Episode 19 – Full-Spectrum Client Accounting Outsourcing Services

 
 
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Monumental changes are taking place in accounting and bookkeeping services these days, and automation is drastically changing the way the industry approaches these time-honored processes. But don’t go ditching your accountant just yet! In this episode of It Figures, CRI Partners Deanna Dibin and Martin Copeland discuss how even with the speed of change and information delivery that automation provides, people who can interpret the information that accounting systems provide matter even more now than they have in the past.


Intro:

From Carr, Riggs & Ingram, this is It Figures: The CRI Podcast, an accounting advisory and industry focused podcast for business and organization leaders, entrepreneurs, and anyone who is looking to go beyond the status quo.

Martin Copeland:

Hello, folks, I’m Martin Copeland. I’m a certified public accountant and a certified information technology professional. And I’m a partner in Carr, Riggs & Ingram’s Oneonta, Alabama office. I’ve been an accountant since 1981 and started life as an auditor with a national public accounting firm, moved to a role as an internal auditor and then controller with an international public corporation. And then I moved back to public accounting in the role as an outsource controller. And then over time, I also developed a specialty in implementing accounting software for our clients. And for the past three years, I’ve been helping lead CRI’s push to expand our client accounting services. And our guest today is Deanna Dibin, and she’s going to help us understand what client accounting services means. But first, Deanna, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Deanna Dibin:

Sure. I’m Deanna Dibin, I’m a partner out of the Nashville office. I’ve been in public accounting for over 18 years. My primary area is in tax. However, I do have also a concentration in client accounting services. Over the past 18 or so years, I helped small to medium sized businesses to set up county records from start-off phase to fully operational, or assist transition during the purchase or sale of an existing business. My services also include training of clients’ employees, controller services, budgeting and forecasting, cash management, and other special projects based on client needs.

Martin Copeland:

Great. Well, our topic today is full spectrum CAS services. So not just simply CAS services, but let’s start with what CAS services means. What does that mean to you when I say CAS services?

Deanna Dibin:

So, CAS stands for client accounting services. It is also known as outsource accounting services. It typically includes your traditional bookkeeping, which is bank reconciliation, posting of journal entries. It could also include monitoring of accounts payable, entering bills, paying bills, reporting 1099 at the end of the year. It could also be accounts receivable creation, so invoicing and the receiving of payments. Sometimes we are also handling the sales tax reporting for clients or payroll processing and monitoring.

Martin Copeland:

Great. And so I’ve also, though, heard, and in fact, listening to your introduction, I’ve heard CAS described as client advisory services. And you mentioned some of those, but what services do you provide that fall in the definition of advisory? And tell us a little bit about those.

Deanna Dibin:

So, training our client personnel to use accounting technology would be one. Assisting clients to understand why accounting controls and processes are important for the entity. Assistance with cash management and helping clients with budgeting and forecasting. And finally, maybe acting as an outside controller or CFO depending on our client’s need.

Martin Copeland:

So maybe what would that entail, that job?

Deanna Dibin:

That job would be at a higher-level advisory service, where a client may have an internal accounting bookkeeper or department, and they would outsource the function of controller to do either a month-end close or oversee the accounting department and produce valuable data insights for better management decisions.

Martin Copeland:

So, management information-

Deanna Dibin:

Correct.

Martin Copeland:

… primarily then, in addition to the task you actually describe. Well, today I hear a lot about robotic processes or bots, artificial intelligence, hear the automation thrown around, especially in terms of how those tools may affect accounting and bookkeeping. So tell me what ways you see those tools affecting your clients?

Deanna Dibin:

So, robots will not replace accountants. They will assist in the process. So the accounting process has not changed. So the automation and the robots that are being introduced, they are assisting to accelerate some of the processes, but they’re not doing the complete process at a hundred percent. They may cover 40-50% of the process, or maybe more, depending on the process. So having said that, the role of the accountant will not become obsolete. It will transition into the advisory role and focus on the robot’s results. So we will focus more on growth and better ways to invest and spend money.

Martin Copeland:

Right. So while the robot has capability to provide qualitative and quantitative data, you’re saying humans still have to interpret that.

Deanna Dibin:

Correct. So the human is still going to be responsible for determining how does that data impact the results for a business.

Martin Copeland:

Right. So I’m glad to know that I’m not becoming obsolete. Nor are you. But it’s an exciting time in the accounting industry to see these changes. It’s exciting for me. I confess to being a bit of a tech nerd. And so it is interesting to see the changes. But another area that I know we help in, or I think we do, I’ve heard clients describe challenges in finding qualified personnel to fill in-house bookkeeping and accounting roles. So have your clients expressed the same concern?

