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Which CAS workshop is right for you?

Demand for Client Advisory Services (CAS) continues to grow, and now is the perfect time to take advantage of the CAS opportunity. Whether you’re in the early stages of evaluating if CAS is right for your firm, or you’re ready to evolve your existing CAS practice and deliver even more value to clients, we have an offering in our CAS workshop series that will help you grow your practice this year.

Which workshop is right for you? We’ve designed each workshop based on where you are in your CAS journey so that you walk away with actionable plans, valuable insights, and meaningful takeaways from your conversations with practicing facilitators and other attendees.

Consider these questions as you determine your point along the CAS journey:

  1. Is your firm currently offering Client Advisory Services? If no, start with the Introduction to CAS Workshop.
  2. Does your CAS practice have dedicated staff that are not impacted by tax season? If not, start with the Introduction to CAS Workshop. If you do have dedicated staff or are prepared to move staff soon, consider the CAS Roadmap Workshop.
  3. How do you price your CAS offerings? If nearly all services are billed hourly and in arrears, consider the Intro to CAS Workshop. If many services are subscription-based, billed at the beginning of the month or weekly, start with the CAS Roadmap Workshop or the CAS FP&A Workshop.
  4. Are you completing robust, chargeable CAS client assessments for all new clients and periodically for existing clients? If not, attend the CAS Client Assessment Workshop to consider ways to add these services to grow your practice.

Introduction to Client Advisory Services (CAS) Workshop
If you are evaluating whether a CAS practice is the right strategy for your firm, or have just joined a CAS practice, you will benefit from this half-day "Introduction to CAS Workshop." During the four CPE credit hours, you will identify the attributes of top performing CAS practices and take steps to apply these ideas to your CAS strategy.
Who should attend? Anyone working at a firm currently offering tax or audit services and wondering if CAS is right for them. Staff starting a new position in a CAS practice would benefit as they orient in their new CAS journey.

Client Advisory Services (CAS) Roadmap Workshop
This workshop provides the content you need to begin building a profitable, high-performance outsourced accounting and advisory practice. Learn the steps needed to build or expand a CAS practice from practicing facilitators who have taken the journey. This proven methodology will help your practice think about defining and pricing the services, staffing and technology, identifying and working with clients, and business planning for success.
Who should attend? If your firm has already committed resources and personnel to its CAS practice and would like to grow and drive new efficiencies, this workshop is right for you.

CAS Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) Workshop
Financial planning, analysis, anticipatory advisory and forecasting services are a high-growth service area offered by top-performing CAS practices. This workshop will teach CAS practitioners the critical components required to extend their service offerings by advising clients and creating various types of forecasting models based on the current client need.
Who should attend? If you have a new or established CAS practice and are looking for ways to add more service options and value for clients, attend this workshop. Many attendees are alumni of the CAS Roadmap Workshop who have recognized virtual CFO services as a client need and growth opportunity for their firm.

CAS Client Assessment Workshop
This two-day workshop will teach firms to perform a high-value assessment that looks for more than basic needs. It allows the CAS team to ascertain the foundational information about a client’s business needed to generate a proposed strategy for onboarding, process improvement, and build a repeatable process of discovery and assessment that produces a “health check” of the client’s current business, and offers analysis of the strategic steps required to move the client to the desired future state.
Who should attend? If your CAS practice is looking for ways to accelerate value for clients and drive more effective relationships, this workshop would be a great fit. Many alumni of the CAS Roadmap Workshop attend this workshop after successfully implementing many of the strategies discussed there.

To learn more about CPA.com’s upcoming CAS Workshops, or register for an upcoming event, visit our CAS Workshops page.

Get ready for these 5 questions from clients on SECURE Act 2.0

If you haven’t fielded many questions from clients regarding SECURE Act 2.0, you will. That’s because this new law – the second phase of the original SECURE Act passed in 2019 – introduces a host of new changes to popular retirement savings plans. The bill passed the House on 12/23/22 by a 225-201-1 vote after passing in the Senate and was signed into law by President Biden on 12/29/22. Small businesses in particular will be impacted most by the changes that result from this law, including:

  • Significantly expanded credits for employer plan startup costs that make a strong financial case for small businesses to offer these plans
  • Automatic enrollment into 401(k) and 403(b) plans for participants as they become eligible
  • Increased required minimum distribution age, from 72 to 75, allowing employees to save for retirement longer
  • More opportunities for individuals 50 and older to set aside greater savings as they approach retirement
  • Improved coverage for part-time workers in 401(k) plans

These are just a few of the impacts that will be felt by small-business clients – the law is extensive, complex, and contains a host of changes that firms, and clients alike will be navigating for years to come.

