‘Accountants don’t want to be giving medical advice’ – Jessica Rachow

As a little girl, Jessica Rachow knew that she wanted to help people.

She combined her love for law and thirst for business, and became an accountant.

Jessica began her career in accounting in 2011 and was this year named as a finalist for the ‘Young Accountant of the Year’ at the Australian Accounting Awards, hosted by the Accountants Daily.

Ms Rachow of beaccounted told the Public Accountant in a recent interview that the acknowledgment meant she had made the right career choice.

“I was shocked to be honest, but it meant that people in the industry, who had been in it for longer than I have, acknowledged that I was right for the business,” she said.

An accountant’s job is multilayered, Ms Rachow noted.

Mental health is crucial

Mental health pressures on accountants are huge and they often struggle to juggle clients’ problems with their own personal stresses, Ms Rachow explained.

“The work we do every day impacts us. We can feel the weight of up to 400 people’s financial problems and home stresses on our shoulders, while also having our own struggles to deal with,” Ms Rachow said.

She stressed the need of accountants to be aware of the importance of mental health in the workplace, while also looking after their own wellbeing.

“As professionals, we are probably the one non-medical profession that people religiously see each year,” Ms Rachow noted.

She clarified that despite the big gap that exists between a business-financial adviser and a medical practitioner, clients often rely on accountants for medical advice.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be giving medical advice and we really shouldn’t be, but it comes to a point where you have people coming to you and asking for your advice. We are constantly asking people ‘are you OK?’ ‘Is there anything we can do to alleviate the stress?’ ‘Are you getting help?’” Ms Rachow said.

“This is really brain heavy work that we do. We see a lot of people’s personal situations and it is quite frustrating because a lot of these things are out of our control. A lot of people tell us that home life isn’t great, they are dealing with illnesses, heavy financial situations, and a lot of other things that we can’t help them with.”

Business is constantly evolving

An accountant’s way of doing business in constantly evolving, Ms Rachow added.

She explained that technological developments have significantly changed the pace of the job.

“Technology is everything. It frees up a lot of our time. When I started accounting, accountants were still working with cheque books, bank statements, and manual data entry,” Ms Rachow said.

“At the beginning I spent almost 150 per cent of my time on data entry, which has now come down to only 10 to 15 per cent. A lot of that has become automated.”

Although technology has simplified the way business is done, the job itself has become a lot more involved, she admitted.

“We are no longer just producing tax returns, we are now the person asking ‘where is this going?’, ‘you spent money here’, ‘how is this going?’. We can now see all these things and make forecasts,” Ms Rachow stated.

“A lot of conversations today don’t have anything to do with debtors or creditors, numbers … We are able to pick up on some not so great circumstances.”

Accounting tough on young professionals

She admitted that accounting is tough on young professionals, especially ones looking to enter the industry now.

“I feel sorry for the professionals starting to come through now, where offshoring and technology seem to be such a big thing,” Ms Rachow said.

She emphasised that a big skill problem may be on the cards in the near future.

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