For those who haven’t yet made the leap to digital technology best practices, the exchange of source documents can be one of the most trying aspects of running an accounting firm, says the general manager of Receipt Bank, Luis Sanchez.
“Many practitioners waste half their working week on manually entering data,” he says. “At the end of the month, a client brings their accountant a shoebox of receipts or some flash drives and says, ‘Here is my mess. Feel free to manually enter it, and good luck.’”
It was a recurring headache for Stuart Brandman CA at specialist accounting firm 542 Partners in Sydney, until he switched to Receipt Bank.
Launched in the UK in 2010 and six years ago in Australia, Receipt Bank is a paperless bookkeeping platform that connects accountants, bookkeepers and businesses.
“In a lot of instances, our clients weren’t capturing accounts payable whatsoever,” Brandman recalls. “And in terms of filing, there was either a bad system in place or no system at all.
“Using Receipt Bank allowed our clients to formalise a process and go paperless. It also encouraged them to automate other areas of their business by streamlining areas that were inefficient.”
A time saver that’s easy to use
Using Receipt Bank is straightforward and intuitive. “If you can take pictures of your kids or your grandkids, you can use Receipt Bank,” says Sanchez.
Accountants instruct their clients to download the Receipt Bank app. Then, every time a receipt for an expense is generated, the client takes a photo, and the accountant can see the receipt automatically and in real time.
“Our clients love the mobile app: it’s probably the coolest feature of using Receipt Bank,” says Brandman. “They can go to a cafe, sit there and say ‘Hey, I just took a photo of my receipt, and that receipt is into Xero before I’m back in the office.’”
There is no need to manually enter information and then reconcile it: with Receipt Bank, an accountant never sees a source document until it’s already attached to an entry and ready to be paid in Xero, QuickBooks or MYOB.
“The time saved will enable you to go home a little earlier, or to go out and get more clients,” says Sanchez, adding that the efficiency gains can speed up processes five-fold.
Receipt Bank tools can also pull recurring invoices, such as those from major utilities, into the system, and extract data from accounts receivables and bank feeds.
Receipt Bank comes with several handy tools that lead to significant time savings. ‘Invoice fetch’, for example, links suppliers and obtains their invoices on a weekly or monthly basis, and saves clients from ever having to manually process those invoices again. Another feature called auto-publish can then be used to set rules for each supplier.
“Every time something is sent from a certain supplier, it automatically finds its way into the general ledger. It is then reconciled with a single click. It’s another massive time saver,” says Sanchez
Keeping pace with the times
Accounting and bookkeeping have become areas ripe for innovation and automation, with both professions undergoing significant change and disruption. One of the biggest changes stems from the use of cloud technology, which allows software, servers and storage to be accessed via the internet rather than being stored on a central server. Importantly, financial data can be accessed in real time.
The efficiency gains Receipt Bank provides are possible because of cloud technology. In Australia, Receipt Bank has 60,000 clients and 13,500 partners; globally, it processes over 12 million documents per month.
However, some practitioners are held back by misperceptions about the use of cloud technology. This is unfortunate as they are likely to become less competitive over time, says Sanchez.
“The alternative to cloud technology is either desktop software or no software, and those two worlds fall far short of the cloud. With cloud technology, client information is extremely secure and you can access information remotely. It also allows for real-time insights, which you cannot get with either alternative.”
For practitioners, real-time access can be a game changer as it vastly improves the quality of advice provided, leading to stickier clients.
“In the worlds of desktop or pen-and-paper accounting, you might be looking at profit-and-loss statements, balance sheets and cash-flow statements that are a month or two old. Your insights are based on backward-looking information.
“Cloud accounting enables you to look at real-time data. Future forecasting can also be provided in a way that was never before possible.”
Dispelling common misperceptions about the cloud
Another misperception is that large amounts of money must be shelled out to move data to the cloud.
“Some people think that it’s a massive investment. But when you start talking about the return on investment of software, the numbers are incredibly affordable – they’re not scary,” says Sanchez.
“When you start talking about the return on investment of software, the numbers are incredibly affordable – they’re not scary.”
A further misperception is that it’s time-consuming to get up and running on new cloud software. Sanchez dismisses this concern out of hand, saying: “We have a team whose job it is to get our new partners up and running on our software. With that support you can roll out the new software in a matter of hours: sometimes, in a matter of minutes.”
And while Receipt Bank works best with a general ledger that has been moved to the cloud, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It can also be used as a solution for storing tax documents, or any other type of document that has information extracted, as it be exported onto a CSV file.
Picture: Luis Sanchez, General manager of Receipt Bank.
A constant quest to improve
Sanchez believes that firms such as 542 Partners, who constantly strive for improvement by eliminating inefficiencies, will remain competitive in a crowded marketplace.
“The firms that become very profitable over time are constantly looking at their business process and identifying inefficiencies. It’s not something they only do once every few years,” he says.
Find out more:
Perfecting your Practice’s Processes
Join Luis Sanchez, Receipt Bank general manager, Australia and New Zealand, for a webinar at 2pm (AEST) on Thursday 18 June as he shares insights and tips around “Perfecting your Practice’s Processes”.Register Now