As advisors to their clients, it’s important for CPAs to have good answers to clients’ questions on SECURE Act 2.0 from the start. That’s why we’ve created this quick-reference guide to the questions you’re likely to hear first, as clients begin to plan for the impact of this important law. Take a few moments to scan these questions and answers right now, because your next call could be from an uncertain client eager for your insights.

How will this impact older employees who are nearer to retirement?

Employees nearing retirement age have a lot to gain from SECURE Act 2.0. In a nod to the fact that Americans are working longer, it increases the required minimum distribution age from age 72 to 73 in 2023 and to 75 in 2033 – three more years for employees to put their earnings into a plan, which means more time for it to grow through interest and potential investment gains.

Plus, employees who reach age 50 will be permitted to make “catch-up” contributions in excess of normal limits. In 2023, the limit on these contributions for a 401(k) plan is $7,500. This will be increased to the greater of $10,000 or 50 percent more than the regular catch-up amount in 2025 for individuals who have attained ages 60, 61, 62 and 63. (SIMPLE catch-up contribution limits would also increase.)

How will automatic enrollment actually work?

This provision requires that, beginning in 2025, all new 401(k) and 403(b) plans adopted by employers with 11 or more employees to automatically enroll participants in the plans once they’re eligible – although employees can opt out if they so choose. The initial automatic enrollment amount is at least 3% but no more than 10% - each year after that, the amount must be increased by 1% until it reaches at least 10%, but not more than 15%.

There are exceptions to automatic enrollment for:

  • Small businesses with 10 or fewer employees
  • New businesses (that have been in business for less than 3 years)
  • Church plans
  • Governmental plans

What kind of incentives does this law create?

The most significant benefits will target plan startup costs. Beginning in 2023, the three-year small business startup credit is currently 50% of administrative costs, up to an annual cap of $5,000. SECURE Act 2.0 increases the credit to 100% for employers with up to 50 employees.

Plus, there is an additional credit (except in the case of defined benefit plans) – generally a percentage of the amount contributed by the employer on behalf of employees, up to $1,000 per employee. This credit is also limited to companies with no more than 100 employees but is reduced for employers with 51-100 employees. It operates on this schedule:

  • 100% in the first and second years (first year is the year the plan is established)
  • 75% in the third year
  • 50% in the fourth year
  • 25% in the fifth year
  • No credits after the fifth year

Will SECURE Act 2.0 create new incentives for our existing plan?

Companies with existing plans will not benefit from these new incentives, which are reserved for those starting up new plans.

We have a lot of employees with student loans. How does this change our contributions on their behalf?

Many employees are overwhelmed with student debt, and as a result tend to miss out on their ability to benefit from matching contributions to their plans – because they’re not making contributions at all, directing any “extra” income to student loan payments. Beginning in 2024, this provision allows employees to receive matching contributions by repaying their student loans. Basically, student loan payments are treated as plan contributions for purposes of employer matching contributions. This is a big deal for those employees, and an attractive benefit employers can offer for recruiting and retaining them.

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Like many important new laws, SECURE Act 2.0 is complex and packed with rules and details – far more than we’ve covered in this short article, where we’ve only covered some of the highlights. There are a number of other compelling benefits and advantages for small-business clients in this law, and we will be discussing them in more detail in future publications.

In the meantime, if you have additional questions, please share them in the comments section below! We’ll be monitoring to make sure all questions are answered.

What does our latest survey on the state of Client Advisory Services (CAS) reveal?

The evolution of client advisory services (CAS), a practice for helping clients outsource their accounting needs with services spanning a spectrum of financial, accounting, and advisory-related offerings, is one of the most significant developments in the profession, creating new opportunities for revenue growth among firms of all sizes. Just as important, CAS is a valuable tool for deepening client relationships, serving as a runway for firms to step into the role of strategic advisor for their clients.

CAS’s growth in recent years has been well documented. Has this growth been sustained, or is it flagging? How have firms’ CAS strategies shifted as this practice area matures? How has staffing been impacted? These are all the types of questions the AICPA and CPA.com seek to answer in the CAS Benchmark Survey report to give firms the insights they need to successfully launch and grow their CAS practices.

