The rise of the modern version of Client Accounting Services (CAS), powered by the cloud and tapping analytics and enhanced firm-client collaboration, has been a terrific success story for the accounting profession over the past decade. But it took the COVID-19 pandemic to really underscore the value of CAS – its ability to function resiliently in a virtual environment, to provide crucial, real-time data, and to offer a robust framework for CPA firms and their clients to work through business problems together.
We’ve been hearing two things from firms in recent months at CPA.com. First, many graduates of our client advisory services workshops have told us their investment in building a CAS practice has paid off and they haven’t missed a beat, even with the switch to an all-remote workplace. That’s gratifying.
Second, firms that have been sitting on the sidelines with CAS are now eager to get in the game. What’s driving the latter group? A surge in client demand. When the economy was humming, many businesses put off outsourced accounting or going fully digital – the classic “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. But now, after being stuck under stay-at-home orders with on-premise technology, doing business as usual seems more risky than prudent. To meet changing client needs and expectations, many CPA firms are now willing to pull a business plan together and scale up the full spectrum of CAS offerings, which include cloud-based services to prepare financial statements and trial balances, outsourced payroll and bill pay services, and business advisory and virtual controllership/CFO services.
There is, of course, a counterargument. CPA firms already have limited bandwidth as they help businesses navigate heavy fallout from the slumping economy. During this time, many firms are also dealing with a punishing workload due to the extended tax season. Does it make sense to take the plunge into something new right now?
In a word, yes. We know many elements of the remote workplace are here to stay – we’re not going back fully to the same office environment we worked in before. Collaboration with clients will continue to evolve and CAS is tailormade to make that experience more streamlined and productive while offering ever-increasing value.
We’ve also been reminded again how crucial the relationship is between CPAs and small businesses, whether it’s assisting with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans or other relief programs or offering general advice. CPA.com President and CEO Erik Asgeirsson has said firms have built up an incredible amount of goodwill with clients in the past few months and it’s true – CPAs have been there for small business.
“These are unprecedented times, but businesses now need a trusted advisor,” says Dixie McCurley, president and cofounder of Trusted CFO Solutions and one of CPA.com’s advisory workshop instructors.
Clients for businesses both big and small recognize the value of that role – and are willing to pay for it. A recent CPA.com/Bill.com survey (https://tinyurl.com/CPAcomSurvey2020) of 650 accountants and business clients suggests CPA firms that offer strategic advisory services may be able to increase monthly client revenues by as much as 50 percent.
Even the best advisors need the right tools, though. With the pandemic restrictions, cash flow and the status of accounts payable were critical datapoints for businesses – and will continue to be. The good news is that cloud-enabled CAS solutions provide up-to-date insights on these and other areas that can shape business decision-making for clients.
The impact of the pandemic clearly has been a spur for CAS adoption. Another driver of future growth will be better data on practice growth and profit. CPA.com launched a CAS Benchmark Survey (https://tinyurl.com/CASbenchmark) in 2018 to help create peer-to-peer metrics and track trends in this service line. We are fielding a new version of the survey this summer and expect it will show continued growth in the financial strength CAS provides to firms and, by extension, the value it provides to clients.
Article provided by CPA.com.
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