Greathead, Damien, Vice President, Receipt Bank
Accounting firms have typically provided a range of ‘after-the-fact’ compliance and write-up services and have typically done alright financially providing these services. However major innovations in technology and a changing business client demographic is placing pressure on accountants to change their business model. Business clients are looking for more from their accountant, and the traditional model of basic scorekeeping will be difficult to maintain. Instead we’re seeing significant growth for firms providing more comprehensive, timely and useful information to their clients.
In addition, we’re seeing an increasingly specialized economy, where businesses are looking to outsource those functions that while important, don’t add value to their bottom line. In fact they recognize the importance of bringing in experts for areas outside of their core competency. One such area, especially for small and medium sized business, is the accounting function. You are perfectly suited to not only advise your clients on accounting systems and processes, but with the right business model, take it off their hands completely.
Think about a typical controller, or CFO. Their responsibilities include:
- Managing issues relating to overall financial management, profit optimization and capital efficiency
- Ensuring accuracy of recording of transactions
- Formulating long term business plans, researching and reporting on factors influencing business performance
- Maintaining and monitoring financial statements, formulating all relevant reports, planning, conducting and finalizing audits of financial statements
- Performing budgeting, reviewing audit files and assuming responsibilities for interim and yearly audits
- Reviewing daily reports and preparing them for presentation to management
- Running month end system reports and checking integrity
- Ensuring accounting policy is compatible with double entry standards
- Formulating financial statements and consolidations
- Formulating annual budgets
- Liaising with banks
- Identifying and reporting on KPIs
- Benchmarking performance against plans and industry statistics
Now think about your clients. Are they getting these services to help them make better business decisions? We know for many, a full-time controller or CFO is cost-prohibitive, so this becomes a wonderful opportunity for progressive accounting firms looking to carve out their niche.
Understand that to successfully ‘insource’ your clients accounting function you need on-demand access to key information. In fact the timely input of data is critical to your success. Here’s where the technology comes in. The rise of cloud based accounting platforms and data processing applications is enabling an almost real-time interaction between the business and the accounting function. For example, bank feeds that speak directly to your accounting software means immediate access to what you want, when you want it. More importantly when the applications speak directly to each other you remove the time-consuming, error prone data entry step in the traditional write-up practice. Gone are the days of you chasing your clients for source documents. Instead the client snaps a picture of a receipt on their smart phone and uploads it almost immediately into the accounting software.
Technology is changing and while we may never have the perfect accounting ecosystem, we’re pretty darn close. You’re expected to be on the leading edge of accounting technology and the integration of applications and platforms is essential to getting timely, valuable information into the hands of your clients. Spend some time looking at the various applications available, talk to other users and find a good fit for your firm and your client, but be OK with it not being a perfect fit.
It’s an exciting time to be an accountant. With the right technology, accounting systems and processes in place you can be playing a much more valuable, profitable and enjoyable role helping your clients businesses. While many accountants have for a long time prided themselves on their proactive services, they have always struggled getting the financial processed in a timely manner to get valuable information back to business owners. The technology available today largely solves this issue and instead of chasing invoices and keying data, you can be discussing budget versus actual numbers, or progress towards the strategic plan. Your role shifts away from one of compliance to one of reliance.