Client Accounting Services (CAS) is a growing, emerging, and profitable opportunity, as believed by the leaders of CPA firms across the country. Offering customized accounting for every client to meet their specific business requirements, while maximizing profit for your firm makes you a true practitioner of CAS.
By the definition of CAS, it includes providing the following services:
- Transactional Services: Bill payment, Bookkeeping, Payroll
- Strategic Services: Mergers and acquisitions, Strategic planning, Succession planning
- Compliance Services: Financial reporting, Audits and reviews, Tax preparation
- Performance Services: Business advisory, Benchmarking, Outsourced CFO, Data analytics
CPA Firms Offering CAS vs. Bookkeeping
Note that not all CPA firms offer client accounting services when you are reviewing accounting options. Many CPAs are now expanding into CAS, but most of them still do not offer management reporting services.
Previously, CPA firms offered bookkeeping services, but that was not conducted as the transaction occurs, rather it was done at the end of the month or quarter. This ensured that the books are right for the bank or tax returns. A bookkeeper usually does not have the skills required to supply key performance indicators and management accounting reports because of insufficient training. This is the information that an owner/CEO requires to grow a small business.
CPA firms have also realized that bookkeepers are being put in a position where they have to answer the questions they are not trained to answer. Also, during the spring and fall tax seasons, bookkeepers do not have time to answer the day-to-day accounting questions.
Hence, some CPA firms are partnering with CAS service providers for implementing daily client accounting so that clients can have a higher level of financial insight.
Categories of CAS
There are varying types of CAS services from which the following are the main three categories.
- Transaction processing
Under this service, an accounting firm pays employees, processes accounts payable and cuts checks, pays payroll taxes, issues invoices for a client, and more.
- Preparing after-the-fact financial statement – also-known-as write-up
This is done when one of the accountants of the CPA firm enters data into and maintains a general ledger, preparing a financial statement after the client issues invoices, writes checks, and takes cash receipts.
- Outsourced CFO or financial control services
Under this, a highly qualified and experienced accountant/CPA regularly meets with the client’s management, ensuring the financial performance is reviewed, and strategies are provided for business improvement.
How to launch a CAS program?
- Get support from the firm leaders
It is important to have a leader from the firm to lead the firm’s initial strategies to prepare CAS offerings as it is an essential factor that determines the plan’s successful effectiveness or failure. Each area of the firm needs to accept (in an enthusiastic manner) a significant change in the way they deliver services such as CAS. Leadership has the responsibility to set the tone for why a change is importantly required, and hence, the entire workforce will grow a positive attitude and work for the same goal together.
- Find a niche
With time, accountants in a firm develop expertise by supporting clients from more than one industry. As a result, the firm possibly gets multiple clients from a particular sector or one or two clients that happen to be among the firm’s biggest clients. Thus, while you plan to launch a new service to offer, these clients are an ideal niche.
- Completely utilize technology and the staff expert at leveraging it
The utilization of technology will vary from firm to firm, but most often, general accounting applications are widely used along with AR and AP management systems. Many firms additionally use expense management systems. Apart from making appropriate use of different software applications, make sure you get excellent people on board who are ready to understand and make use of your preferred technologies.
- Find easy-coming opportunities
Try to impress clients from the industries you are well-versed in. Your experience and expertise in their niche will attract them toward your firm’s other services. Some might require support in core accounting operations, while some might be unaware of the advantages of outsourcing a significant part of their accounting process. Talk to them, review their accounting process, and make them realize that outsourcing helps improve operational efficiency and leads to increased profitability.
How to Strategize Your Accounting Services offerings?
Step one in developing a CAS practice is turning your interest in automation. You identify your requirements and adopt the right technologies to support your practice.
The second step to strategic CAS is when you recognize that you are ready to increase the value you offer clients, create plans toward building a robust CAS practice.
According to the 2018 AICPA PCPS & CPA.com National MAP Survey, strategically developing your practice will position your firm better to align with over 50% of firms in virtually all size categories, which are adopting CAS as a core service area. Hence, you should be accounting for two layers of business planning – your top-level business strategy and your CAS-specific plan.
Another way to get on the fast-track is by cross-selling services, which is itself a strategy to grow. Consider following the two primary keys to improving your CAS cross-selling.
- Dedicated Leadership: You must get someone with the qualities of a champion to have your back in cross-selling activities. Someone who can allure those clients that might not see growth coming via CAS in the initial stage. A highly designated employee who can get other leaders to follow him/her would be perfect.
- In-House Marketing: Highlighting achievements is extremely useful to promote in-house cross-selling. When success stories are shared with other departments and employees, your accountants will gain more confidence as they see proof of client satisfaction in other areas of service, which will make them cross-sell those services. All of this is likely to boost their competitive attitude, and they will look for similar opportunities.
The Benefits of Strategic CAS
There are numerous ways in which strategic CAS enhances your profitability and practice.
- Offering strategic assistance, you build a strong relationship with your clients. Hence, reducing the chances of losing the client to some other accountant.
- You get to add significant value to your client’s business as you can bring to the table potential opportunities that your client might have missed. You become trusted advisor and your clients turn to you for important business decisions.
- As you gain more clients and become a trusted advisor, it gets easier for you to scale your own business from a profit perspective as the clients become more willing to pay.
- Strategic CAS helps you create a longer-lasting business model for your firm going forward. It ensures long-term sustainability and lets you have the upper hand on market competition.
CAS is a powerful way to take your accounting firm to the next level. Once the CAS offering is in place, make sure to put the right marketing efforts, retain your qualified staff and, optimize your tech stack to ensure that you prove to be a long-term trusted advisor to your most valuable asset - your clients.