Outsourcing allows firms to innovate
By Christopher Niesche

For Stephen Dawson, CEO and founder of fintech start-up Grapple, outsourcing the finance function to an accounting firm allows him and his team to focus on the actual business of growing the business.

Grapple is a peer-to-peer lending start-up which allows businesses to borrow against invoices owing to them by connecting them with investors looking for returns. It operates in a similar way to marketplace personal loan provider Society One and in fact uses the same matching technology, Clearmatch.

Uniquely, Grapple can use the invoices to create a flexible line of credit facility for its customers, which means they only borrow as much as they need.

The fintech draws on trusted expertise from innovative accounting firm Mazars Australia to take care of its daily transactional finance needs, up to strategic advice.

“It really just allows us personally to focus on growing the business,” Dawson says.

“We have that peace of mind that we’re fully compliant and have real-time information to make those strategic decisions while not having to deal with the day-to-day or the monthly reporting and compliance regulations.”

Without the service, Grapple would probably have to take on a full-time finance worker, which would be a drain on its resources. Dawson also appreciates the flexibility of the service. “They can scale it up and down depending on how we’re going. If we go really well, they come with us.”

Matt Ashley, a business advisory and outsourcing partner at Mazars, is seizing the opportunities technological disruption is bringing to the accounting profession and across the wider business community.

Ashley, a chartered accountant, says technology is changing how the firm works in two different ways.

Streamlining processes

The first is it is allowing Mazars, which is one of the country’s most successful newer “start-up” firms (less than five years of operation), to be more efficient by automating and streamlining as many processes as possible.

Ashley says one of the major problems of the past was that data was stored in different systems which didn’t “talk” to each other and so had to be manually keyed in, taking up time and introducing the scope for error, but much of this now happens automatically.

Likewise, a program such as Receipt Bank allows accountants to scan a receipt or an invoice and the data is automatically input into the accounting system, rather than needing to be manually processed.

Accountants can also take information from cloud-based accounting programs, such as MYOB, Sage and Xero, and automatically populate a tax return. This development in particular reduces the amount of bread-and-butter compliance work which clients will seek from firms, but Ashley says it doesn’t mean compliance is dead. Accountants will still need to check that the work has been done properly.

He further says of the technology: “What it also does give you is the opportunity to review the data so you’re not just reviewing it purely from a BAS [Business Activity Statement] perspective or income tax but from a business perspective. You can see how a business is performing because you’re actually looking at the whole P&L and balance sheet.”

This is the opportunity for accounting practices and is the second way in which Mazars is using technology, Ashley says, of the firm which has topped the list of “start-up” firms by revenue in the AFR Top 100 Accounting Firms 2019 survey.

The majority of firms surveyed seem to be recognising the opportunities provided by technology.

Ninety-one per cent of practices said “cloud computing for clients” had delivered positive disruption. Positive disruption was also high for automation (86 per cent) and cloud computing for the firm (84 per cent).

“What technology has been able to do is give more real-time information, which then helps us accountants be able to give the clients a lot more meaningful kinds of information and advice which should hopefully be greater help for their business,” Ashley says.

“It gives you the chance to provide some advice: ‘Here are some things we have seen in relation to how your business is going. Have you thought about this or noticed this here? It might be an area of concern. Have you guys thought about that?’ It’s letting us provide a lot more value-add.”

Mazars is drawing technology trends together by offering clients a virtual CFO service.

“It’s meant that for us as a business, we’re then able to really enter that space and be able to act as the entire finance function for a lot of our clients and also international clients where we may become either some or all of that finance function,” Ashley says.

“What they get then, they get basically a bookkeeper, a payroll assistant, they get a management accountant, all the way up to a CFO, but they’re not having to pay six people’s worth of salaries.”

Kerry Agiasotis, executive vice president Asia Pacific, of accounting software provider Sage, says along with providing business advice, accountants can use cloud-based software to perform a wider range of services for their clients. For instance, the recent introduction of single touch payroll by the federal government provides the opportunity for accountants to take over the payroll function of their clients.

Agiasotis says there are a huge number of small business owners with low levels of financial management ability and accountants have the opportunity to provide financial acumen and advice to them. Accountants can draw on programs like Sage to advise clients around blind spots they might have about their cash flow and charge for that advice, for instance.

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here