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KPMG launches SME cloud accounting offering

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22nd Oct 2014
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KPMG has set its sights on the small-business market with the launch of a cloud accounting service for SMEs.

The cloud-based service, which cost the firm £40m in investment and was developed with Xeroincludes accounts preparation, bookkeeping, payroll, VAT and corporate tax returns. 

The partnership between Xero and KPMG was announced last March and its New Zealand branch has also recently been awarded 'platinum partner' status.

According to a KPMG spokesperson, Xero will be very much linked into the package, combining their already existing software with parts the Big Four firm built in-house "to bolt on and widen the offering".

The new service puts KPMG in competition with smaller accounting firms and software suppliers such as Sage One. It costs £150 per month or more and can also include advice from KPMG staff.

Simon Collins, KPMG’s UK chairman, said the firm wants to be the "clear choice" for all privately-owned businesses. 

“The SME sector is the growth engine of the UK economy and we want to support early stage and smaller businesses that previously may have believed our services were out of their reach.”

Research by KPMG and research company YouGov found that 70% of SMEs in Britain think the government could do more to support small businesses.

The research also found that although the majority of SMEs questioned knew about the government’s various finance schemes for small business, 71% had not used them, KPMG said.

AccountingWEB associate practice editor Mark Lee also questioned whether practitioners would be worried that small business clients might be tempted away by the chance to have KPMG as their accountants at a relatively low cost.

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By Manchester_man
23rd Oct 2014 00:34

I'm actually quite surprised at reading this.

With their marketing budget, I wonder whether this will have an effect on small practices?

I doubt it, but who knows.

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By Goschugo
23rd Oct 2014 09:37

Should this make the small practice nervous?

If KPMG are anticipating a payback over 3 years of £40m then this alone takes nearly 7,500 SMEs away from small practices.  With staffing and overheads surely this figure is more like 15k clients.

Hard to understand why if Xero would like small practices to support them why they would then enter this arrangement with KPMG.

I am surprised this hasn't raised more comments from others.

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Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
23rd Oct 2014 09:49

Don't understand on many levels
I don't understand why a big four firm is bothered about the SME market - particularly the "S" end of the market that typically uses the likes of Xero. That's not really KPMG's market is it?

I also don't understand the start up clients that will be paying £150 per month for software and a bit of advice from KPMG ... and then probably another £5,000 for the annual accounts and CT600.

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By garyturner
23rd Oct 2014 11:08

4.9 million businesses in the UK

A couple of people have asked what to make of this, I'm happy to share our perspective and data.

The FSB and ONS report that there are 4.9 million businesses in the UK, and around 40,000 new businesses are created every month. A survey we conducted last month re-confirmed our ongoing assumption that at least 50% of all UK businesses rely on very rudimentary controls and systems for running their business, roughly 50/50 split across paper & spreadsheets. The vast majority of UK business do not use accounting software.
 There are approximately 25,000 accounting firms in the UK, the majority of which are small or sole practitioner firms. We estimate that somewhere between 10-20% of UK accounting firms are actively employing online software to streamline their client engagement, and a good chunk more will be dabbling or will have clients using online software where the client has self-selected it without the advocacy of the practice.
 We estimate that there are now around 200,000 UK businesses using cloud based accounting software, and adoption is accelerating. It's also reasonable to assume that the number of small businesses using cloud software versus desktop accounting software will flip in 2-3 years (adoption of desktop accounting software is much lower than people naturally assume).
 And the potential penetration for online accounting software is hypothetically much greater than for desktop software, and this will challenge the dependency on manual processes and engagement still prevalent in today's accounting services model.
 As with many other industry categories, business and value distribution models, the introduction of today's generation of modern software (I'm deliberately not using 'cloud' as that's fast becoming moot), is beginning to change and disrupt existing models, and the accounting industry and broader financial services sector (including banking) is not immune to this change.
 It's my view that there exists a huge and emerging, (and as yet un-tapped) market for connected advisory and client services in this new world, where the role of the accountant will grow in importance, not decline.
 There are a large number of practices of all sizes in the UK who are already operating in this connected way, and doing very well by it for both themselves and their clients.
 They all share our view (and now KPMG's view) that the world of accounting is shifting to this new model over the next five to ten years, and I'd point to missing out on this shift being the threat that firms need worry about most, rather than competing with a big brand. (As an aside, Xero itself has managed to build a significant business against much bigger and better resourced brands precisely by embracing disruption and doing a much better job )
 Small practices might have been flight of foot and got into this earlier than the big guys, but the shift is universal. And the fact that very large firms like KPMG, mid-sized firms like Armstrong Watson or early adopter smaller firms like Barcant Beardon are now deploying this new client service model just means that the shift will happen more quickly, but in this shift there's plenty opportunity for everyone to take part.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
By Howard Marks
23rd Oct 2014 11:10

