accountants. After all, they are a separate business that may not have your best interest in mind when there’s a disagreement.

Ask your accountant to issue an Engagement Letter, which outlines the exact services they are required to provide you and set general expectations on both sides.


This document ensures that you both remain on the same page and will be your reference point in case of disagreements.

Get in touch...

If you have decided to engage an accountant and would like to discuss your requirements with us, get in touch!  

Here at ASfB we cover a variety of different business needs, from basic accountancy and payroll to business advisory and development. We are primarily focused on business growth and so we tailor our solutions based on your individual business needs.

Our Chartered Accountants are all either ACCA or ICAEW members and our accounting team is AAT qualified.

We provide accounting services in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset for ambitious local businesses as well as for businesses throughout the UK.

Our clients also include international businesses, so we have a breadth of experience to help your business thrive.

Call our friendly team on 01202 755600 or drop an email to hello@asfb.co.uk for a further discussion.