From XU Magazine, 
Issue 21

A cloud technology success story: Leading the way with tech-driven advisory

Find out how Xero, ApprovalMax and a selection of Xero-connected apps help deliver timely and comprehensive business advisory…
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Imagine if time-poor entrepreneurs could reach into a toolbox of finance and accounting services and choose the ones they need help with the most. Talk about a game-changer.

Well, that’s Finance Box in a nutshell: an integrated outsourced Finance Department for busy SME owners.

It specialises in providing modern solutions to time-consuming accounting work. Finance Box covers everything from the standard bookkeeping and account management challenges to payment and VAT solutions, forecasting and cash flow management, investment assistance, consultancy and advisory.

Based in London and the South Coast, their clientele includes recruiters, courier and taxi companies, retailers, designers, self-employed people and freelancers, car rental firms, property managers, technology developers, charities, and many more. The list is endless and diverse.

As per their mission, Finance Box has positioned itself at the very heart of emerging technology and aims to change the role of accountants from bookkeepers to business advisors.

The pillars of success

Finance Box is there day-to-day

for their clients, operating as part of in-house customer finance and accounting teams and delivering a portfolio of business-oriented services.

And with a team of just 15 people, Finance Box is serving around 300 happy clients. But how is that possible? Co-founder and CEO Steve Case sheds some light, “We try to use tools as much as possible to automate some of the more mundane tasks. This allows us to focus on advisory, which is more valuable for our clients.”

Simple! But how can you really be working with your clients on a day-to-day basis, delivering such a diverse portfolio of services, and at the same time employ such a small team?

The solution is two-fold.

Efficiency maximisation: automation

The shortest way to maximise efficiency is through the introduction of data and process automation.

And this means you need apps. Not just apps you’ve selected for yourself and your team, but apps that your clients will be using and that have been chosen for them by a clued-up advisor (i.e. you).

Of course, automation cannot be achieved unless you employ a modern cloud platform that serves as a hub for all the connected apps and enables the easy assembly of a multi-functional solution tailored to your clients’ needs.

“Xero is proud to be the platform of choice for its ecosystem partners and continues to deliver new capabilities aimed at efficiency maximisation. Among the latest ones is the Single Sign On/Up feature, which involves ApprovalMax as well as a selection of other trusted apps that will be the firsts to support it,” says Andy Muir, Xero Partnerships Manager – Business Platform (UK & EMEA).

By embracing modern cloud technology and eradicating manual interventions, functions such as invoice submission, practice management, client management and approval management become streamlined, quicker, and less prone to error.

Software adoption: an accountant, not a software salesman

“I’m not trying to be a software salesman – I’m trying to be the accountant and financial advisor that our clients have come looking for,” says Steve Case. “But sometimes the biggest barrier to being able to give really good and timely advice is that the client data is not up-to-date and their processes are slow.”

How do we fix this? Steve has the answer:

“The very first step of advisory is to get the systems that speed up data and processes, and allow you to start delivering advisory where you can actually make a difference.”

This is the precise moment where the lines become blurred and you assume the role of a software salesman – a role significantly different from the accounting job that you were trained for and hired to do.

So, how do you provide the necessary services and maintain maximum efficiency by having all the right apps in place (for you and your clients), but without the hassle of going into the pros and cons of each system – and all while trying to overcome the legacy mindset?

Meet FABio!

FABio stands for “Finance Automation Bot” and he performs all sorts of valuable automation.

Practically, FABio lets you move away from talking about the granular functions and capabilities of each individual app, and instead start speaking in terms of the end-to-end processes handled for your clients.

Take ApprovalMax, for example. It’s the default and trusted app for taking care of approval automation, including multi-tiered and multi-role authorisations, notifications and reporting on outstanding and completed approval requests, approval exceptions handling, and much more. But clients are often only interested in the surface-level benefits of such an app – and that’s where FABio delivers.

“Xero’s platform-oriented approach as well as rich accounting capabilities powered up by data automation apps such as ApprovalMax allow achieving an exemplary 1 accountant to 20 clients ratio, with the industry average being 1 to 10 – provided that vCFO and advisory services take the primary role in the partners’ portfolio,” says Andy Muir, Xero Partnerships Manager – Business Platform (UK & EMEA).

As Finance Box prove, the journey from bookkeeper to business advisor doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s about finding the right mix of software automation to do the heavy lifting and to free up your time for more important things.

Why leave it there?

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