Whether you are among the 4300+ participants who attended the recent AICPA ENGAGE 2019 Conference or not, one clear takeaway for practitioners was the need for new and expanded services that provide greater value to clients. Inside this Feature Focus article we will continue the conversation around the topic and offer practical insight and proactive steps to position your firm for success as you look to the future.
A new way forward
For starters, it is time to take a good look at the services your firm offers. Why? While many transactional functions will become automated as the profession undergoes profound change, value will be achieved by understanding client needs and helping them identify new ways to propel their businesses forward. The goal is to provide them with a more complete picture rather than just zeroing in on the past. This is where opportunities to build more robust, sustainable practices can be found. In fact, some progressive firms are already reaping rewards for their efforts.
One of the most promising service lines is Client Accounting Advisory Services (CAS). Did you know the inaugural CAS Benchmark Survey reveals that practices of this kind are growing at a rate more than double the 5 percent median CPA firm growth rate reported by the 2018 AICPA PCPS and CPA.com Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) firm benchmarking study? Respondents posted a median growth rate of 12 percent in 2018 and a median projected growth rate of 15 percent for this year.
Three key benefits of CAS:
- Strong potential for profitable firm growth, along with a consistently recurring revenue stream versus a seasonal one
- Allows firms to provide strategically focused services beyond bookkeeping and write-up that is close to its core competence – this can include engagements where firms advise clients in various financial and accounting-related decisions and strategies
- CAS practices have emerged as an integral part of many firms’ advisory offerings, transformed by client demand, emerging technologies and a broader push by firms into advisory services
Use the summer and fall months to consider whether CAS services are a good fit for your firm. Talk with others in your professional networks that provide this type of work. How did they develop their practices? What results are they experiencing? When you are ready to build and strengthen your CAS skills, consider attaining a Client Accounting Advisory Services Certificate.
The changing role of technology
It is no secret that technology is having a significant impact on the way we do business along with how, where and when professionals work and interact with their clients. Through cloud computing, for example, practitioners can access, analyze and shed light on client requests wherever and whenever assistance is needed. The opportunities in this area are endless and will continue to take our profession to places we can barely imagine.
- How is your firm using cloud technology to more efficiently serve its clients?
- What new requests and observations did you discover during busy season that could be more efficiently addressed with new technology?
- Does your firm provide dashboard offerings to its clients related to CAS services?
While technology can affect how your firm serves its clients, it can also be difficult, even daunting to know whether your firm has the right technology in place and how to most efficiently put it to work. If you are ready to take greater control, consider attending Digital CPA 2019. This dynamic two-day event helps provide a clear path of where to go and includes several key tracks: Operation in the Cloud, Leading the Way, Disruption and Client Accounting Advisory Services (CAS). And PCPS Members save $120 on registration!
Personal Financial Planning
With baby-boomers retiring at a staggering rate, there are a growing number of people looking for assistance with their personal financial planning. Not only can this type of service be a natural extension of the assistance you currently provide for your clients, it can also lead to new clients who will need other services you offer such as tax planning and preparation.
- Does your firm provide financial planning services?
- If not, do you or your colleagues have an interest in doing this type of work?
- Have your clients asked for your assistance with their financial planning?
Next steps can include talking with other practitioners that have successful financial planning practices. Learn how they built their niche and their recommendations as you look to get started. Also talk with a small selection of your trusted clients to see if they would be interested in you providing this type of work. Visit the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Section for tools and resources that you and your colleagues can tap into as you look to add this to your service lineup.
With the increasing threat of cyber-attacks, there is a growing interest from businesses and individuals for assistance in keeping them safe. If your firm offers IT advisory services, you may want to consider cybersecurity assurance and consulting. According to the recent 2018 AICPA PCPS and CPA.com Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) firm benchmarking study, 21 percent of firms with revenue over $10 million indicated they provided some type of cybersecurity services, while less than 5 percent for those with revenue less than $10 million are providing these services. To learn more, check out the AICPA’s Cybersecurity Resource Center and the PCPS Exploring Cybersecurity Toolkit.
Once you have taken a closer look at areas that you can use to expand your firm’s services and better position it for the future, gather with firm leaders to discuss your insights.
- What additional services and assistance have your clients inquired about over the past year?
- Does your firm track conversations relating to additional services that you and your staff have discussed with clients?
- What additional services are you and your colleagues most interested in providing?
- What services make the most sense for your firm, its clients and the marketplace?
- Is your firm ready to invest in the needed resources such as marketing plans and training to support additional services?
To assist you, take a look at the Trusted Advisor Client Toolkit for resources you can put to use in guiding your discussions.
Here’s to taking proactive steps now to identify additional and expanded services that can bring greater value to your clients and help you create a more sustainable and rewarding practice in the future.