Connected services

garyturner wrote:

It's my view that there exists a huge and emerging, (and as yet un-tapped) market for connected advisory and client services in this new world, where the role of the accountant will grow in importance, not decline.

 

Hi Gary

 

Thanks for putting such a detailed post together.

 

Would you mind expanding on the above slightly when you get chance?

 

Thanks

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
By garyturner
23rd Oct 2014 12:05

@Howard

Howard Marks wrote:

garyturner wrote:

It's my view that there exists a huge and emerging, (and as yet un-tapped) market for connected advisory and client services in this new world, where the role of the accountant will grow in importance, not decline.

 

Hi Gary

 

Thanks for putting such a detailed post together.

 

Would you mind expanding on the above slightly when you get chance?

 

Thanks

The prospect of many more businesses employing software going forwards than was the case in the PC / Windows software era naturally creates a context for those business owners to take a greater, higher frequency and more informed interest in the workings of their business on an ongoing basis, compared with paper based, compliance deadline led engagement with their bookkeepers or accountants.

Firstly, the notion of a resulting shift from compliance based services is now quite well rehearsed, and it's a natural concern for practitioners to be perhaps a little concerned about what they fill the gap with if traditional compliance services erode because of online software, but most would also accept that sustaining a business predominantly on compliance services alone is probably not sustainable in the medium to long term, never mind it being a competitive, price driven service.

What we're seeing now, some five or six years down the road since the first firms really fully adopted cloud software, is a basis whereby those firms are replacing that traditional compliance work (I should say compliance is still happening with online client engagement, it's just less onerous), with a more regularised, higher value level of service with their clients where they're offering more timely and better informed advisory services or guidance simply because the clients accounts are up-to-date and accessible, and that this is actually something the clients find very valuable and are happy to pay for.

The next phase beyond just offering better informed, in-the-moment but still basic advisory services will happen when the software is capable delivering a higher level of insight into the nuts and bolts performance of the business, not just their estimated tax liability, monthly management accounts or compliance fundamentals. So, practical things that today still evade most small businesses, such as KPIs like monthly net profit on sales, cash flow forecasting, average debtors days along with more sophisticated measures of the health of a business which in a good many cases, the business owners will not be fully qualified to understand, let alone make decisions upon.

If the world of computerisation and software is now, finally, emerging for all small businesses it's our view that the role of a connected and available financial professional is the key role in that mix, they're already qualified, have earned a position of trust and can offer a range of services and guidance the small business cannot afford to carry on their own payroll.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner 

 

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By Rozzo52
23rd Oct 2014 16:53

Cloud Accounting - Online and Offline

I think there is a big flaw in the Cloud Model for SME's  because I am not aware of any software providers who allow for both online and offline accounting if the internet is not operational for any period. 

I am not talking about a natural disaster as everyone will be affected but a situation where a fibre optic cabinet or the cable carrying your internet connection has been vandalized and will take several days or weeks to repair when your company has a very busy period say during the busy Christmas period with tight deadlines for deliveries. What happens then, because your accounting system needs to produce bills of materials to manufacture small items and you need to maintain stock control involving several staff members ? You cannot uproot your business to the nearest internet connection not possible even for a small business. You will need a local network with access to all your data. This ability to work both offline and online needs to be addressed first before any SME will adopt a cloud solution fully.

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By cthomas1967
23rd Oct 2014 11:14

So small Xero partner firms shouldn't be concered?

Thanks for your comment Gary.

