Deloitte has taken the market by surprise with the launch of a cutting-edge online application that combines shared ledger accounting, automated bookkeeping, benchmarking and client dashboard for clients of its private accounting business.
The app, part of a service called Deloitte Private Connect, incorporates some of the most advanced features of online accounting software and add-ons such as optical character recognition of receipts and invoices, direct bulk payments to banks, automated bank feeds and syncing data to client accounting programs such as Xero and MYOB AccountRight Live.
Clients could connect popular add-on programs from the Xero and MYOB ecosystems such as Receipt Bank and Unleashed so they could push data to the app. Deloitte Private Connect clients could then use the app to provide single sign-on access to any connected programs, and subscriptions for multiple programs were also combined into a single invoice.
“Deloitte Private Connect sets a new benchmark for what individuals and family businesses should expect from their accountant; the best cloud technologies and the best of Deloitte at a compelling fixed, monthly price,” said David Hill, national managing partner for Deloitte Private, in a press release. “We are giving our clients what we know they want – real time to do what really matters to them.”
In a breakthrough for professional services among the Big Four firms, Deloitte Private Connect is based on an online subscription payments model and fixed monthly fees. “We recognised that fixed monthly payments make it easier for our clients to manage their cash flow,” Hill said. “We have adjusted our business model and workflow management accordingly, to provide our clients with certainty, as well as best in class services,” Hill said.
The Connect service, which includes regular advisory meetings for a fixed monthly price starting at $1,200 for a small business, although a package for non-trading entities cost as little as $250 a month.
The service includes processing of supplier invoices and payments, general ledger, BAS activity statement lodgement, interactive management reporting, regular meetings with a Deloitte Private adviser, annual income tax return and ASIC company statement lodgement.
Despite handling some general ledger duties, “we are absolutely not competing with Xero” or other online accounting programs, Hill said. “Xero along with others are key to Deloitte Private Connect,” he said.
The app handles a large number of transactional tasks and Deloitte Private uses its practice management software for year end accounts, work papers, financial statements and tax returns, Hill told BoxFreeIT.
Deloitte Private Connect consists of two core apps, Transact and Analyser. The Transact app powers an automated bookkeeping service and incorporates cutting-edge technology developed internally by Deloitte over the past two years.
Transact includes automated bank feeds (Deloitte is confirming the supplier of the feeds but it is most likely to be Yodlee) and the ability to import general ledger transactions from online accounting programs. At launch the service supported Xero and AccountRight Live, with Intuit QuickBooks Online to be signed soon. Deloitte is also in talks with Reckon and larger accounting software companies such as NetSuite.
Transact also houses a receipt scanning service which Deloitte built internally. Suppliers and employees could send PDFs or photos of invoices and receipts to a unique email address in the app which scanned and translated the files into line item entries coded into the general ledger. Deloitte Private Connect stored all files with the transactions as ATO approved copies in a similar manner to Xero Files.
Hill said while there was “some overlap” with receipt scanning apps such as Receipt Bank and Invitbox, Deloitte Private Connect went further.
“We are fully automating bookkeeping. We use optical character recognition to scan the data on the invoice, we match it to a database, it goes into a queue and the bookkeepers’ only work is to approve it or flag it,” Hill told BoxFreeIT.
“Invitbox and Receipt Bank do part of the process but they don’t manage the bookkeeping for you. That’s what we do,” he said.
The Transact app includes a digital signatures function, also developed internally, by which clients could sign tax returns, approve BAS statements and year end accounts and other documents for compliance with the ATO.
Deloitte’s accountants can make bulk payments direct from the app to any Australian bank, a feature supported by payments gateway Payment Adviser, replacing the manual process of downloading ABA files. Xero implemented a similar feature recently but it was only available to two New Zealand banks.
The Analyser app creates live financial reports and business analytics such as profitability, cash flow, growth and trend analysis. The app can customise key performance indicators, perform live ‘what-if’ analysis and show alerts for metrics.
One of the most surprising aspects of the app is its ability to serve as a single log-on for a range of cloud programs. Deloitte Private Connect could add any cloud program appearing in the Nine Spokes app marketplace, a secretive New Zealand startup which has until now operated under a closed beta.
The apparently well funded Nine Spokes runs its marketplace on high-end IBM CastIron computing hardware and is the exclusive supplier of apps to the Deloitte Private Connect service.
Apps automatically populate an interactive dashboard enabling business owners to quickly review key metrics in real time. Based on the particular needs of their business, clients select from compatible apps conveniently grouped into simple categories such as staff, customers, marketing, product, money, and so on.