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Accountex 2018: The year digital accounting came of age

 

We’ve heard a lot about the future of accounting, and the need to make the switch to the cloud. But the overriding feeling from this year’s Accountex was that firms have successfully made the jump to cloud accounting and are busy embracing their chosen apps.

Here’s our lowdown on the key themes that came out of the two days.

Creating your custom app stack

As Damon Anderson of Xero pointed out in his keynote, we’re now well into Cloud 2.0 when it comes to the adoption of cloud – and that evolution from Cloud 1.0 to 2.0 is driven in part by the role of the app stack.

With many practices now firmly bedded down with a cloud platform, the focus now is building on these foundations to create a bespoke cloud practice system.

Making your choice of apps and solutions comes down to talking to clients, learning about the data flows in their business and creating a seamless set of apps that allow them to get the job done.

That need to deliver an end-to-end data solution was something that Alan Woods of Woods Squared made very clear in his keynote:

“There’s such a strong ecosystem now around cloud technology, with all the add-ons that link into the likes of Xero and QuickBooks, that just being a cloud accountant isn’t really a differentiator anymore. Now you need to deliver the whole journey, from data entry all the way through to getting reports out of the system, and understanding the architecture of how the apps can be integrated into your client’s business.”

Embracing fintech, digital and open banking

The impact of open banking and emergence of new business banking providers, such as Tide, Monzo and Starling, was a topic that crept into many sessions over the two days.

The increasing choice in the banking market, coupled with a wide range of fintech tools, is something many accountants welcome, as Richard Suswain of Tyrell & Company explained to us:

“Open banking aims to make it easier for you to connect your personal or business banking data with third-party software. That means access to a far wider range of financial providers, software solutions and fintech apps – and that’s actually going to make managing your money far easier.”

Making payment more efficient

From the conversations at the GoCardless stand this year, the acceptance of cloud among accountants is also reflected in the ways practices are dealing with payments, cash collection, and their payment advice for clients.

If your firm is investing in cloud and fintech tools, the question is really why wouldn’t you automate payment flow at the same time, for yourself and your clients?

The move to automating payments is a key step for improving efficiency, freeing up time and improving cash flow for firms and their clients.

Business owners and accountants alike are increasingly attracted to the simplicity of Direct Debit via our GoCardless solution, and, with the rise in opening banking, we saw many Accountex visitors expressing an interest in how GoCardless will be embracing open banking to make smarter payments for businesses.

The human touch and personalised advice

In a world where AI, machine learning and automation are now the norm, being a firm of passionate, human advisers is what leads to the higher-value advisory work, and a portfolio of satisfied customers. And hiring the right talent is key to this, said Simon Woodhams of Wilkins Kennedy, during our GoCardless panel session:

“For us, we’re looking for that ‘relatability’ with the clients and embedding our people into the client’s business. It’s about putting the same member of staff in the client’s team so they can’t live without them. So that way, they’re always coming back to you. It’s about our staff having that passion for people.”

There’s real value in getting to know your clients better, understanding their business and using the tech to provide the data, while you provide the strategic guidance – something tech can’t do, as Paul Bulpitt of The Wow Company pointed out to us:

“There isn’t a single app out there that actually does the relationship side of the advisory piece for you. Having the data insights from an app is great, but you’re also in this position of needing to learn and understand the personalities and personal goals of your clients first up. At the moment, that’s still very much our job and skill set – and not being automated any time soon!”

Making Cloud 2.0 work for your firm

With cloud accounting as their bedrock, firms are embracing the apps that help them become more productive. But the real focus is on creating long-term relationships with the most valuable clients, as Anoop Rehal – Director at BDO UK LLP – explained during our panel session:

“Our role has changed from being compliance accountants to a job that’s about relationship management and IT. All this cloud technology like GoCardless is out there, and we’re selling it directly to clients. I’ll be the person doing the set-up and the integration, so clients come to us because they trust their accountant and they want help from us.”

At GoCardless, we’re certainly proud of our part in providing automated payments and cash collection for so many accounting firms and their valued clients.

Guide to automated payments and cash collection
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