Change management, or ‘transformation’, is currently high on the list of priorities for most UK accountants. Investment in new technologies such as cloud accounting software and the automation of recurring tasks is increasing, much of this driven by the need to adapt quickly following the remote working challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Developments in Artificial Intelligence are helping accountants look critically at the way they work with clients while ensuring they remain available to provide personal, expert advice when needed. In summary, modern technologies can now support different models of service delivery and this includes outsourcing work to an offshore provider.
This guide aims to help accountants review the way accounting services are delivered and highlight the benefits of outsourcing work to deliver your transformation plans.
Transforming the way services are provided
While accountants have invested heavily in new technologies, many fail to review the way services are provided to secure the best possible outcomes for profitability and growth. The automation of tasks and embedding of cloud-based software provide wide scope for transforming the way services are delivered. The ‘digitisation’ of accounting records means there is no need for accountants to attend a traditional office space – information can be accessed from anywhere in the World using an internet connection.
In terms of the services an accountant may outsource, the work does not need to be confined to transactional areas such as bookkeeping or payroll. The outsourced accountant can support the onboarding of clients and provide continuous feedback on the services a client might need, such as tax or specialist advice. The outsourced accountant can help Practices look forward and assist with the real-time reporting needs of clients.
The outsourcing of compliance work helps accountants manage short term pressures such as peaks in workload or to eliminate backlogs of work. This can be at the individual accountant level, when capacity is most stretched at key points in the accounting cycle, or to help drive sustainable growth in new client numbers and services. Outsourcing work helps accountants provide professional support and expert advice their clients need without increasing the permanent establishment of the Practice.
Practices are increasingly including the outsourcing of work in their plans for client growth, recognising the market for qualified accountants, and other finance professionals, is challenging. Smaller Practices especially can struggle to find the resources they need and are most at risk of losing accountants to larger competitors. Using an outsource supplier helps level the playing field for smaller Practices, helps stabilise capacity and improves service delivery.
Meeting customer needs
Many accountants are looking to scale their business quickly though growth in new client numbers. The onboarding of new clients can be resource intensive with the additional pressure to make the best possible first impression and contact. Outsourcing can handle many of the administrative tasks involved in taking on new clients, such as registering information with HMRC and Companies House and submitting required documentation. Outsourcing such work creates the capacity for in-house accountants to understand the needs of new clients. Expensive mistakes can be avoided where a client is unsuitable or where expectations about the services to be delivered for the agreed fee differ significantly. When onboarded successfully, automating communications with customers as work is delivered improves turnaround times. The outsourced accountant can manage the flow of communication with a client for the work they are responsible for, enabling the UK accountant to focus on adding value to the client relationship.
Many potential clients now contact accountants via websites or using App technology. Some accountants employ customer service professionals to deal with such contact and other non-accountancy related tasks. Every interaction with a client can be measured and evaluated and new ways of providing information to clients can be explored. Some accountants are successfully using ChatGPT to respond to questions from clients. Others are using automated messaging to progress work. The best outsourced suppliers will adapt to the changing demands of UK accountants and their clients, supporting continuous improvement in services. To evidence improvement, real time data can be used about every task the outsourced supplier completes and compared to the equivalent in-house performance.
Advances in cloud-based accounting software, and the increase in entrants to the UK accounting market offering Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, mean many clients are comfortable maintaining their own accounting records, requiring the support of an accountant only at key points in the accounting period. This can lead to significant peaks and backlogs of work where a high number of clients have the same year end or need personal tax services in the lead up to HMRC’s deadlines. While accountants seek to increase the number of such clients through competitive pricing, they often overlook opportunities to provide professional insight and data. By outsourcing tasks such as the preparation of VAT returns or year-end accounts, accountants can create the additional capacity for more direct contact which adds value to the client relationship. The right outsource provider can enhance these contacts through the provision of services with improved turnaround times and higher quality.
Using outsourcing to add value
The reputation of accountants is based on a track record of delivering quality work on time which meets professional standards. Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic, many accountants went the extra mile to help clients access government support, offering help and advice without seeking any fee for such work. Understandably, profits suffered but many accountants secured better client loyalty and relationships.
