Countingup bank opens for business

Tim Fouracre (left) introduces his new online banking service, CountingUp
CountingUp launch_2018
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Countingup, the bank that thinks it’s an accountant (or vice versa) opened its portals for business just before the Easter weekend.

Founder Tim Fouracre, pictured above addressing a gathering of customers, prospects, partners and press in West London on Wednesday 29 March, said that even when he qualified as an accountant with KPMG, he always thought the separation of the bank from accounting was wrong. The process of reconciliation so beloved by accountants was just a hassle for sole traders and small business owners.

“It’s going to become especially difficult with Making Tax Digital – it will be four times worse for you if you don’t have a compliant system.”

When it opens up its digital doors in earnest after the Easter holiday, Countingup will be focusing its offering on the vast pool of 4.3m one-person businesses and the wider population of small, limited companies. The digital service is built on top of banking infrastructure provided by PrePay Solutions, which supports a network of cash points in convenience stores and post offices around the country.

Countingup’s big selling point is based around cost and ease of use. Once a business is depositing more than £750 a month, there is a flat monthly fee of £2.95 to maintain the account. There are no transaction charges unless cash or foreign currency are involved. Each cash deposit or withdrawal will incur a £1 transaction fee from post offices, or 2.50% per payment via PayPoint. Foreign transactions are charged at 2.75% of their value.

There are a number of conditions around the service, such as a £60,000 deposit limit for sole traders and a £120,000 limit for limited companies. And outgoings are generally restricted by a £10,000 ceiling.

When one accountant asked how Countingup handled cheques, Fouracre replied, “We don’t do cheques. We are a digital challenger bank.”

Instead Countingup is designed to handle payments and receipts and tax submissions from its mobile app. The bank boasts it can set up a new business account within five minutes (including carrying out online know your client checks).

“In the time you’re sitting on hold with one of the big banks, you could set up your account,” said London accountant Charlie Carne, who had tried out the Countingup service.

Once a customer is set up and incurring expenses on their Countingup card, the incoming transactions are categorised by the bank to match the expense headings that HMRC includes on the self employed tax return (and online MTD reporting portal).

While Countingup might appear to be taking work away from accountants, it is relying on practitioners to recommend the service to their clients. If authorised by their clients, accountants can have access to their data and be able to recategorise transactions if necessary.

What’s in it for accountants?

Responding to a “what’s in it for me?” question from one practitioner, Fouracre said: “Clients will have an amazing experience. They won’t need to worry about bookkeeping and accounting. And there will be a discount for accountants.

“Low value work for accountants is going away. We’re taking away the compliance legwork so that you don’t have to worry about it either.”

A lot of work needs to be done to flesh out the offering and add new features to support accountants who use the product.

The limited company version of the app was released last week, but the development roadmap includes enhancements to support receipt scanning, issuing quotes and invoices, generating profit and loss and tax liability reports, and filing corporation tax.

Fouracre vowed that all the necessary work would be completed within the year, and that CountingUp would be ready to handle VAT returns under Making Tax Digital when the new system becomes mandatory in April 2019.

About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight

AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.

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05th Apr 2018 11:23

Hi John

A few observations

The fees are expensive for a small business.

I am not sure why accountants would recommend them or even be a partner. As I think accountants are realising all the software companies are using us as mugs to do their marketing, the discounts are not worth the paper they are written on for most software companies.

Are they GDPR compliant and how will they use the information.

Are they a bank? Regulated the same way.

What safety procedures and policies do they have to protect business money if they go under?

Are they providing a protection Guarantee?

All customers will need to have consent from their customers as counting Up would be holding information on your customers. Potentially selling and misusing data to credit companies.

And lastly not a software point, it may be the picture but Professionalism does not scream at me. I admit this is a women thing. Why can,t all the software companies buy the staff proper Tshirts with a proper cut instead of the sack types if anything to give the staff pride. It makes a difference, I remember how nice it was in Glasgow 2014 games as a volunteer that is the Tshirts were a nice cut no matter what size you were. It just comes across as a lack of attention and care and sloppy from all software companies.

