New technology and automation driving efficiency for accounting firms

3 min read

New platform technologies may be the key to time savings for accounting firms managing the administrative task load of self-managed superannuation funds for their clients.

Advances in cloud technology, and greater integration with accounting and administration software, are creating greater efficiency for those accountants looking for ways to maximise their time with clients.

Evaluating the costs of administrative time

Research by BT and Investment Trends released in February 2018 found that SMSF accountants typically reported spending a full day of work annually on admin related tasks for each SMSF client1. For some accountants, this could amount to more than a third of the working year, taking up a large proportion of time, which could have been used to focus on other higher value client service activities.

Recognising the cost of this time, many accountants surveyed believed that automation could reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks by 50%. In particular, accountants overwhelmingly felt that time savings could be generated by automating recurring back end tasks and three-quarters of those accountants from automating front-end tasks.

One in five recognised outsourcing SMSF administration as an option for time saving and efficiency, with these accountants focused on accessing integration with their software, and quality data feeds to avoid replication.

Administration efficiency through platform technology

Just over a quarter of accountants’ SMSF clients are administered on investment platforms, but accountants using them perceive clear benefits, ranking the top three reasons to be reporting, access to wholesale funds and ease of administration.

Those accountants considering a new SMSF software solution are looking in particular for a cloud-based solution, minimal manual processing and a wide range of data feeds. The strong interest in cloud-based solutions indicates their awareness of the full potential of this technology to offer integration, visibility and quality data feeds, not least their hopes for easier accessibility and access to timely information.

Cloud based solutions have created opportunities for integration, collaboration and more comprehensive services in platforms. For example, high tech platform Panorama (powered by BT) offers a whole of wealth view through integration with supported accounting software, comprehensive tax and investment reporting and the ability to collaborate with clients and financial advisers in one space.

For some accountants, this may form part of the overall service package for their clients. Their clients have visibility and access to their investments and any transactions made on their behalf (if an adviser or accountant is administering on their behalf) – or the ability to make transactions themselves for those who are self-directed. Or for those working with both an accountant and an external financial adviser, all parties have the ability to collaborate on the overall wealth needs of the client. Such a solution is often a win for the client too, reducing their need to repeat information to different parties, in turn reducing the chances of vital information being inadvertently left out.

Future efficiencies and growth

Tighter regulation and ongoing compliance requirements may make SMSF administration a more challenging and an even more time-consuming activity. In the effort to not only service existing SMSF clients, but account for future demand, accounting firms will need to continue to evaluate methods for greater efficiency.

As more clients investigate the use of investment platforms for their SMSFs to gain visibility and diversification, along with other needs, many accountants will also find the ability to access greater efficiencies for their businesses. The opportunity to integrate data and access automation technology, along with live collaboration with clients and financial advisers may provide not only desired efficiency for many accounting firms, but also help to deliver a more integrated service for clients.

1. BT/Investment Trends SMSF Accountant Report 2018. Survey conducted between 15-28 January 2018 with 185 respondents (136 with 1-50 SMSF clients, 48 with more than 50 SMSF clients). Maximum sampling error at the 95% confidence interval for the sample is +/-7.2%.

This information has been prepared by Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL & ACL 233714 (Westpac) and is current as at 3 April 2018. The information provided is general in nature and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and therefore, before acting on it, you should consider whether it is appropriate for you. It may contain material provided by third parties derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. You should consider whether or not provision of SMSF financial advice services is appropriate for you. ©Westpac Banking Corporation 2018 

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