The owners of SMEs now have real time access to financial information in a way that was previously only available to larger firms. They are looking for professional advice on how to use this information to plan for growth and value within their business. Accountants who have experience in commercial business environments are ideally suited to provide this service through a focus on technology, analytics and leverage.
We recently surveyed around 220 accountants from accounting firms participating in our vCFO ESSENTIALS eLearning Course. Usually, partners or senior managers provide this service with some support from accountants and bookkeepers.
The top 10 services provided as part of the ‘vCFO’ platform were:
- Financial reporting – 90%
- Payroll – 82%
- Bookkeeping – 78%
- Financial budgeting – 74%
- Management / Advisory board – 63%
- Accounts payable and receivable – 53%
- 3 Way Forecasting – 49%
- Technology implementation – 49%
- Cost analysis – 40%
- Management reporting – 31%
It’s clear that with the exception of bookkeeping, these services are largely provided in an ad hoc manner, usually in response to a specific client need or request. Firm still struggle to effectively leverage service delivery, which prevents them from achieving economies of scale required to provide these services in a cost-effective manner.
We also asked participating firms which software tools they were using to provide these services. The top 10 responses were:
- Xero - 73%
- MYOB - 38%
- Microsoft Excel - 33%
- Quickbooks Online - 18%
- Spotlight - 16%
- Fathom - 7%
- Futrli - 7%
- Power BI - 5%
- Castaway - 4%
- Calxa - 2%
Other platforms mentioned included Hubdocs, Change GPS, Cashflow Story, Float, Figured, Forecast 5, Harvest, Plan Guru, Xavier and Zoom. Overall, firms use a variety of tools focusing on financial reporting and forecasting, data analysis and review, project and workflow management.
When asked what key projects firms were undertaking to develop vCFO capability, responses included:
- General work with existing clients to implement more of a formal advisory service and services additional to bookkeeping and compliance work.
- Formal process documentation for lower tier clients to ensure consistency across basic functions and allow more focus on developing vCFO services
- Take time to learn software programs in more depth and better understand the needs of our clients in respect to services we may be able to offer
- Look at how we can better report information for our vCFO clients. So potentially employing someone to produce Power BI reports.
- Focus on scoping of services, pricing, updating website, membership into a vCFO association, related seminars & training
- Position and offer to clients and market through development of structured service packages
- Establish reporting systems for efficient client service delivery
- Move myself away from the data processing within my firm and value add via CFO services
- Developing a structured service offering with differing packages to suit clients of all sizes
- Addition of practice manager to support me
- Training & development of standardised processes
- Consistency in service offering by central point of leadership.
- Focus on existing and potential clients for vCFO and formalising a vCFO approach within the firm.
- Engage an external consultant. Targeted marketing for vCFO.
- Focus on developing procedures for monthly accounting and reporting to boards
- Formalise our vCFO service so we have a dedicated team to deliver the services
- Develop a vCFO strategy and creation of a team
Firms serious about developing vCFO services recognise that they need to create both capacity and leverage if they are to be in a position where they can service clients effectively and profitably. For any firm struggling to meet its existing client service needs, a formal structure for the development of a vCFO platform is essential.
In collaboration with the Virtual CFO Association, CPD for Accountants has launched a new vCFO ADVANCED eLearning Course for accountants and advisors in public practice.
This eLearning course is designed to provide a comprehensive guide to financial reporting and strategic decision making for vCFOs. The course will also provide vCFOs, partners and managers with clear guidelines in relation to client engagement and project implementation strategies. For further information on the eLearning course:
Dale Crosby | Director, CPD For Accountants | www.cpdforaccountants.com.au