GDPR: Threat or opportunity?

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Philip Fisher
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Ignoring the additional administrative burden that GDPR will inevitably put onto every accountancy practice, the changes also have the potential to help.

Having experienced almost total silence from anyone and everyone until the last couple of weeks, my inbox has been inundated (that is slightly overstating the case, but there has been a very steady trickle) with emails from diverse organisations telling me that unless I make a positive statement they will stop spamming me with effect from 25 May. Oddly, in almost every case, I don’t understand how they got my name in the first place. Therefore, to date, my reaction has been either to ignore the communication or actively unsubscribe so that my name is taken off their lists a few weeks early.

Oddly, only a couple of organisations with whom I actually wish to communicate have sent out this kind of email so far. I can only imagine that I will be the lucky recipient of hundreds in the next week.

I would be fascinated to know what percentage of accountancy practices have sent out their GDPR emails so far. The cynic in me suggests that this could be little more than 5% or 10% and only the very biggest, but readers may wish to prove me wrong.

In marketing terms, this could be a double-edged sword. At one end of the scale, all of those potential clients and contacts that we have been spamming for the last decade in the vain hope that they may be willing to offer a little business are likely to take the opportunity to escape our clutches forever.

I wonder how many practices have taken a wider view and considered a strategy to try and win back those that actively or passively say no. In many cases, these could be people that you met once at a conference and have no particular reason to value. However, some could be genuine prospects and, if that is the case, perhaps it is worth sending an email (while you still can) or getting on the phone to have a brief chat and see whether they might be willing to reconsider.

Looking at this project even more positively, whenever I make contact with clients and quite frequently with others, opportunities arise as a direct consequence. As I have stated previously, even if you call a client to settle a tricky fee query, there is a fair possibility that they will immediately give you an additional piece of work.

Therefore, while it may take up a considerable amount of time, contacting the clients and others whose business is really important at the same time as sending them the stock e-mail could bring lucrative dividends.

Most of us are looking for an excuse to contact clients rather than bringing them out of the blue. Perhaps the burden of GDPR could have a silver lining after all.

About Philip Fisher

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16th May 2018 16:35

We have been contacting our potential clients and leads over the past couple of months, advising about why they would like to hear from us and what we can offer from our online accountancy service to our relevant ebooks.

Today we sent the official "due to GDPR" email out and opt in to keep hearing from us. I guess we shall see over the next nine days how this will go before we purge the database on the 25th. Though before this we will have another offer to send to our potential clients and a reminder to opt-in to keep hearing from us, in one last attempt to keep them interested.

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17th May 2018 07:58

We purged all non-clients about 6 weeks ago thereby losing 80% of our database.

We’ve asked for specific consent from clients for the last year via our LOEs which we refresh every 12 months.

I too have been inundated with consent requests from organisations I’ve never had any dealings with. Like the OP I’ve either ignored them or actively unsubscribed.

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17th May 2018 11:54

"Oddly, only a couple of organisations with whom I actually wish to communicate have sent out this kind of email so far. I can only imagine that I will be the lucky recipient of hundreds in the next week."

Well not oddly really - as if you believe their communications are worthwhile, they probably also have come to that conclusion having carried out the relevant balancing test and are using the legitimate interests basis for sending newsletters / info out.

Therefore you probably won't be getting any consent emails from companies that actually have information of value to you.

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17th May 2018 12:06

We purged our database of old clients some 2 months ago & have written to existing clients 3 times to obtain positive consent as well as including opportunities to respond within our monthly newsletter. Our risk assessments are now completed & procedures are set down as a " Work in progress " which we expect to amend over the course of time. Our Engagement letters have been revised to incorporate GDPR. I suspect that in reality, smaller firms will fall into 2 distinct categories however. There will be those who accept the necessary burden and put in place the necessary compliance measures. There will also be those who are let's say less diligent and couldn't care less. The outcome I suspect will be like lots of compliance issues in that those in the first group - my firm included - will be the easy targets for any form of compliance check whereas those in the second group will prove to be elusive to checking and will have no hesitation in "disappearing" when the ICO comes knocking at their door.

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By deg2yq
17th May 2018 12:24

The small independent accountant is in its death spiral. The big boys have rigged the system.

Our other businesses are sustaining the accountancy business.

We saw this over compliance , regulation for the sake of it ,comming down the track 5 years ago and actively since looked to operate in related but non accountancy markets .

It is nigh on impossible in most ( not every) case to pass on compliance costs to clients.

We are now treating our accountancy business as a loss leader and very selective about the clients that we accept.

We project that upon current trends more and more independent accountants will move to home offices and or just use accountancy as part time income while seeking regular corporate employment

And who could dream that a supposedly business friendly government could be so regulation happy

And we are supposed to snitch on our clients as well.

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17th May 2018 12:35

We’ve laid the groundwork in readiness but, as the ACCA told me last week, the key right now is to show you are on the journey towards full gdpr compliance and roll out gradually

In the meantime I’m waiting to see TaxCalcs GDPR module that I hear is being launched at Accountex next week. Hopefully it’ll prove a quick way to get several steps forward and give us a solid long term solution too.

The choice of spending hours putting something together ourselves or making ourselves aware of the changes and then using a software solution to make the task more manageable is a no brainer in my opinion

The fact that the ACCA only released their recommended new engagement letter software on 30 April supports my view that it’s better to take time to do this properly rather than panic.

Expect clients to also then ask for help with their journey...... as it’s hitting everyone it seems even a small builder who stops cis off a couple of sub-contractors

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17th May 2018 13:36

I work for a company that's clients are also companies so the impact is minimal. Employee data is securely locked in filing cabinets and any online data is protected by firewalls etc. CCTV and office security also have normal systems in place (no cameras in toilets etc).

Those with a modicum of common sense already look after data safely and securely so much of the hype reminds me of Y2K. I suspect 25th May 2018 will pass for most of us SMEs without the predicted apocalypse...

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17th May 2018 14:56

Excellent news this GDPR, going to hopefully get rid of a lot of spam and unwanted rubbish. The productivity of the UK economy will improve considerably without people constantly deleting rubbish. I don't think newsletters are effective marketing regardless, full stop. 90% are not read. There are many other far better strategies. Has AWeb addressed GDPR? One of the only newsletters I read.

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18th May 2018 08:37

GDPR is a constantly moving target with ICO guidance changing virtually on a daily basis.

ICO Guidance changes as follows;
08/02/18 Version 1.0.19 (120 pages)
10/04/18 Version 1.0.28 (151 pages)
20/04/18 Version 1.0.40 (153 pages)
02/05/18 Version 1.0.51 (171 pages)
18/05/18 Version 1.0.82 (185 pages)

So since I first looked on 08/02/18 it has changed 63 times, with 31 changes in the last 16 days.

I wonder how many more changes before 25/05/18!

It's a joke and with no Royal Assent of DPA 2018 yet more changes to come.

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By ejb
18th May 2018 18:16

Definitely hoping for less clutter in my inbox but fear many will continue and ignore the regulations.

I’m still waiting for hear back from CIMA regarding their engagement letter templates as no mention of GDPR within them

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21st May 2018 12:44

Not a threat or opportunity, just waste of time (along with MTD) for something nobody I know in a personal or business capacity has asked for.

I'm too busy sorting out GDPR problems (encrypted payslips, reports, etc) to do any marketing. In any case all my work is word of mouth.

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