According to a report by ConvergenceCoaching, approximately half of all accounting firms in North America had incorporated a remote work routine into their practice before the global pandemic hit. As the lockdown rules went full force in March 2020, most of the firms went fully remote, which has accelerated the digitization of paperwork and forced all or most client interactions to be done virtually. Now the world is adapting to a new business reality – the future is here.
Even as restrictions begin to ease, the past year and a half has taught us that we need to be prepared to revert to a virtual model at any time. Further, the model allows for greater flexibility when serving clients who may not be located in a geographically convenient location to meet face-to-face at any point. Given that remote work and virtual meetings are here to stay, what does it all mean in an accounting context, and how has it changed the accountant/client relationship, if at all?
1. Accountants are (almost) tech experts now. We have a strong technical infrastructure, and we are not afraid to use it.
Most accounting firms have adopted cloud-based tax and accounting tools that allow accountants to perform their work from virtually any internet-connected device. Most of the cloud accounting software is similar to traditional accounting software, only the cloud tools are accessed and hosted on remote servers via SaaS (Software as a Service) provider. The data is stored and secured on a platform, and all application functions are performed on the cloud as well, as opposed to via the accountant’s desktop. This has made accountants efficient by avoiding lengthy installs and maintenance of software, and allows for other team members, fellow collaborators, to access the files when needed.
2. Collaboration has doubled and accountants are twice as efficient.
With virtual accounting teams, there is much less face-to-face interaction among the team members as well as clients; efficient collaboration is key here. The accounting suite of products used by accounting firms almost always shares the same database and does not require any manual syncing between them because the data is shared automatically in real-time. This means when the accountant is asking the client for a document, usually it is uploaded via an online portal, which is connected to the cloud. As soon as the document is saved, it’s ready to be populated into a tax return.
What this means for our clients: faster and better collaboration. One of the most significant benefits of the cloud is seamless data sharing, which helps automate data entry and reporting. Client files are all managed in one module and no paperwork is lost.
3. Internal controls and procedures are much stronger and data security is number one priority.
Being on a “cloud” or working remotely means more responsibility. Virtual accountants leverage the latest technology and have developed strong internal controls and security measures that protect client’s privacy, data, and allow for better business continuity. Virtual accounting firms have developed specific policies and procedures for information security and sensitive data handling. This means:
- multi-factor user authentication for employees and clients, including strong password policies
- encryption of all sensitive emails and files and encrypted VPN (Virtual Private Network) when accessing a remote desktop
- anti-virus and anti-malware software are installed
So now that accountants are using this advanced technology, the challenge shifts to communication, culture, and seeing clients.
E-mail-based communication along with easy upload systems made it easier and faster for many clients to provide their information, and for accountants to complete their files. In the old days, accountants used to go through piles and piles of paper trails to locate just one piece of information. Now that accountants are more efficient, they have more time to dedicate to client planning and communication.
Digitizing communication made it possible to meet at any convenient time, and even see each other face-to-face, virtually that is. This also means clients can meet with us no matter where they may be located physically. This type of flexibility allows for efficient communication; efficiency and productivity meet the “client first now” approach.
Contact McCay Duff LLP in Ottawa for Experienced Financial Guidance
At McCay Duff LLP, our team of financial planning and accounting professionals has worked to transition seamlessly to a remote-based service model. While we welcome the opportunity to resume in-person meetings as well, we have developed protocols to make our service more flexible and adaptable than it has ever been. Scheduling virtual face-to-face time with your accountant has never been easier. Our client satisfaction rating reflects our focus on ensuring our service model is the best it can possibly be.
The financial team at McCay Duff LLP in Ottawa will review your particular circumstances and recommend a plan to maximize wealth both now and in the future. To learn more about how we can assist you, please contact us online or by telephone at 613-236-2367 or toll-free at 1-800-267-6551.