I often reflect on the changes that I’ve seen as an Accountant in practice over the last 20-30 years and which ones I think have had the most obvious and direct effect on my ability to help my clients.
Technological changes have been significant and yes, I can actually remember using floppy disks and I audited companies that used tapes as a storage media, but most technology changes have helped the accountant to be more productive and profitable and not directly the client.
I can run payroll, auto-enrolment, RTI for clients from a system that pro-rata costs less than my original IBM typewriter, I can produce Accounts, Tax Returns and file them from a system that basically cost less than my first Compaq portable computer but have they directly affected my clients?
I can recall the days, not that long ago when clients would call or come in asking to raise finance for some new stock or for a short-term cash flow problem or even more grandiose for the purchase of some major piece of plant.
At this point my heart would sink because it meant getting in touch with their bank and basically going cap in hand to try and get the very necessary funds. Firstly we had to get the accounts right up to date and as time was always of the essence that meant putting in extra hours, then we had to produce cash flow forecasts as well as projected P & L Accounts and Balance Sheets usually for one year coupled with detailed aged analysed lists of Debtors and Creditors. The debtors list we knew would be immediately discounted by the bank by about 20% as they put it “for bad debts” despite protestations from us and the client and the creditors would be increased by about 15% for “late received invoices” Don’t get me started on the reductions applied to valid stock figures for what was always called “Old and slow moving items.”
All this happened within the first day of the application and then we had to WAIT which went on and on and on. Calls were made, calls were rebuffed, letters were sent and no reply received except for the usual “we are looking at your request and will get back to you as soon as we can” We would point out that the date the money was needed was fast approaching and we had heard nothing. This then resulted in reams of questions based on the cash flows and data usually asking for more up to date lists as the data provided was already one month or more past as if it was our fault.
We maybe got the funds, sometimes we didn’t, we rarely got all the funds we applied for and the client got a big bill from us which in all honesty was not enough based on how much time was involved and when the funds were refused we knew full well that getting our money was going to take even longer than usual and we had to sit opposite a client and provide answers to a never ending chorus of “Why” and “But”
On many occasions the lack of funds resulted in the demise of the client and for no good reason.
This has led me to say that the best single change has been the availability of funds via lending platforms such as the award winning iwoca, whereby decisions are made in moments not months, information is made available by directly hooking up the accounting records to the platform and real bank activity can be reviewed and forecast by them and the client’s credit history is established almost instantly.
Now, I can arrange much needed finance in next to no time and at minimal cost to my client, and with negligible rejections and you know what for me this is one of the best things to happen to my practice, for my clients and for me personally.