As economic conditions become more normal, accountants are looking at ways to use this goodwill to engage customers in their growth plans. By encouraging clients to accept different, more efficient ways of delivering services, accountants will secure the maximum benefit from any transformation work. Most clients are comfortable with an outsourced supplier preparing their accounts or tax returns where the arrangements are complemented by improved communications and better outcomes in terms of quality and delivery.
Using an outsourced supplier to manage recurring communications with clients ensures a consistent quality and timeliness of contact to improve the overall customer experience. Measuring such outcomes is essential to understanding the impact of transformation on each customer.
Outsourcing work can enhance organisational culture
Outsourcing work succeeds where Practice management is clear on how the arrangements will support staff and nurture the desired culture. Accountants most likely to implement outsourcing successfully are comfortable with innovation and delivering change. Being open about the aims and benefits of outsourcing work will address any concerns individual accountants have about their role being diminished or removed completely. Outsourced partners offer a wide range of flexible options, from short-term hourly resources to full-time equivalent accountants who work as part of an on-shore team and who report directly to Practice managers. Integrating the outsourced accountants into training, team meetings and other staff updates helps build relationships and contributes to the overall culture of a Practice.
While larger Practices have used outsourcing successfully for many years, smaller Practices (and especially Sole Practitioners) often perceive multiple barriers to engaging an outsourced partner. However, the investment in new technologies such as cloud accounting and automation of tasks means smaller Practices can introduce outsourced partners into their day-to-day operations with the minimum of disruption. This allows Practices to increase their capacity and range of services to clients without taking on the additional risk and costs of direct employment. Investing time with the individuals provided by the outsourced partner will introduce Practices to new ways of working, a different mindset for delivery and more diverse teams, enhancing the overall organsiational culture.
Actions accountants can take to help deliver transformation plans
Our customers have shared their experience of Initor Global’s services and highlighted some key actions any accountant considering outsourcing should take to help deliver their transformation plans. Our customers highlighted the need to:
- Identify the long-term benefits from outsourcing work and avoid focusing too much on short term objectives such as eliminating a backlog or addressing a peak in workload
- Set clear quality and performance measures to complement internal targets
- Engage with staff at the earliest possible stage, highlighting the positive impact of outsourcing work for their future development and career aspirations
- Recognise it will take time and initial investment to integrate the outsource partner to a Practice and achieve a successful transition
- Ensure all internal stakeholders are engaged in the commissioning process, including non-accountants who may be involved in the working relationship
- Encourage open discussion of any perceived barriers or misconceptions about outsourcing work
- Assign clear ownership to maintain the relationship with the outsource partner and to manage any issues arising
- Take the opportunity to critically review systems and processes, maximising efficiencies.
How Initor Global can help you deliver the transformation your practice needs
At Initor Global, we have been providing offshore services to accountants since 2006. Our customers include sole proprietors, as well as small and medium sized UK Accountancy Practices. Our outsourced tax, accounting and payroll services are suitable for all client engagements – from sole traders and micro businesses to SMEs and large companies. We offer services paid for by the hour, half-time equivalent, or a full-time equivalent employee basis.
Typically, the cost of outsourcing work to Initor Global is 50% less than a UK resource, securing immediate reductions in your cost base. With the additional capacity Initor Global brings to your Practice, you will be able to focus more on your core business objectives, whether that involves increasing your client base or offering a wider range of services to your clients. You will find that outsourcing recurring tasks such as bookkeeping, payroll or accounts preparation frees up time to help clients and understand their needs and offer high margin advisory services when your clients need them most.
Our services include:
- Digital Bookkeeping
- Year-End Accounts
- Company Tax
- Personal Tax
- Secretarial Services.
To arrange an informal discussion and a free, no obligation trial of our services, please contact us at [email protected] or visit our website at www.initor-global.co.uk. You can also call us on 0203 519 2121.
This guide draws on information published by HMRC and other professional bodies. It is not a complete guide to transformation. Information may be subject to change and Initor Global accepts no responsibility should you decide to rely on the information we have published in this blog. Professional advice should always be taken as necessary based on your individual circumstances.