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Client Onboarding Guide: How to Use Technology to Onboard New Practice Clients

30th Aug 2023
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Sage is the market leader for integrated accounting.

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There’s a common misconception that great clients appear out of nowhere. In reality, it’s often your client onboarding process that makes them. Smooth onboarding not only saves you time and money, it sets the tone for future interactions. What’s more, it can help you to navigate the forthcoming regulatory changes – especially in the current climate of increasing anti money laundering (AML) investigations. Here’s how.

What is Client Onboarding?

While the definition of client onboarding can vary across practices, at Sage, we see it as the structured process of welcoming new clients into an accounting practice. The aim is to foster as healthy a working relationship as fast as possible.

This process covers several stages:

  1. Contracts: This includes the proposal, engagement letter, and payment plan agreements.
  2. Information Gathering: Collects details like business data, contact info, and system credentials.
  3. Kick-off Meeting: A strategic session, either in person or online, to familarise the team, establish trust, outline client expectations, and offer training if required.
  4. Follow-up Sessions: These allow for clarifying doubts, obtaining additional information, and setting a clear roadmap for success.

These stages, while appearing fairly straightforward on the surface, capture a depth of tasks from client acceptance to confirming services, setting fees, running risk assessments, and many more.

The process can seem daunting. Indeed, a recent Linkedin post by David Winch, an authority on AML and forensic accounting, shows this first-hand. Manually managing all these tasks, alongside keeping up with legislative changes and client needs, can risk slowing your practice’s growth. Additionally, setting the scene during onboarding has a last impact. Neglecting aspects like client education or goal setting may result in time-consuming adjustments later.

Building a Repeatable Process with Technology

The first step is to document your current onboarding workflow and identify any bottlenecks. Where could you apply technology to save time while simultaneously improving the end client experience?

These touchpoints could involve digitising your client data, such as a client’s passport, sending an engagement letter or requesting information for an initial risk assessment.

Here are three key areas where you could apply the latest technology:

  • Templated Engagement Letters: OverSuite by Sage offers a comprehensive library of engagement letters, created in collaboration with industry experts and regularly updated to reflect new regulations.
  • Transparent Pricing: GoProposal by Sage gives you a structured way to price, automatically customised based on your client and putting guardrails in place to help protect you from scope creep.
  • Automated Risk Assessments, ID and KYC Checks: The new GoProposal AML tailors risk assessments to your client, simplifies identity verification and reduces client effort.

Spotlight on GoProposal AML

After months of talking to Sage members and industry experts, we launched GoProposal AML in August 2023. From the moment you accept a proposal, GoProposal AMl performs a risk assessment and ID check on your new clients, streamlining early-stage client interactions and saving you from having to manually chase documents.

Building An Integrated Tech Stack

When mapping out your onboarding process, make sure that your accounting software caters to your entire client-base. Larger firms, especially those with intricate or international client bases, can face challenges with integrating newer tech into their clients’ traditional or legacy systems.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Document and review your onboarding process, identifying areas for improvement and automation.
  2. Make space for the ‘softer’ activities. Allocate time for personal touches, such as a welcome note or package.
  3. Continuously iterate. Johann Goree from OnPoint Accounting Group refined his onboarding process 20 times in a year!
  4. Ensure compatibility across your tech stack, checking how newer offerings mesh with existing systems.
  5. Choose products with built-in regulatory expertise, ensuring you can stay updated as legislation develops.

As every accountant knows, in a world where time equals money, an efficient onboarding process is essential. At its core, an ideal onboarding process lets both you and your client get the administrative tasks out the way, and enables you both to do what it is you went into business for. To find out more about how you can navigate the upcoming AML changes, register for our webinar on the 6th September here.