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Probiz

We have received an invitation from a local sports team to go along to an event to join Pro Biz. It says free membership but i've read elsewhere it can be £300 a month. Now, there is no way on earth we can afford that. Is it worth going along to? Is it really free?

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By rslosek
20th Feb 2012 20:22

Have a look here

http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/anyanswers/probiz-network

Not sure what may have changed in the past 4 1/2 years.

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24th Feb 2012 06:49

Things may have changed again

Originally they charged a fee to become a member and to access their products/services. The discussion thread from 2007 references what was reported to happen under this framework.

More recently I attended a Probiz promotion seminar though at which it was clear their approach had changed.

I would summarise the concept (as it then seemed to me to be) as follows:

Encourage and excite accountants about the commissions they could earn if they find clients who want to buy into probiz products and services - especially overseas properties and tax avoidance schemes.

My take-away, which may have been incorrect or superseded by events was that this was a clever ruse to create an army of unpaid salesmen (accountants) to go out and find prospects for probiz. The accountants only get paid anything if their clients proceed with the deals. In practice though less then one in ten of those who are initially interested actually proceeds. So the accountant has to spend a great deal of non-billable time trying to find suitable prospects.

If that's what you want to spend your life doing, go ahead. I've written extensively on my TaxBuzz blog about the risks of focusing on the sale of tax avoidance schemes. Personally I'm not a fan of the idea and my conversations with hundreds of accountants around the country suggest that I'm not alone. Indeed, so many have had their fingers burned and clients disappointed that the numbers who do focus on tax avoidance schemes continue to shrink.

Mark

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21st Feb 2012 00:37

Like doing the lottery!

I am with Mark on this one.  The risks involved in tax avoidance schemes need to be explained to the clients so they can make an informed decision.  Whilst I would not want to comment on Probiz my experience of such schemes is that very rarely does anyone take any responsibility for the success of the schemes relying solely on the basis that the accountant is an "introducer" to (say) probiz who are in turn "introducers" to the tax avoidance providers (who do not give any guarantees).  The sales pitch is based on the money that accountants can earn.  It reminds me a bit of doing the national lottery.  The cheques can be very large but I am not sure it is worth the risk involved.  Feizal if my experience does not reflect the detail of your schemes please feel free to let your public know the facts.      

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4.5 years!

Where did that go?!?!?

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21st Feb 2012 09:37

Exactly Steve

My first thought too

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21st Feb 2012 12:34

Scary

It's getting to the point where I can feel myself ageing by looking back on Accountingweb.  Like many people here, I can remember the first instalment of the FD's blog.....

Even scarier was remembering that Top Gun was 25 years old last year.  My friend, who's a teacher, mentioned it to his class, who didn't have the slightest idea what he was talking about....

I'm so close to being dead, it's unreal.

 

WS.

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I now have clients ...

who weren't born when I first started using an adding machine to get my paper ETB to balance before 'calling' the final accounts to check the typist had transcribed the handwritten drafts correctly. Of course, that was only if you could see across the clerks room for the cigarette smoke.

I 'only' started work in 1985 for goodness sake ... surely that was only yesterday?!

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By 0098087
21st Feb 2012 12:54

Hmm..I did read the stuff from before..and i'm wondering if it's really worth wasting my time

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21st Feb 2012 13:21

Probiz

I have been a member of Probiz for three years now, so have a pretty good idea of how it functions.

The various contributors clearly do not understand how Probiz works and therefore are making their decisions on the basis of incomplete information. I hope that they are a little more dilligent when dealing with their cleints affairs.

The comment on billable hours is revealing and is a typical attitude of accountants in practice. Having come into practice from a business background, I see my practice as a business using my professional skills and not a professional service. If you just stick to billable hours a practice is unlikely to develope. I have found that by carefully using the Probiz tax planning products, educating clients and prospects and being very careful to point out the risks involved in tax planning, clients and prospects (now new clients) are very appreciative that someone in the accountancy profession is actually trying to help them and not simply looking for opportunities to charge them "billable hours", whilst covering their professional backsides.

Business is about risk. Businessmen take risks every day and are comfortable doing so, because they understand the business they are in. Once tax planning is explained to them, including the risks, they are perfectly capable of making an informed decision. If some one is not comfortable and do not wish to proceed, then thats fine. At least they are aware that the accountant is doing their best to look after their interests.

Accountants who do not make clients aware of tax planning opportunities, particulalry those clients who have succesful businesses are in danger of being found negligent and sued.  