Thanks (3)
to sarah douglas
05th Apr 2018 12:31

Good afternoon Sarah

Thanks for your comment. I thought it might be useful for me to reply so I can provide a bit more clarity.

In terms of being expensive we think our fees are pretty competitive in comparison to other business current account providers. Here’s a link to a comparison we have on our website. https://countingup.com/pricing.html

In terms of our relationships with accountants we are absolutely committed to our accountant partner programme being a genuine partnership that provides value to both you and your clients. Having met many thousands of accountants over the last decade if we approached it any other way it would be us that would be the mugs!

You raise an important point about the security of data and client monies. I can assure you we take our obligations in these areas very seriously.

As is common with other challenger banks the Countingup business current account is an e-money account provided by PPS, a trading name of Prepay Technologies Ltd which is an electronic money institution authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 (FRN 900010) for the issuing of electronic money. PPS holds an amount equivalent to the money in Countingup current accounts in a safeguarding account with Barclays Bank PLC which gives customers protection against insolvency.

As for the t-shirts I will bow to your far better informed opinion on this. I would also add that as a Welshman I think our Commonwealth Games t-shirts at the opening ceremony probably trump anything in terms of bad taste.

I appreciate I’m putting my head above the parapet by replying but I’m happy to try and answer any other questions the AccountingWeb audience may have. My e-mail is [email protected] if anybody has any specific points they’d like to discuss.

Andrew
Chief Commercial Officer - Countingup

Thanks (1)
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to AndrewGarvey
05th Apr 2018 13:11

Hi Andrew

Thank you for replying and yes it was useful. Can I ask if you could cover GDPR and the companies policies on data and consent?

The bank information is useful. I was not just picking on you in terms partnership programs but a general feeling talking to colleagues.

Lastly, I may have bad taste then but I really liked the Commonwealth Welsh team Tshirts really colourful and could be seen on the telly really well and twitter. Everyone gave out about the Scottish opening ceremony 2014 outfits but at the closing ceremony and on TV they looked really good.

Scotland got a bronze medal this morning he beat the Brownlee Brothers. I am a volunteer for the Euro championships 2018 Glasgow. I wait to see what the T-Shirt is like. Hope all the UK teams and Isle of Man do well.

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to sarah douglas
09th Apr 2018 14:39

Hi Sarah

I have an answer for you regarding data as promised.

Countingup has to comply with the EU GDPR when it comes into force, just like any organisation handling personal data.

As a new company, we’ve been able to ensure all our systems and processes are ready for GDPR from the outset. All customer data is encrypted, all access to it is tightly controlled and logged.

We also have to abide by the Anti Money Laundering regulations, which in some cases take precedence over aspects of the GDPR.

There is some more info in the links below.

If you have any more questions please do let me know.

Best

Andrew

https://countinguphq.com/privacy-64d50a40e53e
https://countinguphq.com/terms-38f70b97953a

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05th Apr 2018 14:35

Hi Sarah

I'm going to be away from my desk until Monday so I'll get a substantive response to you around GDPR and Data Security then if that's OK.

Your comments about "partner programme fatigue" reflects what I sense as well. Perhaps sometimes us software vendors forget that accountants are generally very busy with businesses of their own to run. I promise to try and avoid that!

Great result for the Scottish guy. Beating the Brownlees takes some doing. I agree best of luck to all of the Home Nations. I'm looking forward to the Rugby 7s.

Best

Andrew

PS I'm afraid I can't be as forgiving about those Welsh shirts as you!

Thanks (1)
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05th Apr 2018 16:46

Sounds attractive in some ways, but doesn't seem to offer an awful lot more than software with direct bank feeds and may well have limited reporting, editing, etc.

Also, slightly concerned that clients might decide that they can just 'do it themselves' and that the bank might market as such. Doesn't really affect me because clients appreciate the added value I provide, but might mean less proactive accountants may not be willing to recommend it.

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