With perfect timing I have just finished a meeting with a contact from KPMG who deals on the corporate recovery side. He raised the matter of their "Enterprise" offer with me even before I had the chance to produce the print of today's AW article from my pocket.

Out of confidence I won't share details of the marketing campaign and target market that KPMG are after.

But I was left in no doubt that some of our clients are going to be personally targeted by the new KPMG service. We (and many other firms) have done the groundwork by introducing our clients to Xero, training them, and developing best practice. And now have the prospect of having their heads turned by a multi-million pound marketing machine from a Global name, who at £150 per month are competing right on our price point.

Small firms don't have a fraction of a fraction of the £40m that KPMG are investing.

I think what you are saying is that the Cloud market is increasing in size - so those existing Xero partner firms shouldn't be worried about losing a few clients to KPMG. As these client losses will be more than compensated by new clients who are changing from a manual system to Xero. Plenty of business to go round, so opportunities for all - but it will be a case of survival of the fittest.

Do you envisage Deloitte, PWC and EY launching similar offerings with Xero?

 

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By Paul Dunn
23rd Oct 2014 13:52

'Disruption' is the key, Gary

Superb piece, Gary.

Absolutely telling it like it is.

And you're spot on about there being "a huge and emerging, (and as yet un-tapped) market for connected advisory and client services in this new world, where the role of the accountant will grow in importance, not decline."

​Many firms are now, as you point out, doing wonderfully by tapping into that.That's where we have to go; innovating the models (and recognising that there are a lot of broken ones) and really getting back to doing what Accountants should be doing do — changing their clients' lives.

Well done you! Keep the disruption coming.

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By Howard Marks
23rd Oct 2014 11:06

Contractors

That's the end game in my opinion, sausage factory.  

 

Big bucks if done right, as we've seen with recent takeovers.

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By oldshoremore
23rd Oct 2014 11:12

read Private Eye

I do and I am ashamed to be in the same professional body as KPMG. Small businesses beware - their shenanigans and fines mean they are looking elsewhere to fund their Ferraris

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By mikec55
23rd Oct 2014 11:14

Too expensive

I cannot see many small businesses adopting this model as costs are prohibitive. I have a number of small clients who would not consider £1,800 on software as money well invested. The "or more" is a clear indication that it will cost a lot more.

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By jasonholden
23rd Oct 2014 11:41

Oh dear ...

As a practice that picks up clients from the bigger firms we have no concerns, has anyone talked to some of the bigger firms smaller clients about the advice and support they get and if they are happy?  We have, that is why we get the clients.

The big firms like KPMG will do us all a favour in this latest move, time to get ready to take on more clients ....................

Jason

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By norstar
23rd Oct 2014 11:38

£150 a month no threat to me

In my experience, clients yearn for the advice and handholding they don't get from online platforms such as this, and at £150 a month "or more", they are double the cost of firms such as Crunch and SJD and considerably more than us.

No competition.

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By Gimlet2008
23rd Oct 2014 11:43

Xero and stuff

 

A few years ago it was just SAGE now there is a very crowded Cloud based market place itself and perhaps this strategy will help Xero get ahead of the pack for a while..until somebody teams up with FreeAgent and confuses the issue..Then of course SAGE themselves have something that is supposed to do the job now.. 

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By Tkwhitehouse
23rd Oct 2014 11:50

Wasn't this announced in March?

Here's a Press Release from March:

http://www.kpmg.com/uk/en/issuesandinsights/articlespublications/newsrel...

At the time then I assumed it was all about them getting nicely positioned to take a chunk of the exciting Tech City clients. 

I can't see how it makes sense for the Big Four to get into the sausage factory business. It's too dangerous for them to put their name on poorly prepared accounts, so I expect there will be very very few clients paying £150 + VAT pm. It's not going to be the all-inclusive fees model that most of us offer. It's got to be about offering the basics cheap (in their terms) and then selling advice at a price closer to their normal rates. 

Either way it has to be good for small Xero firms. When our firm started a few years ago a lot of potential clients were worried about the security side of cloud accounting (which I rarely hear these days) so KPMG doing this undoubtedly gives the model legitimacy and moves it into the mainstream. As long as small firms continue to understand their clients well and offer a great service they should have nothing to fear.