We’ve recently released the 2022 CAS Benchmark Survey report, which contains plenty of valuable insights to inform firm leaders’ CAS efforts. It also shows continued strong growth for this practice area.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the highlights.

Another year of double-digit growth in CAS
CAS practices reported a median growth rate of 16% for CAS in the 2022 survey, showing impressive double-digit growth for the last three iterations of the survey. Respondents also indicated that there’s plenty of room to grow, reporting a median projected growth rate of 15%.

Client demand remains high
For survey respondents who track their sales pipelines, 81% of Top Performing firms – and 72% of All Respondents – reported confidence that their pipeline will support continued growth in CAS. “Firms that aren’t looking at the big picture – the ones that are operating in the moment, day to day, rather than planning for a longer-term legacy – are likely to miss out on important opportunities to grow,” says Nina Chmura, CPA and partner at Withum Smith+Brown. “This is the moment. Firms should actively consider whether and how CAS fits with their strategic goals for growth and act accordingly.”

Firms with dedicated CAS staff are seeing big results
Dedicated CAS staffing is widely viewed as a best practice – and in this survey, the results support this view. Sixty-seven percent of Top Performers have dedicated staff for their CAS practices, compared to 52% of all other respondents. The median net client fees per professional (NCFPP) for those top performers are nearly double the revenue per professional FTE reported across all respondents – a sign that staff fully dedicated to offering CAS are able to gain significant efficiencies over those who aren’t.

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Be sure to check out the complete 2022 AICPA and CPA.com CAS Benchmark Survey report for a closer look at these findings and connect the data to CAS best practices. We are also hosting a webinar on January 17, 2023, to discuss the survey findings in more detail – register here to reserve your spot.

CPA.com offers a wide range of practical resources for firms looking to realize the full potential of these client advisory services. The 2022 CAS Benchmark Survey is just the tip of the iceberg – from webinars and workshops to white papers, articles, case studies and more, the CAS section of our site is packed with resources for both established practices and those that are just starting their CAS journey. Visit https://www.cpa.com/client-advisory-services to find these resources, sign up for the webinar, and more.

Three DCPA takeaways to guide you in 2023

Last month more than 1,000 inspiring and future-focused practitioners and leaders convened at our annual Digital CPA conference to share insights and best practices on ways to drive transformation within firms and practice areas.

The timing of the event provides the ideal opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of the past year and identify new opportunities for the year ahead. New strategies. New business models. New technologies.

As you kick off 2023, I wanted to share three key takeaways from this year’s DCPA to consider:

  1. Top performers are leading the way: Client advisory services (CAS) offers enormous growth potential, with the right strategy. The AICPA and CPA.com’s newly released 2022 CAS Benchmark survey report again revealed continued double-digit (16%) year-over-year growth for CAS practices, but the gap between Top Performers and everyone else is widening. Top Performers saw an impressive 25% rise in median growth rate in net client fees per professional, compared to just 8% for All Respondents. Firms that want to lead in CAS must take an intentional approach to building and scaling their practice and consider adopting some of the key strategies of Top Performers related to pricing, staffing, capacity building and more.
  2. Next phase of digital transformation: Evolving tech ecosystem continues to create more opportunities to add value. Artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and digital networks are creating even more opportunities for accountants to access greater amounts of data, derive insights and deepen strategic partnerships with clients. In this LinkedIn Live from DCPA, BILL founder and CEO René Lacerte and I discussed the next phase of this digital transformation.
  3. Leading-edge culture and talent: DCPA community is creating an advantage. As the war for talent becomes increasingly challenging, cultivating the right mindsets, skills and culture is even more critical to enable transformation and maximize value for both staff and clients. Many DCPA leading-edge firms are taking an innovative, strategic and people-first approach to managing their practice, which is creating a competitive advantage that best positions them to attract and retain top talent. Firms are focused on upskilling staff to capitalize on new opportunities and creating the flexible, consultative working environments demanded by today’s professionals.

The Digital CPA community is paving the way forward for the accounting profession. We invite you to become a part of this innovative and energizing community in 2023. Best wishes for the year ahead.

Spend management services - how to price, position and productize for success

Whether you provide accounting as part of your client advisory services (CAS) offering or your service is more transactional in nature, you’re likely ready to move past the reactionary work, inefficiencies, and headaches that come along with traditional client-expense management. In our recent webinar with Summit CPA Group we explored how a leading firm is leveraging a newer, technology-driven approach termed spend management to grow their accounting practice.

