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The digital Future for Accountants

Sam O’Connor explains how emerging technologies will make your life easier in the digital future.

Covid-19 is driving the world to digital, but can accountants use this opportunity to increase margin? It’s likely that the shift to digital that Covid-19 is creating for the UK’s smallest businesses hasn’t been fully realised. With our freedom of movement curtailed during lockdown, digital shopping and services have become part of everyday life.

The shift is seismic, with social events switching to Zoom even now lockdown is easing, over a quarter of the UK population expecting to shop online permanently and a 41.3% increase in online retail sales in July, compared with July 2019.

Accountants have been heroic in their levels of support for their clients during the crisis. Some have told me they’ve gone on working for clients despite wondering whether they will get paid. All in a day’s work for our profession, but where does the opportunity from digitisation lie for accountants?

At Coconut we think a lot about how we can increase margin for accountants. We’ve been working hard on bringing new technology to age-old challenges. We’re also working up some new ideas that might just pique your interest, too.

Eliminate Cloud Accounting, with Coconut’s Accountant Portal

Many people know that clients can open a current account with Coconut, and that serves new businesses well. But what about those that want to stick with their bank?

Since the beginning of 2020 our platform has been current-account agnostic, by combining Open Banking with our proprietary Accounting Intelligence technology. That means there’s no need to switch banks to use Coconut, so you can service all of your smallest clients through our Accountant Portal.

The Accountant Portal is a free tool that acts like a window to see all your client’s transactions and accounting information, like categories, receipts and notes, without cloud accounting. When you’re ready you can download the categorised transactions in a CSV ready for filing with your choice of software like Taxfiler or TaxCalc.

And, what’s more, your clients get receipt capture, invoicing, categorisation and P&L reporting in one easy-to-use tool, regardless of where they bank.

Digital MTD VAT submission, directly from our Accountant Portal

Many accountants already registered with us are asking for digital VAT submissions directly through our Accountant Portal (coming this year). If you have a VAT registered business, why would you need Cloud Accounting to just run VAT when this could be done through the Coconut Portal? Think of the bookkeeping savings this can make.

We’re excited to announce that this year we’re launching Accountant Portal VAT submission. It’s only going to be available through the Accountant Portal to start with, not in the app. Our data shows that most of those who are VAT registered use accountants, but also, we believe that businesses should use accountants, so we want to support this.

What’s on the horizon?

We also talk to a lot of accountants about the challenges they face, and so we’re currently working on a few concepts that will start increasing the power of our tools and help you keep costs down.

Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML): With money getting easier to move around digitally, for accountants, the KYC and AML processes have never been more important. However, with social distancing, it’s harder to sit in front of someone or share physical documents.

The good news is that it’s becoming ever easier to do all of your KYC and AML checks digitally, and we think building this feature into digital accounting solutions, like our Accountant Portal, is the natural next step.

We’re researching ways to make client onboarding for accountants quick, easy and digital by exposing our KYC process to our customers – after all, we’ve built a digital KYC and AML process for ourselves, so why not pass it on to you? What’s more, we want to help with ongoing checks, whether that’s PEP, sanctions or legal/regulatory warnings to ensure you’re never caught out.

Nudges and prompts for your customers: As Coconut provides a really slick app for your customers to help manage their business better, we have a direct channel to help you communicate with them. We want to put the power of smartphone nudges in your hands to make your work much easier.

Imagine a world where you could send a nudge or a question about a specific transaction, generating a notification on your client’s smartphone. They can quickly view the question and respond with and the history of the conversation will be captured in a timeline.

We think this will eliminate much of the back and forth with clients.

The future is digital, but that shouldn’t be difficult for accountants

At Coconut we’re working on giving your clients and your practice access to the latest technology, but in a way that’s not complicated or difficult to implement. We do this by talking to our accountant network regularly. If you want to share ideas or feedback, head over to getcoconut.com/accountant and you can sign up to our portal.

Because of our strong connection with the ICPA, all ICPA members can pass on a three-month free deal on Coconut’s Grow plan to their clients. Check out the ICPA member benefits page for details.

• Sam O’Connor, CEO, Coconut. Visit getcoconut.com/accountants for more information

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