With the cryptocurrency market hurtling toward a $1 trillion valuation, major accounting firms have had to reconsider their hiring needs.

Over the past two years, the Big Four agencies and smaller companies have been building teams to keep pace with rapidly growing demand for blockchain expertise. EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC are pursuing a range of initiatives to increase services and develop their own blockchain projects. The firms expect blockchain to take deeper root in business and find a widening number of applications.

“There are so many use cases for blockchain, and we’re only scratching the surface of what might be possible with this exciting, new technology,” said Kim Paykel, EYX programme director, while discussing EY’s 2016 Startup Challenge, which helped six blockchain startups.

The job website indeed.com reported last year that the number of blockchain postings from 2015 through almost the end of last year rose more than 600 percent. Last summer saw the launch of Crypto Jobs List, which posts blockchain jobs. Recent openings included analysts, software engineers, community managers and a “crypto Ninja.”

To be sure, accounting firms are traditionally cautious, and the blockchain remains more about potential than accomplishments. “You have to understand that, traditionally, accounting firms are very conservative, so some [firms] aren’t going to want to take it on,” said Craig Smalley, CEO of the Florida-based accounting and financial services conglomerate CWSEAPA.

Yet Smalley added that accounting firms will grow their blockchain services as they develop a fuller grasp of the technology: “The real money is in understanding the blockchain technology, and the more they understand about that, the better they will do.”

ATMs and a Digital Wallet

In a 2017 report, the research group HfS called EY fairly advanced in its use of blockchain. In 2017, EY Switzerland became the first accounting firm to give employees a digital wallet and to accept payment for invoices through bitcoin (BTC) Both EY Switzerland and Deloitte’s Toronto offices have bitcoin ATMs in their offices.

“It is important to us that everybody gets on board and prepares themselves for the revolution set to take place in the business world through blockchains,” said Marcel Stalder, CEO of EY Switzerland in an EY press release last year. “Blockchains are a very quickly developing technology that can permanently change many sectors.”

Deloitte has opened two blockchain labs since 2016 and last year joined the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA) and the Hyperledger Project, two massive groups of organizations working on blockchain initiatives.

In a recent whitepaper, Deloitte claimed that blockchain “has the potential to shapeshift the nature of today’s accounting.” Experts say it will dramatically change the process of auditing and compliance, and some believe it could make accounting more reliable and trustworthy.

Last February, KPMG and Microsoft announced a joint effort, Blockchain Nodes, to explore the use of blockchain in improving business processes. The effort is targeting financial services but also encompasses health care and other industries.

A month later, PwC signed an agreement with online retail giant Alibaba to see how blockchain technology could address fraud and improve operations in the food supply industry.

Smalley said that rather than fearing disruption caused by block, Smalley said, accounting and financial service firms are wise to see it as an opportunity.  “They should read everything they can about it,” he said. “I know a lot of [accounting professionals] who won’t touch it, but it’s something they should all be looking at.”

Paula Felps
Paula Felps is an award-winning writer and editor. Her work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News and in publications created by the University of Texas at Dallas, Bauer Publishing, Nationwide Insurance, Walmart and Hewlett Packard. She currently serves as the science editor for Live Happy Magazine.