As a CPA who has spent nearly half of my career leading the client advisory services (CAS) practice at a top 100 accounting firm, I can attest that one of the cornerstones of a well-designed practice is automation. Firms that evolve and use technology to streamline transactional tasks, achieve greater visibility, security, and timesaving efficiencies.
Two service offerings that are relatively easy to start automating (and offer a significant impact to both your firm and clients) are bill pay and spend and expense management.
The strategic role of bill pay in CAS
Bill pay is a key strategic offering that will provide growth and scalability. I consider it a low-hanging service offering and a core pillar for building deep insights that pave the way for more sophisticated advisory work that can span across your CAS, tax and wealth management clients.
Spend and expense management: An emerging domain
While spend and expense management may be less well known today than bill pay, it’s rapidly gaining traction as a critical advisory service. By leveraging corporate cards linked to an integrated financial operations platform, accounting firms can offer clients real-time visibility into company spending. This opens the door for firms to advise on budgeting, spending and to enhance forecasting accuracy. The impact of this is substantial as it elevates the role of the accountant from a financial reporter to a trusted advisor.
Selecting the right tools
Navigating the tech landscape can be overwhelming, given the many available options. However, a comprehensive platform that offers integrated solutions for accounts payable, accounts receivable, and spend and expense management is key to an efficient and scalable CAS practice. Such integrated solutions not only save time but also allow for 'approachable advisory,' where even junior associates can offer valuable insights on budget variances or coding errors. Additionally, I recommend that you opt for a platform that includes budgeting capabilities, enabling clients to have greater cash flow visibility and, in turn, providing more value than traditional services.
Finally, when choosing a financial operations tool, choose a company that will stand behind your firm and your clients. You want a partner with an innovative mindset who is committed to having the best solution for the accounting profession. You want a platform with a long-standing reputation and testimonials to back it up.
Why BILL Stands Out
In my former role as a CAS leader, we utilized BILL as a cornerstone of our automated technology stack. The platform's AP and spend & expense functionalities were mandatory in certain industries and highly recommended in others. In wealth management, where high volumes of credit card transactions are the norm, BILL AP and Spend & Expense (formerly Divvy) proved invaluable for both time-saving and workflow efficiency.
Another important reason my firm decided to use (and continues to use) BILL was because of its long-standing reputation as a leading solution developed equally with the perspective of the advisor in mind. With millions of network members and partnerships with top banks, BILL consistently earns high marks in the G2 Buyer’s Guide for AP automation across both small businesses and the mid-market. Accolades like 'Most Implementable,' 'Best Usability,' and 'Easiest Admin' speak to its user-friendly nature.
Advances in BILL’s offerings
BILL recently expanded its capabilities, launching an integrated financial operations platform that allows firms to manage accounts payable, accounts receivable, and spend and expense management tasks in one central location. This strategic move aligns with the profession’s focus on seamless, integrated solutions that can elevate advisory services.
Some of BILL’s standout features include:
- Integration across multiple GLs: This allows your firm flexibility on whether to standardize or manage financial transactions seamlessly across various accounting software platforms. If you work with clients in specialized industries, you can customize further using BILL’s API.
- Segregation of duties: With BILL you can customize user roles and put approval workflows in place. This flexibility allows your firm to tailor workflows to meet the unique needs of each client while helping to prevent fraud.
- Varied payment options: In today’s global market, firms need flexibility in payment options. BILL accommodates everything from checks and ACH to virtual cards and international payments.
- Integration with spend and expense management: If you’re grappling with the complexity of business transactions, this feature is a lifesaver. It automates the categorization and reconciliation of transactions, streamlining your workflow. And having all these sources of spending in one place provides a better view of cash flow.
- Accountant Console: BILL recently expanded its Accountant Console to include both AP/AR and Spend & Expense. Firms can now easily add and manage clients across BILL solutions, as well as manage staff and permissions through a consolidated to-do list and an AI-powered ‘Bill Reminders Report’ that identifies missing bills and predicts upcoming ones. Over time, BILL plans to add more reporting capabilities in the Console, including firm-level reports to enable higher-value CAS.
The paradigm shift in CAS
As automation becomes increasingly vital in modern accounting, selecting the right technology platform is no longer just about optimizing internal processes - it's also about enhancing the financial advisory services you provide to clients. CPA.com’s CAS benchmarking survey confirms this paradigm shift, with CAS practices reporting a median growth rate of 16% and Net Client Fees Per Professional (NCFPP) among Top Performers increasing by a staggering 25%. These statistics not only underscore the profitability of CAS but also emphasize the value that automation brings to scalability and revenue.
The upward trend in CAS is not accidental—it results from firms strategically using technology to innovate and offer more value to their clients. When you employ technology effectively in your CAS practice, you’re positioning your firm not just for growth but for excellence. With the right technology platform like BILL, you can automate essential functions in AP, AR, and spend and expense management. This allows you to focus on offering timely, accurate, and actionable financial advice that adds value to your clients' operations.
Now, more than ever, accounting firms have the opportunity to elevate their role as strategic advisors. Join me on Dec. 19 at 12 pm ET for “Automation: The cornerstone of a well-designed CAS practice” to hear more about how to grow or build your CAS practice through automated bill pay and spend and expense management services.