Tim @ Caprica Online

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Replying to Lammy:
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By nigelburke
24th Oct 2014 00:46

I'd be interested to see how much of the human element was being done off-shore, particularly given the volumes expected 

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By alltaxedout
23rd Oct 2014 11:55

Nuts

This reminds me of when the banks were wanting to get into prep of tax returns. It just wont work. It'll take KPMG 4 people and £1800 just to set the client up. SMEs want a 'trusted advisor' who is likely a partner or proprietor in their own firm.

So long as I see barmey stuff like this, I am happy that the marketplace for the small and medium sized practice is alive and well and long may it continue.

PS how many people get their car washed at Tesco's compared to either doing it themselves or going to their local car wash?

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By Gimlet2008
23rd Oct 2014 11:58

I guess we have been here before as well...

That makes a lot of sense Tim. Sausage factory superficially attractive when you look at the overall numbers but a lot of big firms don't appreciate the fact that its a lot of leg work

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By Howard Marks
23rd Oct 2014 12:40

@Gary

Thanks once more, much appreciated.

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By Guilford Accounting
23rd Oct 2014 13:16

The traditional model is changing.....

As a sole practitioner using Xero for my clients I welcome this move. The traditional model of bookkeeping and accounting is changing and so it should; too many businesses fail because they don't understand their numbers and only use their accountant for year end work.

Cloud accounting means that all businesses can afford good systems and a good accountant/business adviser to mentor them. Lots of us are doing that already.

The accountants that will struggle in the future are the ones stuck in the past with Sage and the like that have not moved (successfully) into the new age and still think producing year end statutory accounts is adding value.

And if KPMG want to start offering cloud based services for £150 per month good luck to them; they may be able to assign a newly qualified accountant for that, whereas what our clients want from us is efficiency (the cloud and good systems) and experience.

This is a trend that will continue.

 

 

 

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By tony.cassons.co.uk
23rd Oct 2014 13:51

A fascinating debate.

I believe KPMGs move to embrace cloud based accounting via xero can only enhance the credibility of the offering by other accountancy practices of cloud based accounting.

I really do not believe that KPMG can offer the client engagement that 'smaller' practices can offer and do it price competitively.

SME owners greater involvement in the numbers means that they naturally will seek more advice from their trusted advisor. I really cannot see how KPMG can service this demand at their normal rates.

To me, it appears to be only good news.

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By raybackler
23rd Oct 2014 14:09

Examples from this week

Having the accounting system transactions up to date and visible to us and the client means we have changed the way we work with clients.  Some examples from this week:

1. A clients credit control was slipping.  We called to discuss and found he had a few personal problems.  We called the top five customers owing money and averted a cash flow crisis, all within the monthly fee.

2.  We completed a quarterly VAT Return for a larger client, checked debtors, creditors and outstanding bank reconciliation items.  We raised a list of points for discussion and resolved them all.  Clients books stay clean and they can rely on the data.

3. Conference call to discuss half year management accounts with the directors that lead them to conclude that further IT development was probably needed as the business has grown and better quality information was needed from their customer relationship management system.

4. Checked daily transactions as new client was coming on board that averted any long term errors and made the system more accurate from day one, building up client faith in what we have recommended.

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By johnt27
23rd Oct 2014 14:49

Nothing new here
What strikes me as interesting is that this isn't really new. Many of the top 20 firms including big 4 have been servicing and targetting the SME sector for years. Usually this has been done more covertly under different banners.

All that's new is the adoption of 'cloud' that is leaving reactive firms behind.

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By Tkwhitehouse
23rd Oct 2014 17:28

Try doing anything without the internet

Rozzo52 - whilst I admit this is a problem it's a modern problem and here to stay. I can't think of any of our clients that could do much without the internet. Even the most offline of businesses is at least dependent upon emails for vital processes. For most businesses, if their internet is down their inability to do bookkeeping is going to be the least of their worries.

When I have known clients have just this issue it can normally be half solved by running to a mobile phone shop and buying a 3g/4g dongle.