Having expressed my views I do hope that accountants in practice do not join Probiz as it simply means that I have more opportunity to sign up more of your clients who are unhappy with the sub standard service they currently receive.

If anyone is interested in joining and is able to think outside the "billable hours" box, please let me know and I will be pleased to make the introduction.

 

 

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By 0098087
21st Feb 2012 13:48

How much do they charge?

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21st Feb 2012 14:09

The usual

Scare tactics, arrogant claims, straw men.....

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

WS.

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21st Feb 2012 14:36

Probiz

I hope that WS is in my part of the country. I would love to meet a living dinosaur (and take his high net worth clients).

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22nd Feb 2012 23:05

Thanks for clarifying Wayne

Anyone who has read my blog posts and articles over the years will know that I too am no fan of the 'old' billable hours mentality. But I recognise that it is an entrenched view held by the vast majority. So I write in a way that appears to resonate with the majority.  Indeed I simply noted that:

"The accountant has to spend a great deal of non-billable time trying to find suitable prospects."

Which is a fact. The time spent trying to find people interested and willing to proceed is not, of itself billable.  And, in my experience, most accountants struggle to find enough clients who eventually proceed to make the time and effort worthwhile. Good for you that it works for you. But your experience is far from typical in my experience.

I have also written extensively to counter the ridiculous claims made by the purveyors of tax schemes that draw on the suggestion that: "Accountants who do not make clients aware of tax planning opportunities, particulalry those clients who have succesful businesses are in danger of being found negligent and sued."

This argument is true but only to a very limited extent. That is as long as one is referring to common, standard tax planning opportunities.

 

It is utter nonsense to extend that argument to suggest that there is an equivalent risk if one fails to mention and promote tax avoidance schemes.  No solicitor with any understanding of professional negligence would allow a case to proceed on such a premise. For an accountant to be found negligent the claimant has to prove that the accountant failed to do something that most reasonably competent accountants would have done or advised on.  Where the majority do not advise on such schemes the claim has nowhere to go.

Indeed, some years ago one might have tried to argue that failing to promote EBTs put the accountant at risk of negligence claims. But history shows that I was right to advice caution in this regard. Many clients are now out of pocket or will be if they seek to withdraw monies from their trusts. And EBTs were a pretty widespread form of tax avoidance scheme.

 

Mark

 

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Agree with Mark - wouldn't touch one with a bargepole.

Agree with you Mark - not something I always do, but certainly in this case.

And isn't time spent trying to generate additional fee income called marketing? Never tried billing that one myself.

A final thought, looks like good spelling and grammar is not required when joining Probiz ;o)

 

 

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22nd Feb 2012 11:13

Probiz

I was considering joining Probiz but have decided to carry on giving my clients a sub-standard service and in the process allowing "5 posts, 2.5 years" WP a free run at the hoard of gold.

 

 

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22nd Feb 2012 14:14

Probiz

Sorry, but whats the "5 posts , 2.5 years" comment mean?

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22nd Feb 2012 15:06

5 posts

I think it refers to you making 5 contributions to any answers over 2.50 years.  This may well be true but I think it may be more like 7 posts.  (More than me I think)

 

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23rd Feb 2012 08:29

Probiz

Final comment on this one: -

wilcoskip and thomas 34 - think what you may, but at least I have the courage to say who I am.

Kent accountant - spent four hours in "marketing" meetings with potential new client during last two weeks. Have not and will not sent him a fee note for the time spent. Guess I will have to write that off my WIP ledger. However, am just preparing an invoice for a shade over £50,000 for the planning advice which has saved him a significant sum. Shall also be billing him in due course for compliance work which follows on as the potential client is now a client. Hopefully I will get the grammer and spelling correct on my invoice, but suspect that the very happy new client will not use that as a reason not to pay. Keep on billing by the hour in a gramatically correct manner, dont bother with any marketing and leave the opportunities for those who are prepared to invest a little time and effort in them.

 

 

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24th Feb 2012 06:52

Yesterday

An accountant who attended a seminar I presented yesterday, on Social media for accountants, told me that he paid Probiz £500 a month for 6 months a couple of years back.He dropped out as he was uncomfortable with the model and did not secure an adequate return on his investment.  

Of course whether the Probiz model works for an accountant depends as much on the accountant as on Probiz. They provide the facilities, opportunities and products. The accountant needs to be able to identify prospective clients who will be sufficiently interested to want to conclude a deal re one or more of the products. I understand that Probiz personnel will do what they can to close the deal so the accountant doesn't always have to do this themselves. 

