Traditionally, accountants might spend hours crunching numbers and making manual calculations in a paper ledger. As technology advanced, this process gradually moved online, first with Excel spreadsheets and then with cloud accounting software — effectively eliminating the need for calculators, ledgers and pencils.
Accounting software has become so essential to modern practice that the market itself was valued at £8.52 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach £13.89 billion by 2026 with a compound annual growth rate of 8.5%.
This shift in industry requirements means that clients need a different set of services from their accountants. Instead of number crunching, the services lean towards consulting, advice and analysis, all of which require educating your client about their finances and their options.
Keep reading to find out why financial education is necessary to accounting services and how to provide this in your practice.
Moving online and into the cloud unlocked strategic advantages for clients and significantly changed standard accountancy operating practices. With cloud-based accounting software, CFOs, CTOs, MDs and small business owners alike could enter and edit financial information and share it directly with their finance team, creating a closer collaboration and more immediate relationship between accountants and their clients.
However, in order for that relationship to run smoothly, the client requires a certain level of education. Without it, accountants could still waste hours on manual processing or calculation for clients who have not maintained the software properly, rendering the tech unhelpful.
Simply highlighting benefits or usability features may be enough for your number-savvy clientele. For example, cloud-based accounting has reduced the margin for error, as calculations became automated by sophisticated algorithms instead of manual calculation. Not only does this benefit the client by preventing mistakes on their part, but it saves them and their accountant time in the long run.
Accountants have also needed to adapt their core skill set as digital has become the norm. Financial education is part and parcel of an accountant's professional development in order to stay up-to-date with policy, regulation or technological changes. And, while it might be normal for accountants to be consistently learning, it’s important to pass this knowledge onto your clients in a language that they understand.
Let’s take a look at how you can manage financial education for your clients.
Identify and Streamline Inefficiencies
As an accountant, you will be acting almost like a business advisor in an analytical sense. So, in order to educate your clients about their business finances, you can start by highlighting any inefficiencies in their process, systems and finances.
Tech-savvy clients will be keen to use apps or systems that save them time too, so highlight softwares that could be best for your client businesses. Not only will saving them time and money give them a competitive advantage but it will allow you to gain their trust — which is necessary when the client is handing over all the intimate details of their business transactions.
Embrace Automated Accounting
Automated accounting has drastically changed the industry by eliminating manual error-prone and time-consuming processes with real-time, responsive solutions. It’s also transformed the way accountants interact with and support their clients by giving them more time to focus on advisory services.
Offering advisory services allows you to position your firm as an essential service for your clients, allowing you to build long-lasting relationships. In this respect, it’s not surprising that 76% of accountants expect advisory services to make the bulk of their revenue in five years.
In order to get the most from your automated accounting software, take the time to help your client understand it. Show or describe how they can use it to their advantage too, making the job easier for all and freeing up accountants’ time to provide more business crucial services.
Speak the Client’s Language
Delivering high-value content (such as articles or industry-specific guides and research) can help clients understand their finances, start and run a business, and generally guide them on the journey of growing a business.
However, it’s critical to talk to the client using language that they understand. When you use jargon or industry acronyms, it could alienate the customer. Try to use examples from their industry or that apply to their business. Explain any phrases or practices they seem unsure of in layman's terms to gain their understanding.
Double as a Business Advisor
As mentioned above, clients want their accountants to offer advice on topics relating to accounting, finance, and even the minutiae of starting their business, such as choosing the proper structure.
With technology advancing at such a rapid pace, your clients may also rely on you to tell them where to invest their money. According to research by Sage, 82% of accounting clients expect their accountants to offer advisory services on relevant accounting and finance technologies. Therefore, you should ensure that you can effectively transfer that knowledge to your clients through clear and honest communication. Offering your take on their business will help them make informed decisions and further develop your relationship.
Make Tax Accessible
Since Making Tax Digital (MTD) has been around in the UK, you’ve probably become familiar with it as an accounting professional. However, your clients may still find it confusing and turn to you for guidance and advice on managing MTD.
While MTD may not apply to some of your clients right now, it’s still something they need to be aware of. As their accountant, they expect you to have the answers and help them alter their business processes to easily transition to MTD when they need to.
Ensure your clients understand what MTD means for them and their business. You can also advise on suitable software for them to be able to manage their documentation and accounts, so you can help them seamlessly when tax reporting comes around.
Provide Your Clients with Excellent Financial Education and Accounting Services with INAA
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