 

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By leicsred
23rd Oct 2014 18:06

£1,800
Many of our clients aren't very willing to spend even half that, and that's with getting full advice, I don't think we'll be loosing many to this....

I do wonder what research they do of the costs, or maybe they are only looking to the south East and major cities.

Maybe a certain type of client may like to have KPMG on their accounts, but we wouldn't get them anyway.

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By ab_accountant
23rd Oct 2014 18:55

Pressure on SME market

KPMG will take up the medium sized clients which will leave the small accountancy firms to dig deeper into the market. The small firms will feel the pressure as it will be difficult to raise their fees and justify against the offer from KPMG.

I must say that the move is worrying and I'm surprised to see that Xero has managed to bring in a big 4 in the small market. 

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Dennis Howlett
By dahowlett
23rd Oct 2014 19:46

Massively disruptive

Those who ignore this move do so at their peril. 

From everything I know, KPMG has even very careful in the way it crafts this offering and of course it will target selectively. BUT...the notion that we've seen it all before, who will pay etc are poor arguments. 

The technology is an enabler of disruption and KPMG is highly motivated to make this work. The fact they are throwing a considerable chunk of change at this tells you plenty about where this goes.

In the meantime, I offer 10 takeaways for this

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By Surferph34
23rd Oct 2014 20:37

Doesn't this software exist already, ie. wave account software also floating on the cloud and free?

 

 

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Replying to legerman:
Dennis Howlett
By dahowlett
23rd Oct 2014 20:45

Misses the point

....KPMG is leveraging technology to deliver a service it could not otherwise deliver. It has worked out the delivery model both in market and cost terms

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By ollyevans
24th Oct 2014 08:22

Specialists in SME

I remember presenting to 'SMEs' once, and part way through someone said "What's an SME?".  You see, the thing is that small business owners don't understand how the big accounting firms and banks classify them as a market sector.  And the big firms don't get that small business is not the same as big business, but smaller.

 

Owner managed businesses are the special subject of all the small accounting firms across the country.  If you add Xero to your service you can give great advice with easy access to up to date financials at a price the client can afford.  A winning formula in my experience.

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By raybackler
24th Oct 2014 09:58

I agree with ollyevans

Ollyevans you are so right.  A cloud offering with constant contact with your clients is a winning formula.  I never call my clients SMEs, because most don't get it.

Rozzo52 is in the dark ages and may not be overtaken by KPMG, but there are many accountants who do get it and the goal posts are being moved.  Some of your clients will want cloud software, so you had better be prepared.

We had an incident a few years ago where the broadband cable to our village was stolen and the connection was lost for a week.  That is because the cable was full of copper and had a high scrap value.  All of the culverts have now been fitted with locks to stop this happening.  Also, fibre optic cable is not readily saleable, plus the advent of high speed broadband will only increase speeds and reliability. Even we are about to be connected to fibre optic out here in the sticks, because of the government funding project to get this done nationally.

Having worked in the cloud, as an early adopter since 2004, apart from the above incident we have only lost the broadband connection for a few hours twice and once for nearly a whole day.  None of those incidents was in recent years and the technology has improved considerable even before the latest drive to install fibre optic.

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By AndrewV12
24th Oct 2014 10:04

It wont suit all clients.

I assume all support ect. is on-line, this will not suit all clients, most like the personal touch from a localish Accountant.

 

Lets do the maths (as others have done) £150 + Vat = 180 * 12 =£2,160, not all small businesses are Vat registered, it looks a little expensive now.

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By Bob Harper
27th Oct 2014 13:50

Ignoring

@OllyEvans - I agree..."if" accountants can offer great advice.

Most have been some preoccupied and focussed on compliance they don't have a business advisory service.

@Dennis - we've worked out how to deliver business advisory using technology...we call is KaaS which stands for "Knowledge as a Service".

WebinarsVideosOnline coursesSkype calls

@AndrewV12 - is your strategy to pick up what other's don't want...non VAT registered businesses?

By the way, don't you think they will be more inclined to use cash accounting and represent themselves?

Bob Harper

More and Crunchers

 

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Replying to bigugly:
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By AndrewV12
30th Oct 2014 09:40

@AndrewV12 - is your strategy to pick up what other's don't want

Good morning Bob

i suppose my strategy is to pick all of the very small business.  I never recommend any of my clients to go Vat registered, unless they suffer  lots of input tax or reach the threshold.     

