Client accounting services in 2018
Three firms share how CAS is helping them help clients
Client accounting services has been experiencing a boom in recent years, but the service is not a new concept. Firms have been providing what was often simply called “outsourced accounting” to their clients for as long as accounting has been a profession. However, the advent of online accounting software and the development of technology that enabled outsourced accounting to evolve into what today is a much more robust offering than simple bookkeeping and data entry. The firms featured here share their experiences.
Firm: By the Book / The Koenig Group Staff: Three (in the CAS department) Product: Accountantsworld Commencement date: 2010 On the record: Partner Jim Sosinski, CPA
On CAS: Jim Sosinski founded his firm, By the Book, as a one-stop-shop for client accounting in 2006. Sosinski defines client accounting services as the “outsourcing of the total bookkeeping and accounting function of your business,” and he sees his firm as the “quarterback of your business’s back office.” While he started “formally” providing CAS to clients in 2006, he said that in practice, he’d been providing those services for 15 years prior.
Last year, By the Book was merged into The Koenig Group, a larger accounting firm based in Clark, N.J. Sosinski, who is now partner-in-charge of technology and implementing workflows and processes, said that this has granted him more resources, both human and financial, to serve his clients better.
Selection: By the Book made the switch to Accountantsworld in 2010. “I was strident in looking for a solution that would really help me collaborate with clients,” Sosinski said. “When I went out looking for truly collaborative software, Accountantsworld was it.”
Before Sosinski started his search, he sat down and wrote a wishlist of all the features he wanted in his new software. To his surprise, Accountantsworld matched his wishlist “95 percent right out of the box.” That list included that it had to be cloud-based, offer true active collaboration, and would allow him to set controls and preferences according to each client. “Most solutions work the opposite way, where you have to make the client fit the parameters of the software,” he said.
Implementation: Sosinski described the implementation as “not that easy,” but only because the product he was migrating from didn’t make transferring data very easy. “There wasn’t a lot of data I was able to export,” he said, “but that was 2010.” Today, Accountantsworld has a fully integrated importing system that Sosinski said he’s seen other firms use effectively to export data from another accounting software system.
Sosinski conducted the implementation himself, with instruction from Accountantsworld. “I plan for change,” he said. “[The accounting industry] is always changing. By planning for it strategically, you can mitigate that change.”
Highlights: “With Accountantsworld, the accountant is in control,” Sosinski said. “We control the engagement, which is what we’re trained to do — this is our profession — versus the client controlling it and inviting us in whenever they want.”
Sosinski also said that AccountantsWorld continually adds “robust tools” — electronic bill pay, the approval process, and bank feed integration are some of the tools he likes. Sosinski additionally noted the integrations with various time-and-billing software platforms, which allow his clients to enter their hours themselves versus having the firm manually do it.
“Accountantsworld offers robust customizability to do exactly what clients need,” he explained. “We sit there and define with the client, ‘How are you doing things?’ We can identify their pain points and provide solutions that eliminate that pain.”
Challenges: “I wouldn’t call them challenges, but as with any system, as you use it, you’ll come up with ideas of how things could run better or for new solutions,” Sosinski said. “I’m considered more of a power user to AccountantsWorld. I have direct email and phone access to key personnel there, and nine out of 10 times, my suggestions are embraced and instituted.”
Firm growth: According to Sosinski, the area in which CAS is really going to expand is analytics and, consequently, advisory. He recalled a young client of his, a dentist who just opened his own practice. While the client isn’t interested in knowing the details of the full set of services Sosinski provides, he loves getting a full data report that Accountantsworld provides Sosinski, so he can understand a fuller picture of how his business is operating, rather than just transaction by transaction. “His generation does everything online, and on their smartphones,” Sosinski said. “They have little interest in the whole system of accounting I provide. But Accountantsworld allows me to capture everything electronically, and the client doesn’t have to give me anything once the software is set up.”
The shift to advisory Firm: Staff: Product:
JCCS CPAS 120 (firmwide) Quickbooks Desktop and Online (Intuit) On record: Client advisor II Erin Vukelich
On CAS: “Until just a few years ago, client accounting services was strictly outsourced data entry — entering checks, deposits, expenses, transfers,” Erin Vukelich of JCCS said. “There’s been a shift in the last couple of years where we’re moving away from strictly accounting and moving to more of an advisory role. When I think of CAS now, I think of not only data entry but also looking at numbers and communicating that to clients.”
Selection: Founded in 1946, JCCS has been using Quickbooks software for as long as it’s been available, Vukelich said. The firm was using Quickbooks Desktop when Quickbooks Online hit the scene, but in its first years, QBO wasn’t as full a solution as the firm needed for its clients.
However, “As years have progressed and QBO has improved, we’re seeing more clients moving to it and clients new to us were already on it,” Vukelich said. Today, JCCS is in the process of moving almost all of its clients over to QBO, except for the few clients that still need Qbd-specific features such as inventory management.
Implementation: Vukelich has been with the firm for eight years, so wasn’t around when JCCS first started using Quickbooks. However, during this time of migrating over to QBO, Vukelich said the firm has been “working very closely with the Intuit support team.”
“They’ve been fantastic about helping us identify good clients that are easy switches so we can get the implementation process figured out,” Vukelich said. “This process helps us figure out what’s going to work best for our clients and the potholes to stay away from.”
Much of the migration of data has been set up to be automatic, and Intuit will send a three-person team to the firm over the course of a month to help with the process. The most time-consuming part, Vukelich noted, is training clients.
Highlights: “The ability to build in efficiencies and automation” is the top advantage Vukelich enjoys from QBO. “Reconciling books takes a shorter time than it used to. Now we can link to bank systems, point-of-sale systems, and we don’t even have to enter in sales data. It used to be much more manual.”
“What used to take 15 hours to do now takes five,” Vukelich said. “What can you do with 10 hours — go out and sell more? Spend time with your family? Or maybe the client wants to develop a new part of their business they haven’t focused on yet.”
Challenges: As noted above, training