First published in Accountants Daily on 12th July, 2019
As we see more accountants move from tax compliance and further into business advice, why aren’t we bringing personal tax and personal advice closer together?
There’s something very powerful when it comes to having a financial planner and an accountant collaborate around a single client, but it’s a significant mind shift for the way our industry operates — one that, simply put, is being driven by the power technology is giving us to look ahead with confidence. Both professions are now able to leverage up-to-date data to provide proactive business advice and tax compliance services.
But what is it that makes the best multidisciplinary firms succeed?
Considering the matter further, I’ve started looking at how other sectors collaborate around a single client — it couldn’t just be accountants and financial advisers that bring unique skill sets to collaborate around a shared client.
Naturally, I started looking at other personal experiences I’ve had. I am a primary carer of someone with complex needs. We’re very fortunate, but the mental load is hard. For the past seven years, we have had 10 disciplines, and we are at a current count of having 22 specialists involved. As a person with no medical qualifications, it was overwhelming and exhausting. Who knew what? When did we last see someone? What did that report say? How have things progressed over time?
Once we had accumulated a sufficient number of disciplines, we were referred into a paediatric clinic and our lives changed. We had a paediatrician whose primary role was to observe, review and coordinate all of the specialists.
Did I have fewer specialists to see? No. Did I have fewer appointments to go to? No. But what I did have was a key relationship with someone who had a view of everything and everyone. They provided the comfort of being the generalist who would review everyone’s reports, assess current progress and, if new problems came up, provide guidance and a connection to the specialist we may need.
All our specialists send their information to him, and I trust that he has the primary goal in mind.
So, as a client, I valued the following things:
- Having one person with an eye over everything. They hold the long-term relationship with our family and have our child’s overall health in mind.
- The openness of information. Sharing, re-sharing and holding the mental load of carrying a binder of each specialist’s latest reports, test results and appointment schedule is exhausting. By everyone updating the paediatrician, they had copies of everything and could share appropriately the case history and current status to new team members if we were referred.
- A person of trust to identify issues and create the connections to other team members.
So, how does this relate to a multidisciplinary finance team?
By understanding the value and reassurance of a multidisciplinary firm, how can we take the practical measures used by healthcare teams to deliver the same results for financial wellbeing as physical wellbeing?
- The primary concern is the care of the client. What are the client’s goals, and how will the team support them?
- Clear and transparent communication between team members.
- An established team leader, to whom they have a view of the whole client’s world and interactions.
- Professionals will be more familiar with one another’s activities and roles, thereby improving inter-professional communication.
- Clear roles and responsibilities for all team members, with ultimate accountability to the client with a communication protocol.
Transitioning an accounting business using the allied healthcare model requires a clear vision detailing why you want to be a customer-centric business. It also means you may need to upskill your team or find specialists to align yourself with. Next, mapping out the resources you need to change and setting an action plan will help your team prioritise workloads with business development. To get the ball rolling, incentivise the team to collaborate — rewarding cross-team meetings and making everyone publicly accountable to the vision are ways to keep things moving.
Once you’ve got the team, plan and goals in place, it helps to identify five ideal clients for your business, ones where you can deliver value to them across finance, accounting, financial planning and strategy.
Invite each client in, and be clear that you are inviting them in as they are an important client to you. Let them know you are bringing in another specialist to the meeting, as you value the specialist’s opinion.
For example, the accounting adviser might want to discuss the tax structure and would like the adviser in for a discussion around if there are any options they would consider exploring considering the current assets. This can open up a discussion around their goals and strategic planning. Or the financial planner might be doing a half-year review, and with a new investment option, wanted the accounting adviser to come in and discuss some high-level tax planning.
Once a client is interested in pursuing a broader relationship, present your proposal to the client with all the team members present. Clearly articulate back to the client their goals. Discuss who will be doing what role, to help the client meet those goals. Discuss who they will talk to, how the information will be shared across teams, and how you will use technology to ensure you are looking at a single view of the client’s financial world. Schedule an internal follow-up meeting before meeting with the client again, to ensure your team has all delivered to expectations and ensuring all information is shared internally. This way, you will have comfort that the team has executed on the client experience.
Having a multidisciplinary team can go a long way towards adding value to your clients’ financial worlds and modernising your firm so it continues to thrive well into the future.
By Sarah Pilling, Enterprise Partner and Enablement Manager, myprosperity