But, as I implied above, I encounter far more accountants like the one I spoke with yesterday than I do advocates like Wayne. 

Mark

 

 

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24th Feb 2012 08:35

Probiz

I think Mark has made a number of valid points in his response and is at least prepared to have a sensible discussion rather than throw in illinformed one liners.

I must admit I do have a have a little difficulty with Mark's earlier comments regarding the risk of litigation. The defence being suggested is that as the vast majority of accountants dont offer certain products to clients therefore the vast majority are shielded from liability. If one ran that to its logical conclussion, if all accountants were totally incompetent then none of them should fear being sued for being incompetent. I have never had a claim in any event, so I am not an expert in their defence.

Probiz is a provider of products and services which certain clients (mostly high earners) find very attractive. Probiz are good at providing these products and services, but it does very much depend on the accountant involved to do something with those products and services. If ones practice does not have any high net worth individuals then unless one seeks out those types of clients (that word that some accountants find so distasteful - marketing - comes in here) there will be no opportunities. In those cases providers such as Probiz will never work.

When I joined Probiz the annual fees were £2,400 plus VAT. However, if I did not generate that sum from the use of Probiz products in that year I was not obliged to pay anything. The only thing I had to lose was the time I invested in discovering whether there was an opporunity or not. Against a general background of doom and gloom and accountants I know complaining that their fee income is suffering, I have used the Probiz products and seen a very significant growth in my business. The coming year promises an accelaration in that growth.

My advice therefore is, if you have a practice with high earning individuals or companies, then you really should be looking at the types of products that Probiz provide. If you do not have clients of that type, but are prepared to spend time developing opportunities, you should also have a look at it. If you do not have high earning clients and are not prepared to develope opportunities then Probiz is not for you.

One last thing before I leave the impression that I am a Probiz advocate or zealot. The benefits I have derived have come from two elements that Probiz provide. The first are the products and the second is the attitude they promote that you have to get out of your office, develope opportunities and not wait and hope that clients come to you. There are other providers out there that do the same sort of thing e.g. AVN. I just happen to think that Probiz are currently the best of those providers.

 

 

 

 

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24th Feb 2012 11:21

Arrogance Personified

Wayne

Sorry for not attaching my name but AW changed its login username system some time ago and my name got changed for some reason.

"I hope that they are a little more diligent when dealing with their clients' affairs".

"in danger of being found negligent and sued".

"opportunity to sign up more of your clients who are unhappy with the sub-standard service they currently receive".

These comments are an insult to those practitioners who provide a decent service to their clients and I'm surprised others haven't reacted accordingly.

As you rightly say, you're better off keeping quiet and cornering the market - but that would of course stop you from promoting Probiz and casting unreasonable aspersions on non-users.

Tom Egerton

(My last post on the subject)

 

 

 

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24th Feb 2012 12:37

Consider this

You usually find that people who talk about being better than others are usually worse.

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26th Feb 2012 11:17

Are you a "reasonably competent accountant"?

On the question of the possibility of being found to be negligent. I speak as someone who has worked as an expert witness in cases involving alleged professional negligence by accountants.

As I said above:

"For an accountant to be found negligent the claimant has to prove that the accountant failed to do something that most reasonably competent accountants would have done or advised on.  Where the majority do not advise on such schemes the claim has nowhere to go."

Wayne's conclusion is NOT the logical one. Assume a wealthy client becomes upset that his accountant hadn't told them about a fancy tax scheme that one of their friends is now boasting to have saved them £1m in tax.

The questions that would be asked would include:

a) Did the accountant owe a duty of care to the client to advise them of fancy tax planning schemes? (This will be clear partly from the wording and any exclusions in the engagement letter/terms of business. It will also depend, in part, on whether the advice was such as would be received from other typical 'reasonably competent' accountants).

b) Would a reasonably competent accountant have mentioned this to their client? (ie: how commonplace was the tax planning advice such that it could be said that all reasonably competent accountants were aware of it or could have easily made themselves aware of it if encouraged to ascertain details of such opportunities by the clients.)

c) Were other 'reasonably competent' accountants advocating such schemes to their clients on learning of the opportunities, the risks and the downsides?

d) What level of tax saving could this specific client have secured?

e) Would the client have undertaken the necessary transactions (based, in part, on past examples of their attitude to risk)

f) What was the net loss suffered by the client as a result of not entering into the scheme and after taking account of all costs that would have been incurred and any other tax saving measures that remain available to them.

