The answer to whether it’s the latest and greatest new trend is murky at best—providers certainly seem to be appending the term to their offerings more frequently. And the classic muddling of the definition and related expectations is occurring at warp speed as well. Many indicators point to another flash-in-the-pan buzzword to be adopted, and subsequently corrupted, by the sales and marketing brains of these service providers. And yet, there is some merit to the idea of pursuing client accounting services for your business—if you can figure out what it is that you’re looking for that is.
From our vantage point, client accounting services are currently being defined as anything along the spectrum of routine bookkeeping services, to the incorporation of technology automation and AI within those services, to a full-fledged layer of advisory services built on top of bookkeeping and controller services.
As such, we’re going to dissect each possible definition of client accounting services so that when you’re exploring the option, you know what to expect—and ask for—so that you end up with what you want and need.
Outsourced Bookkeeping Services as Client Accounting Services
At the core, all quality accounting services should be clean, timely, and reliable financial information. This is inherently boiled down to your basic bookkeeping services offerings. AR, AP, payroll, job costing, invoicing, deferred revenue, prepaid expenses, and every other function of your daily bookkeeping transactions and record keeping should serve as the foundation for Client Accounting Services. Simply, if your bookkeeping isn’t accurate, anything you build on top of it will be unreliable and, ultimately, a waste of your time and money to pursue.
But are outsourced bookkeeping services—or just bookkeeping if you’re managing that internally—actually just client accounting services?
If you’re interviewing a potential client accounting services provider and what they’re offering is akin to “just bookkeeping services”, you’re experiencing the use of CAS as a buzzword, not as a true service. Our advice? Don’t waste your time and keep looking.
Outsourced Controller Services as Client Accounting Services
Here’s where the waters start to get a little less clear. Are outsourced controller services the same as client accounting services? Well, maybe.
Controller services run the gamut from reviewing your monthly close to managing your budgeting and forecasting. Your controller goes beyond basic bookkeeping services, from reviewing missing customer job reports and class identifiers during monthly reviews to reviewing your P&L for trends, anomalies, and profitability on a company-wide as well as a job/class basis.
In some definitions, this may be what you’re looking for when you’re considering client accounting services. Not simply “doing the books” but reviewing for accuracy and insights. Which is certainly a component of client accounting services. But is it all you can expect from CAS?
No. There is still more you should expect if you’re going to engage client accounting services.
Advisory and Consulting Services as a Component of Client Accounting Services
From our perspective, true Client Accounting Services require quality outsourced bookkeeping services. Accurate financials are the cornerstone upon which all else relies. Then a knowledgeable and capable CPA to review and provide insight via outsourced controller services is the next layer, compounding the effectiveness of your accurate financials with oversight and partnership. But that isn’t all—there is a third layer that rounds out the full picture of what client accounting services should be.
True client accounting services align the strategy of the business with your goals for your company. They set goals, milestones, strategies, and plans into place and then monitor, adjust and advise throughout the plan.
For example, your business takes on considerable growth, in turn requiring improvements in controls over cash flow management and profitability. Client accounting services that should be implemented include:
- Monitoring budget-to-actual to keep the plan on track
- Benchmarking industry KPIs (key performance indicators)
- Benchmarking to common size financial statements
- Cash flow forecasting
Bookkeeping, Controller, and Advisory Services Make Up Client Accounting Services
True client accounting services layer daily bookkeeping, monthly controller oversight, and ongoing, strategic advisory and consulting to create a fully integrated approach to leveraging your financial management and data into actionable strategies that give you control and direction over your business. Businesses that benefit from this approach are often those setting courses to scale in the coming years and want to make sure they have the full picture at their disposal and the support of experts that can guide them.