BoxFreeIT asked Marc Lehmann, CEO of cloud accounting software Saasu, what business owners should look for when choosing an accountant who understands the power of cloud computing.
I’ve used the term “cloud accountant” to mean someone who uses cloud-based accounting software for real-time financial reporting to clients, and who has a wider knowledge of cloud applications that could support a business such as office applications, customer databases, online marketing and so on.
Marc, a former director of Deutsche Bank, believes accountants need to study technology as well as accountancy because IT has become so important in designing business and operational models.
The conversation delved deeply into what a modern accountant looks like; I’ve included a few edited quotes from Marc (picture on right) below. Do you agree?
A cloud accountant
- understands the client’s business model not just the client’s tax and accounting needs.
- knows how technology can improve a client’s operations. “Technology is such a massive driver of costs that accountants really need to understand the underlying technologies. If an accounting firm realises you can completely automate the business model for an eBay trader it can save hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
- sets up businesses to maximise operational efficiency rather than tax savings. “While it’s tax effective to have a a couple of kids in a trust and share the income, that can actually cause a massive operational issue down the track for the business owner as they start to scale. The corporate structure becomes a technology plus tax decision, not just a tax decision.”
- understands and supports more than one accounting solution. “You can’t be a firm that says we sell MYOB and we think NetRegistry is the only company you should go to for hosting. Different packages fits different business models better.”
- responds to customer inquiries as quickly as possible. “The cloud environment demands more real-time behaviour from service providers because the technology is real time. Communication, frequency and speed need to mimic the technology.”
- provides phone support to larger customers. “You still need the ‘realness’ of humans with phone support, not just email or online help. The proof of that is Apple’s approach to technology where they have a very human-centric process in their stores.”
- is upfront about the cost of moving to the cloud. Cloud applications are very cheap but setting them up can take several hours of professional labour. “We always recommend that the accountant have a look at the client file first and give an estimate rather than start the job with an unknown quantity.”
- spends time out in the tech industry to learn about the latest technology. “You’ve got this convergence of tech and financial services and cloud accountants have really understood that the gap’s merged and they’re training themselves in two directions.”
- has a couple of IT companies on the books. “If an accountant doesn’t have a couple of tech companies as customers they couldn’t easily be across the cloud. As a business owner I would always ask if they had tech companies they were looking after.”
Stay tuned for Xero co-founder Hamish Edwards’ own views on what makes a cloud accountant here.