So what is spend management technology?

Spend management technology encompasses an integrated platform and corporate cards. The cards are issued to an organization and connected to pre-set budgets and spend caps. Employee card transactions trigger real-time alerts to submit receipts, and expenses are automatically categorized and synced daily to the company’s accounting platform. Accounting firms and their business clients get a web-based dashboard in which to track spend against budget at the department, project, or organization level.

Four benefits of modern spend management

Taking a proactive approach to expense management not only gives organizations control over spending, it saves them a great deal of time and busy work. Here are four of the biggest benefits companies experience:

  1. More Control of Spend - Setting enforceable spend controls with pre-defined budgets will greatly reduce non-compliant spending in the organization.
  2. Significant Time and Cost Savings - Automating receipt matching, expense categorization and reporting prevents time wasted on chasing down receipts, submitting and correcting expense reports long after the fact.
  3. Improved Compliance and Security - Employees and vendors are issued centrally-managed corporate cards, eliminating the need for a shared company card or personal card reimbursement, thereby cutting down on out-of-policy spend and fraud.
  4. Streamlined User Experiences - Organizations get real-time visibility into all spending in a centralized dashboard and transactions sync daily to their accounting platform.

How Summit CPA Group integrates modern spend management into their services

Summit CPA Group is a fully remote firm that has been using their Virtual CFO model since 2004. They have more than 70 employees, including an offshore tax team and a dedicated technology leader. Their 150 clients contribute to a $9-$10M practice with 72% gross profit margins. Summit CPA is able to leverage modern spend management to build a highly-profitable practice.

A tiered subscription services model

Summit CPA clients are offered three tiers of service, ranging from transactional to strategic.

  • Transactional – clients get foundational tax and accounting services; bookkeeping, monthly financial statements and tax returns
  • Controller – clients get a controller who oversees all accounting-related and financial activities within the company
  • Virtual CFO – clients get a virtual team of accountants, CPAs and tax professionals who take a strategic approach to help guide their business to success

The firm has good reasons for offering a subscription-based service;

  • Year-round recurring revenue from their clients
  • Higher margins
  • Ability to offer real-time client insights given their visibility into company financial data
  • Strong, long-lasting client relationships

However, they also recognize the risks inherent in this model - such as the risk of mispricing services and inevitable client-management challenges

Customizing pricing to client needs

In their initial meetings with clients, Summit CPA group identifies their needs and does a deep dive to determine how to best help them, asking questions that include;

  • Why are you seeking our services?
  • What are your needs?
  • Are you replacing someone?
  • What are your pain points?
  • Do you struggle with spend management?

An Excel-based pricing model is shared in this initial client meeting and the monthly subscription fee for services requested is calculated in real-time.

The technology that makes modern spend management possible

Powering Summit CPA’s subscription model is a sophisticated financial technology stack that automates manual processes and frees the accounting team to offer strategic financial insights to clients. A dedicated technology leader is focused on vetting technology options, piloting chosen technologies with small client groups, and integrating technology into client services.

This is the approach that Summit CPA took with Divvy from Bill, the platform that powers their spend management services. Divvy is free-to-use software and corporate cards specifically designed to reduce expense-management inefficiencies for businesses or outsourced accounting firms and CFOs. CPA.com partnered with Divvy to launch the Divvy Accountant Adviser Program, to bring this modern spend-management technology to firms who are looking to meet their clients’ needs for proactive advice and insights around their company’s spend.

With Divvy, Summit CPA takes traditional, static client budgets and operationalizes them. Client employees receive corporate cards and the firm has a dashboard to track client spend across the organization in real-time. Client spend is also synced daily from Divvy into Summit CPA’s accounting software to help the firm quickly prepare accurate financial statements.

Your technology stack is an integral part of your accounting team’s success and efficiency. By utilizing spend management technology, you’ll be able to save time, deliver deeper client insights, and advance your client offerings.

Using Divvy is a win-win for you and your clients.

Ready to get started? Watch our on-demand demo to see how it works!

A Closer Look at Our Startup Accelerator Companies

The CPA.com/Association of International Certified Professional Accountants Startup Accelerator is an annual program that finds, invests in, and guides early-stage tech companies with solutions that support accounting and finance professionals. This blog series provides a deeper look at the five companies in the 2021 cohort.