Stress levels amongst accountants and legal professionals are at worrying highs - could technology help prevent burnout?

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a strange - and in many cases, highly stressful - working environment. And while we are all acutely aware that those in key worker roles, such as healthcare and teaching, have been under huge amounts of pressure since the crisis began, we are perhaps not so conscious of the impact upon other professions.

A recent survey by accountingweb.co.uk found that 40% of accountants had experienced anxiety or depression for the first time as a result of the pandemic, while seven in ten said they had felt ‘unable to cope’ with the added stress it has brought.  And legal professionals have been feeling the pressure too, with many conveyancers saying they are considering leaving the profession due to mental health issues brought on by the added stress of the pandemic.

So why have accountants and legal professionals been struggling so much?  

A recent survey by LifeSearch found that a third of people have worked more hours since the pandemic started. And while working longer hours is obviously not specific to either accountants or lawyers, the work ‘hard’ culture — via any means necessary — is deeply embedded in the legal industry, while the added pressure on conveyancers of the stamp duty holiday has added another layer of stress, with many suffering mental health problems after being swamped by calls from anxious clients and estate agents in the run up to each deadline, making it difficult to progress on anything.

For accountants, the added pressure of staying on top of the latest guidance - the furlough scheme being the most significant - has pushed many towards breaking point. Not only were they expected to be ‘on it’ every time an announcement was made, but also to ensure they understood it and had worked out what it meant for each client’s individual business almost as soon as the announcement had been made.

And then of course, there is staying on top of customer due diligence and compliance in a home working environment. And while this is something that impacts many different types of businesses, it is particularly pertinent for accountants and legal firms as both are required, by law, to run anti-money laundering checks on all their clients or face serious consequences.

Running AML checks on clients is time consuming and burdensome at the best of times, but during a pandemic, where firms have been unable to see their clients face to face in order to check their identification documents has made it even more difficult with the added stress that getting it wrong could mean fines or even prison.

Traditionally, most regulated firms run these types of checks manually; not only is this not as efficient or accurate as running checks electronically, but during the pandemic, actually became almost impossible, leaving many firms with the difficult choice of either not onboarding new clients, or risking non-compliance.

But it doesn’t need to be that way - SmartSearch is a cloud-based platform that can offer law firms, accountants and other regulated businesses a quick and easy way to meet their AML obligations, whether they are in the office, working from home, or doing a bit of both.

A full AML check can be run in seconds - all users need to do is enter their client’s details into the system, or scan/upload their photo ID either via desktop or a handheld device and SmartSearch verifies the individual - or business - and screens against global watchlists, automatically running enhanced due diligence if there are any matches. SmartSearch takes care of record keeping requirements too - every search result is hosted on the platform and checked every night for full compliance.

Given that many accountants and law firms have had to move a great deal of their processes online to be able to support a working from home environment - and both sectors already rely heavily on tech to make other parts of their jobs easier - why do so many still put up with slow inefficient compliance processes? Now, as we move into a new hybrid office/home working environment, is the perfect time to switch to online verification. Electronic verification is quicker, cheaper, more reliable but most importantly at the moment, could save accountants and legal professionals an awful lot of stress.

 

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