Taking Accounts Receivable Services to the Next Level

While client accounting services have become one of the fastest growing areas of accounting services over the past decade, even pioneers in the field still have a ways to go, according to experts at the Digital CPA conference. of this year.

“The challenge is how to elevate, improve and evolve CAS to deliver the next level of service, what we call CAS 2.0,” explained CPA.com President and CEO Erik Asgeirsson during a panel at the annual conference, held this week in Nashville, Tennessee. “No company has yet fully optimized the range of services.”

Businesses need to start by recognizing the unique nature of the offering.

“Stop running the CAS department like you run the audit or the tax department,” urged panelist William Pirolli, current president of the American Institute of CPAs and partner at DiSanto, Priest & Co. in Rhode Island. “No disrespect to them, but it’s a different animal.”

Given this difference, CAS practices may require different incentives. “Do you want to develop CAS? You need to change the compensation model to really reward CAS and empower leadership teams,” said Pirolli, whose company’s CAS practice has grown to 15 people and is about to promote its first partner. “The reason CAS is doing so well is that we finally realized we weren’t going to run it like everyone else in the business.”

Getting the right incentives will require identifying the right measures of success.

“In most companies with a CAS practice, the rest of the business doesn’t necessarily fully understand what that practice is,” noted panelist Jennifer Wilson, co-founder of consulting firm ConvergenceCoaching. “And the leaders don’t understand how it’s different and how it’s similar. They try to measure it identically. This is the first mistake, and they hold their practice leader accountable for measures that don’t apply.

“With partner pay and pay in general, it has to be performance-based,” she continued. “These must be measures that make sense to the head of the CAS. It cannot be measures that are not. He cannot drive bad behavior. This is an investment practice, and it really is a huge high return practice in business. But the partnership needs to understand it and they need to change how they manage and measure it.

Erik Asgeirsson speaks at the Digital CPA 2021 conference.

As an example of the redesign that still needs to be done around measuring success, Asgeirsson pointed to data that recently came out of CPA.com’s recent CAS benchmarking survey. “A takeaway is that the net fees per professional are not as high as some of the other areas of practice, and I think there are things we need to consider in that regard, such as strategies pricing and understanding the value you’re delivering,” he says. “We’ll continue to determine the right KPIs.”

(Listen to our podcast with Erik Asgeirsson and Jennifer Wilson on the latest CAS benchmarking survey.)

Beyond thinking differently about themselves, companies that want to optimize their CAS practice need to think differently about their customers.

“We have to be very selective about who we help because we are overwhelmed from a capacity perspective,” Wilson said. “Companies don’t understand who the ideal target customer is. They don’t understand that we can’t support all general ledgers. »

Business leaders also don’t always understand the central role of careful curation of their tech stack in maintaining practice efficiency, Wilson added.

Even more important from a technology perspective, according to Elinor Litwack, panelist and president of Digital CPA, who is also an outsourced accounting and advisory services partner at Maryland-based GRF CPAs, is the need for businesses to stay up to date. “Technology solutions are essential year after year because you can’t just sit on the cruise control,” she said. “The landscape is constantly changing and you have to stay innovative and nimble and be willing to test things to stay ahead of the game.”

Despite all the work and thought that might be required to improve CAS practices, it is worth it, according to the panel.

“The growth has been phenomenal. I was super excited to see 20% growth in the benchmark survey and to see the margins in this space,” Wilson said. “It’s so important for us as accounting firms and consultancies to claim this space because it’s right where we belong. It makes such a difference to customers. … I think it’s a seller’s market for this service, and the need and demand is high because we make such a difference for customers.

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