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By Scott McLiver, PwC
If you were to ask people a few years ago how they would sum up the relationship they had with their tax and accounting adviser, they’d probably say “stressful”. But technology has changed, and with it the way clients access their financial data. Scott McLiver explains how the relationship between adviser and client has also evolved, becoming more strategic and collaborative.
It’s not that long ago that handing over a shoebox full of receipts to their accountant was standard practice for many Kiwis.
For the shoebox owner it was a stressful experience and it was hardly ideal financial management. The tax accountant wasn’t the biggest fan of this method either – they used to spend hours going through pieces of paper and manually entering them into a computer system on your behalf. It didn’t feel like an efficient use of either our time or your money.
This all started to change when technology and, subsequently, cloud accounting came into the picture. Shoeboxes full of receipts turned into systems with manual input, and have now evolved into cloud data feeds straight into your accounting system.
Tasks that used to take a bookkeeper hours could be done in minutes through the digital automation of things like data entry and bank reconciliations. The time that used to be taken up (and charged) on menial tasks was freed up, and we could spend it more productively for the benefit of our clients. Instead of locking ourselves away for hours at a time to manually process information, we could call you up fairly close to balance date and say: “Yes, the annual tax return is done; now let’s look at your cash flow projections for the next few months.”
Fast forward a couple more years and things have again changed quickly – and for the better – thanks to data. Advisers are now finding that they can be much more proactive in the way they interact with their clients. As a result, that phone call becomes more insightful and valuable, as we can check your finances in advance and instead say: “Here are your cash flow projections for the next few months – and here’s what we can do about them.”
Singing from the same
digital hymn sheet
But with so much financial information split across various cloud-based tools and apps, individuals and small-business owners were heading towards the same position as they were with their shoebox of receipts, only this time it was in an automated, digital form.
This led to the creation of PwC’s Next software, which has been designed for individuals and businesses to see all the key information that’s relevant to them and kept on various cloud programs – like Xero, MYOB, Hedgebook, and Shoeboxed – in just the one place and in real time.
Financial and wealth management has never been more complex, and businesses never more susceptible to disruption. Advisers have long had the potential to add more value to their services, whether it’s for individual tax purposes or to help people run their businesses – they just needed the time and the tools to do so.
We focused on making the information that people found important visible and actionable, not just to the user, but to their adviser, too.
With one set of highly customisable information, both adviser and individual can work in harmony, although this type of interaction is still in its infancy. The data is available, as is the technology to manage it; the next step is to see this deeper relationship come to life.
Taking it to the next level
Advisers have to learn to operate efficiently in this new environment, where cloud-based tools have made parts of financial management self-service for some people. Users can now see key information, such as their current financial position and their best-performing assets, and act independently should they want to.
Advisers also have to start demonstrating their value by being proactive, insightful and really ‘in’ their client’s portfolio or business. They need to be able to contact their clients as soon as they see a risk or opportunity, and advise them – on cash flow, buying or selling an asset based on market movements, or how to best structure their tax.
A deeper relationship is good for both parties. Just think of the discussions you can have with your adviser when you’re not simply going over the annual tax return. Together, you can start planning for the future instead of just going over the past.
You might even be able to use your shoebox for shoes!