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By Bob Harper
27th Oct 2014 14:36

I disagree with Xero

@Gary - Great that high street firms are now competing with KPMG.

I don't agree there is enough "opportunity for everyone to take part".

The simpler work will move to online firms like Crunch or low cost homeworkers. Firms of accountants (with employees) need to add value but I estimate only 20% of SMEs want this type of service.

The early movers into added value will win. 

Bob Harper

The More Network and Crunchers Accountants

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By Gimlet2008
28th Oct 2014 14:10

xero
So KPMG after the local pub accounts now and takeaway etc. I'd better up my game with the added value then. At the moment they think that's something i calculate every quarter for them.....

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By Gimlet2008
30th Oct 2014 09:56

What does the KPMG fee cover ?

Does the fee cover book keeping or are they just charging £180 for the software. Is it clear ? 

Would seem hard for them to do very much for this with their overheads. Presumably they charge more for year end and C/ Tax etc.  ? 

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By Bob Harper
31st Oct 2014 09:14

I suppose

@Andrew - and I suppose your risk is that people will do their own tax using the cash accounting scheme.

Bob Harper

 

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Replying to DJKL:
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By AndrewV12
31st Oct 2014 10:17

Risk

my risk is that people will do their own tax using the cash accounting scheme, however once they delivered their tax return and have incurred a large tax bill, they will be on the phone to me.

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By Gimlet2008
31st Oct 2014 10:12

Clients may not want to do own tax even if they can..

 

I think there is a risk that some clients might want to do their own tax, I have known  one or two who have tried  but never any self employed to date. There Revenue are doing a good marketing job for Accountants - still sending confusing  letters out in in nasty brown envelopes, helplines that don't pick up and talking penalties at every opportunity for the slightest thing. Not many people have the stomach for the horror that is dealing with HMRC in self employed land...

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By Bob Harper
31st Oct 2014 10:20

Good luck

@Gimlet - it will be interesting to see what the new breed of business owners do who use computers to do their school work.

My guess is that they will look online for support and use technology rather than a local service provider.

Bob Harper

More and Crunchers

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By Play Accountancy
17th Nov 2014 17:55

Smaller pratices do have an upper hand

Small practices that feel doomed by KPMG's entry into the SME market at competitive rates should think outside the box. Other than their big name and huge marketing campaign, where is their disadvantage to smaller practices? Having started my career there, I'm intimate with how the Big 4 model works. Even if they intentionally serve the SME sector at a loss (just think that their junior staff will typically charge out at £100 p/hr to cover overheads), their natural attrition of staff is much higher, so turnover is inevitable. This may be defendable with larger corporate clients, but somehow I doubt SME businesses will tolerate having to deal with new faces, names and people each reporting period. I've been on the other side of this, it does become frustrating. Small businesses want to be a human, not a number, and treated like so.  For some, opting a smaller or mid-sized firm would be their preference to compensate for this. The longevity & continuity with their clients is where smaller owner-managed firm will have the upper hand. So it's not all doom & gloom, as sometimes your biggest weaknesses are nothing more than strengths gone awol, in the wrong environment.

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By ollyevans
18th Nov 2014 09:25

raise your game

I think this could be a good thing for the accounting market.  KPMG offer clarity - this is what you get, and this is the price.  Practices that already do this are doing well.  They know their market and deliver what is needed.

I think business owners will be attracted to KPMG because business owners don't understand what accountants do - so they go with a 'safe' buy.  I think they will come to regret it, as the price is relatively high (£240 pm for a ltd I understand) and any 'extras' like dividends will be priced as a project.  That sounds like expensive advice, for something that most accountants would expect to do as part of the package.

So folks, be bold, market what you have to offer, price fairly (not cheaply), you will attract clients.

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By Gimlet2008
05th Feb 2015 14:29

Any updates
Has anyone one heard any more about this. Also I don't want to get told off about being slightly off topic but how does everyone deal with raising invoices for 15 pounds a time or whatever for the software. Presumably it's okay to bundle it all in.

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