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Overcome the challenges of becoming your client’s Virtual CFO

14th Dec 2023
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Thinking of evolving your payments as a service offering to clients? Keep reading.

Accountant Rich Sykes, Founder of Cloud CFO, had steered clear of offering payments as a service in the past because of the associated risks and red tape.

When he wanted to set himself up with permissions to make payments on behalf of his clients, he had to travel 20 miles to the nearest bank branch with his passport and spend half a day there.

“And that’s just one person. There are two or three other team members who need the same thing.”

Add to that the “drawer full of doers and USBs” Rich needed in order to access client bank accounts, and you can see why many accountants find it difficult to scale payments as a service for clients. 

Your clients aren’t financial experts

Charlie Carne, Founder of Charlie Carne & Co, raises some other challenges, including clients who just don’t know what they need. 

“Some clients don’t have any sort of financial function, or they have one, but it’s not very functional. 

“They need someone to ask questions like ‘What do you need in your business in order to help you sleep at night?’ And to ensure they understand their cash flow forecast, so that they’re able to pay staff and don’t run out of money.”

What Rich and Charlie are talking about are just a couple of the things involved in becoming your clients’ Virtual CFO.

It’s a complex role full of challenges, but get it right and you can achieve two things:

  1. Stronger, longer-lasting relationships with clients, making your firm indispensable
  2. An additional source of revenue each month

Look after yourself, too

And when we say ‘get it right’ we mean being efficient with your time and charging appropriately. 

You need to be efficient with your time, because as our own Debbie Dreyfuss found out from a recent survey, “Accountants who manage payments for clients spend on average 10 hours a week processing payments.”

This is way too many hours, and it’s not sustainable at scale. Business owners definitely don’t have 10 hours a week to spend on payments. They can pay someone like Rich or Charlie to do it for them, but then the problem is only transferred, not solved.

Still, we’re only scratching the surface in terms of the challenges accountants face when becoming their clients’ Virtual CFO. We really urge you to check out the full video recording of Rich and Charlie below, in which they go into much greater detail —we’re certain you’ll find their stories familiar.

The video was recorded as part of Apron’s recent webinar at the Digital Accountancy Show.

[Video: https://digitalaccountancy.com/on-demand-webinars/becoming-your-clients-virtual-cfo-and-growing-your-firms-revenue/

In a nutshell, though, the problems they faced with supplier and payroll payments are ones we’ve covered on this blog many times.

The challenges of managing payments as a Virtual CFO

Manual data entry — Setting up and reconciling payments manually is not only time-consuming but also prone to errors. The traditional approach of handling data entry hampers efficiency and introduces unnecessary risks.

Last-minute approvals — Chasing clients for last-minute payment approvals is a common headache. The lack of a streamlined approval process can disrupt workflows and create unnecessary stress.

Client money management — Spending excessive time managing client funds within bank accounts is a drain on resources. Accountants need a solution that simplifies these processes without compromising security.

Risk of errors and fraud — The risk of making erroneous payments and falling victim to invoice fraud is a genuine concern. Without robust security measures, scaling payments can expose accountants and their clients to financial risks.

Getting payments under control

Here’s where Apron comes, because while the additional tasks of providing cash flow forecasts and advice to clients as a Virtual CFO are up to you, getting efficient payments locked down is a great start.

In fact, it’s more than a great start, it’s essential. Because how can you offer the full range of support and services clients need from a Virtual CFO, if you’re spending 10> hours a week managing payments?

Here are just a handful of ways Apron cuts down those 10 hours closer to 2 or 3.

Automated data entry — By automating the setup and reconciliation of payments, Apron eliminates the need for most manual data entry. This not only speeds up processes but also minimises the risk of errors.

Apron also alerts you if a known supplier sends an invoice containing different bank details, in order to protect you and your clients against fraud.

Streamlined approval workflows — Apron’s intuitive platform simplifies the approval process, ensuring that last-minute hiccups are minimised. Apron is built to allow complete flexibility for accountants and their clients, while reducing the time spent chasing for approvals.

Limit touching client money — Constantly logging into client bank accounts to make payments is a major pain point for accountants scaling payments as a service. The more time you spend touching client money, the greater the risk of mistakes and fraud.

Apron offers several ways to pay, which removes the need for you to access client bank accounts.

With Apron, you can pay securely directly through the platform; via bank transfer to us; or via credit card. So, no matter how complex the workflow, not only do you have payment options, you’ll spend less time jumping from app to app.

Enhanced security measures — In addition to alerting you of changes to supplier bank details, Apron also utilises ‘Confirmation of Payee’ measures to help prevent payments ending up in the wrong hands.

Plus, with our new Audit Trail feature, you can download a breakdown of any payment, with details on amounts and edits, as well as who approved and paid.

See it all with Apron Hub — Built based on feedback from dozens of accountants, Hub is your dashboard inside of Apron. It allows you to see all of your clients and payments in one place, at a glance.

With Hub, you can add team members, assign them roles, and create workflows to speed up payments with your clients.

Give yourself space to breathe

Both Rich and Charlie now use Apron to manage payments for their clients. It’s made the process faster, more secure, and given them both more breathing space to continue developing the “softer skills” that turn a good accountant into a great Virtual CFO.

Again, watch the video to hear Rich and Charlie discuss other ways in which their practices have evolved since moving to Apron, including dispensing with the pain of topping up wallets.

If you’d like Debbie, or one of the Apron team to show you around, Book a Demo with us. And if you’re ready to get your Apron on, you can start a free trial right now.

Start a free trial

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