Crunch rolls out next generation platform
Innovative Brighton-based mega-practice Crunch has expanded from accountancy into software development with Ada, a new cloud-based accounting platform.
Named for Charles Babbage’s collaborator and Lord Byron’s daughter Lady Ada Lovelace, Crunch’s new Ada platform hosts a selection of 40+ microservices that replace the firm’s old, “monolithic” code block, explained Crunch founder and Accounting Excellence Practice Pioneer Darren Fell.
The million pound investment is part of Fell’s vision to provide a mix of accounting software and services. The Ada platform will continue to support existing customers more effectively, but will also move the firm “into the world where anyone can use parts of our software”, he said.
The Crunch platform comes in three numbered varieties. Crunch Two is designed for the freelancers and contractors who make up 90% of the firm’s current client base. The package starts with a basic service at £71.50/month and a £109/month Plus option that includes self assessment returns, IR35 status checks, an expenses capture tool and bank feeds coming in via Open Banking APIs.
Crunch also has its eyes set on markets beyond the contracting frontier and now caters for small businesses with 1-10 employees with its Crunch Three option. This variant combines dedicated accounting and bookkeeping staff with payroll and business advisory services for £196/month.
Crunch introduced the new options at the beginning of October, but is not stopping there. The obvious next step is to offer its accountancy software to the wider marketplace, so Crunch One will make an appearance soon, as a standalone cloud accounting application for sole traders.
The new platform is “mobile optimised” after web traffic patterns showed more and more clients were visiting the firm’s website on mobile phones.
“Now it is very mobile friendly,” said Fell of the new platform. “We started off with services like expenses, invoicing and bank reconciliation as the most likely features you would use while roaming.”
Within the practice, Ada supports final accounts and tax return services that tie back into the bookkeeping system to populate the relevant fields on VAT and P11D returns. If the user enters any expenses for medical insurance or accountancy fees, for example, they will show up on in the right P11D field.
“At Crunch we look at every little task and element in the system and try to build a service to take away time. Our CT600 service took away 20mins per client,” Fell said.
The Ada platform looks and feels much like any other modern cloud accounting system, opening with a dashboard view that combines key indicators for sales and expenses with to-do timelines and a message thread.
Like FreeAgent – part of the current software line-up at Crunch that the new platform will replace – Ada can also present an overview of corporation tax, VAT and PAYE/NIC liabilities based on the invoices and expenses entered into the accounting system.
Other elements include a range of reports from trial balances to aged debtors/creditors and draft management information, all of which can be downloaded as PDFs.
For company directors, there’s a Pay Yourself tab with sections detailing profits before tax and splits between salary and dividends, with a current figure shown for the maximum amount that can be withdrawn from the business at the time. The backup information fits into the firm’s strategy to educate clients online, but the screen interface includes a prominent button inviting users to “Talk to a real person”.
Darren Fell touched on the underlying tension between trying to make clients self-sufficient, but pointing them to an accountant before doing something like filing a corporation tax return.
Extending Crunch’s reach
While opening its platform to users beyond the firm and its own client base, Crunch is looking to recruit a network of accounting partners alongside its existing bookkeeping partners. The search-optimised platform is attracting a lot of enquiries from prospective clients, many of which Crunch will refer on to other accountants where the businesses don’t match its idea profile.
“If we can’t serve them, we pass leads to the Crunch accountancy network.” Said Fell.
With plans to expand off-payroll IR35 rules, the contractor market has become problematic for many practices – yet Fell is still keen to take them on. “Thanks to our new platform, we can carry working with those contractors without any of that pain. We know that model and we can make money out of it.”
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