You get the picture. Hence my earlier view expressed more succinctly.

 

Mark

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14th Mar 2012 10:51

Probiz

I am not sure why people are getting upset about this.....this is about giving your client the options and being proactive with them before someone else does and they will appreciate and value you for this. As mentioned before this is not for every client however many client know the risks in full and are willing to take them....like I said its about your client making the decision. I have found probiz excellent in every sense...from the training they give you, the business opportunites and also the accountants you can meet and liase with in a totally non competetive enviroment. I would urge any accountant who is not a member of probiz to join for one simple reason...you have nothing to loose and everything to gain. You dont pay any fees until you start making money. It is one of the best things I have done since being in business and certainly nothing to get upset about for the people who dont inderstand how it works!!

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14th Mar 2012 11:29

I missed this

I missed the start of this discussion and want to make it clear that I have no affiliation with PROBIZ, although I have consulted/worked with a few firms. 

There is absolutely no doubt that firms can make considerable profit from a relationship with PROBIZ and I'd suggest their monthly fee is more of a filter, like my £10k minimum consulting fee.

I have seen accountants pick up cheques for £250k commissions from PROBIZ and clients of mine have doubled/trebled their profits and built £100ks of fees. If you are asking about fees you are looking in the wrong direction.

My take is that there are different types of accountants and different types of business owners, however, the fact is profit comes from risk and most accountants are very risk averse, both in nature and training.

Low risk accountants are not a good match for risk positive clients. So, I'd recommend accountants do a fact find on clients and offer to resign where appropriate. Keeping the fee above what is right for the client is unethical.

Bob Harper

Marketing Consultant

Co-founder of Crunchers

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14th Mar 2012 11:30

Nothing to lose?

"I would urge any accountant who is not a member of probiz to join for one simple reason...you have nothing to loose and everything to gain. You dont pay any fees until you start making money."

Nothing to lose? What about all the time involved?

"It is one of the best things I have done since being in business and certainly nothing to get upset about for the people who dont inderstand how it works!!"

Do you understand how it works? Surely you have to spend a lot of time dealing with clients explaining what you are trying to sell them?

 

What about all the clients who may leave an accountant because they think they are a untrustworthy cowboy?

 

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By newmoon
15th Mar 2012 21:39

Are the clients getting the best advice?

Can I ask a few questions to satisfy my own curiosity?

Are we talking solely about marketing tax schemes/strategies when talking about Probiz, or are there other significant aspects to their service to accountants?

With reference specifically to tax schemes:

Are there any statistics to show what percentage of Tax Schemes work, by which I define as saving the client money at the end of the day (a scheme that isn't successfully challenged by HMRC) ? I've heard of one or two schemes that haven't worked, and of a few more schemes where they are still under enquiry quite a few years later. I've also heard mention that it would take HMRC in excess of 30 years to enquire into all the numbered schemes, and that just cannot happen. Can anyone with some knowledge of the indusrty provide any statistics?

Secondly a question for the accountants that are actively selling Tax Schemes, how far can you check the schemes out, or do you need to rely on the advice of the organisation marketing the schemes? Are you able to satisfy yourself that the particular tax scheme marketed is the best option, and that other planning avneues couldn't achieve a similar saving with less risk? I appreciate that some clients may want to go down a particular route specifically for the level of uncertainty or adrenaline rush! If that's the case fair enough, but presumably that doesn't apply to all clients.

Thirdly am I right in thinking that Probiz, AVN etc are acting as brokers/agents or are they scheme originators also? I have the impression that they are brokers, and that they are often the second layer in the middle between the scheme promoter and the accountant. I could easily be wrong with this, but if this is the case, is there any reason not to go direct to the scheme promoters? Do you consider using a broker safer, or part of the due dilligence?

Finally, am I correct in thinking that unless you have a good base of clients with annual incomes of a minimum of £250K (and preferably considerably in excess), or at least a very good avenue to market to clients at this earning level, this isn't really going to be cost effective? Wouldn't the time and effort involved outweigh the potential gain? Although figures of £250,000 commission have been mentioned earlier, isn't the average commission that filters down to the accountant (per client who takes on a scheme) more likely to be considerably lower than this (more in the region of £2,000 to £10,000?). What are the experiences of people involved in this area?

Thanks.

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