Deanna Dibin:

Absolutely. It’s a continuous challenge to find qualified, trained individuals that are able to take on bookkeeping responsibilities. Automation helps quite a bit with that, but also this is where client accounting services could come in and help businesses to be that outsource accounting department.

Martin Copeland:

Now with the changes though, that knowledge of that automation is going to be really important, right? It seems like it should be.

Deanna Dibin:

Yes.

Martin Copeland:

Yeah. So I think I hear you saying then, that your staff, our staff, the CRI staff would have that understanding of the technology and then be able to apply that accounting knowledge, the advisory knowledge, on top of that technology and really help our clients run their business. Right?

Deanna Dibin:

Correct.

Martin Copeland:

And I know I hear you saying that we take care of most of the functions, or we can take care of most of the functions for our clients, but does that mean we would necessarily take care of all the functions for our clients? Are we in every case looking to take the whole set of services?

Deanna Dibin:

So, client accounting services is a different type of service altogether? It is not all or nothing. It is tailored on each client’s individual needs. So it could be that the client would like to process accounts receivable, in-house but outsource that payable function and payroll processing, or vice versa. It could be that they need budgeting and forecasting help, and they will outsource or get help with that. It could be that they only need the sales tax function to be outsourced. So there’s not one approach that is being applied to every client. Every single client accounting service client has a different level of service depending on what they need.

Martin Copeland:

And how do you figure out what a client needs? What would your approach be?

Deanna Dibin:

So, generally in the very first consultation, there is a lot of questions that are being asked how they operate. And honestly, the number one question that I typically ask is what are you struggling with and how can we help? That usually opens up a list of items, what they would like to be handled. And a lot of the times it could be a very specific top three items. It could be, “Oh, I would like for you to handle all of it so I can concentrate my efforts in growing my business.”

Martin Copeland:

Great. That’s a perfect approach. That’s something that I like to do too, and that you would do that too. I know how passionate you are about helping your clients, and I think there’s so many of us at CRI that have that same passion and really want to see our clients succeed. I know a lot of our professionals really like tax and can help our clients with tax. You mentioned you’ve got that background. We have auditors, and I have that background, and those are important clients. But really seeing a business or an entity of any can succeed…

I got to tell you this. One of the reasons that I even got into accounting, my background is my family had a business and I helped them run that business when I was a teenager. Too young, actually, in some cases, to do some of the things I did, but I share that passion and I share that with our clients. And I think there’s so many of us here at CRI that do that. But there is an area that I know concerns our clients, because we’ve been sitting here talking about technology and using technology, and how technology will help perform the tasks and handle the transactions that we deal with in accounting. But it seems like every day, there’s some new story highlighting the vulnerability of computer systems. So what’s your take? Are computerized accounting systems becoming more vulnerable?

Deanna Dibin:

I would say no. If anything, most of the cloud accounting softwares have very high-level security measures. The backing-up of the data for the recovery purposes is much easier. And the add-on automation just creates a lot of efficiencies, or not hiring an internal IT person to be sure that you are backing up the systems data, that you keeping up with the hardware. Everything is done outside of your office and at the levels that are extremely secure.

Martin Copeland:

So you’re not advising your clients to just move back to manual books and processes, I gather?

Deanna Dibin:

Absolutely not.

Martin Copeland:

Right. Exactly. And I agree with that. In my past role as a technician, I’ve had to help many clients who lost their data, and much of that work is gone today. By moving the backend, moving those pieces of data into much more secure, much more robust, hardened data-centers that are maintained by the highest-level technical folks that exist today, as well as the technology that helps back that up to keep the bad actors away from our accounting data. And our accounting data is so important to our clients. So maybe just to summarize, can you just bring all of this back together and tell us what you think about client accounting services?

Deanna Dibin:

So, starting your own business or managing an accounting department can be challenging. We can help by providing a dedicated team of accounting professionals to process transactions and provide valuable insights on data. This approach greatly assist our clients to make better management decisions and frees our clients to do things that they’re most passionate about.

Martin Copeland:

And I absolutely agree with you, and that is the passion of all of us here at Carr, Riggs & Ingram.

Outro:

If you want more CRI insights or interested in learning about our firm, please visit our website at cricpa.com. Thanks for listening to this episode of It Figures, the CRI Podcast. You can subscribe to It Figures on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you prefer to listen to your podcasts. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a review.