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Pathway to Growth: Innovations in Accounting Firm

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Pathway to Growth: Innovations in Accounting Firm

With the increasing market competition, businesses are constantly trying to grow. Innovation and new technologies can be their pathway to this growth. Read on!

Different professions perceive innovation differently. When it comes to accounting firms, it is believed that the accounting profession’s innovation originates majorly from the technology companies providing accounting and related software.

According to a survey conducted by Robert Half Management Resources, 41% of CFOs cited technology as a major source of stress in their jobs, saying that innovations in accounting are progressing so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep up.

But just technology cannot be defined as innovation. Innovation can be defined at your own firm as:

  • Your firm is undergoing a continuous transformation.
  • There is a constant increase in the capability of your firm to deliver services to your clients.
  • Your firm is regularly transforming its management practices and operations.

How firms of any size can innovate?

An innovative approach can be adopted by any firm, irrespective of its size. Mostly the accounting professionals have a forward-thinking approach and strive to provide services that their customers value for years to come. It is overall another concern to figure out ways to achieve that without having to adopt overly risky or time-consuming methods.

Any firm cannot overhaul itself overnight and nor can it throw all its resources for innovating its services and operations. Your firm’s approach to innovation will mainly depend on the size and resources of your firm as innovation can be for every firm, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to it.

  1. Innovation on a smaller scale

Investigating the services that you provide and how you provide them is one of the most fruitful ways to pursue innovation. There are a lot of software solutions available in the market and you can choose the one that brings efficiency to your business processes.

Once you start achieving what you are already doing faster and with more efficiency, you can think about additional services to provide. For example, the less time you spend on data entry processes, the more time you can spend providing essential advisory services to your customers. You need to think about innovations that can work today, which may be different from innovations that might work years down the road.

One of the effective ways to find the same can be to look at the software that your competition companies are using. Take part in networking groups with firms of similar sizes, get involved in online forums to ask questions, and attend conferences.

If you own a medium-sized firm, you can focus small teams on researching the viability of innovative options for your practice. Hiring third-party consultants that can focus on Machine Learning(ML), Artificial Intelligence(AI), and Blockchain technology can also help lead your way to success. Irrespective of the size of your business, testing the new innovations internally with your own transactions and books is a great way to learn.

  1. The mindset of innovation

By approaching innovation with a willingness to adapt and an open mind, firms of all sizes and types can benefit immensely. With the increasing market competition, it is very hard for businesses to grow and flourish by relying on outdated service offerings and technology, as clients have more options available now than ever.

Innovation might have a different outlook in different areas of your profession, but every business needs to innovate constantly. Adequate measures in this direction can separate you from the crowd and lay out a path for continued success.

Accounting Technology Innovations 

  1. Cloud-Based Accounting – No other technology has had as much impact as the cloud on accounting in the 21st century. Cloud applications have the ability to handle everything from payroll and invoicing to taxes and benefits, automation being the biggest advantage of cloud-based accounting. 
  1. Real-Time Reporting – With the improvements in AI technology, accounting has realized the importance of real-time reporting and the effect it has on gauging the financial health of a business. Now, the delay between the occurrence of an accounting event and when it is recorded, has significantly been eradicated. 
  1. Mobile Accounting – Mobile accounting has eliminated the need for accountants to be metaphorically chained to their desks for their work. Accounting firms can now add receipts, reconcile accounts, create expensive claims, or send invoices all from a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. 
  1. Optical Character Recognition – OCR technology has greatly helped the accounting industry. “Advances in this technology allow companies to use scanners or even the cameras on mobile devices to capture printed financial information such as receipts and invoices and translate the text into digital files,” accountant Bill Gerber explains. “Improved accuracy has cut down on the rate of error during this translation, and future updates promise to improve the procedure’s efficiency further.” 
  1. Customer Relationship Management Software – CRM systems have become essential for accounting firms to meet market competition and expectations. The combination of these systems with AI and automated solutions helps the firms in customer engagement and automating mundane tasks. 

How accounting firms can innovate successfully?

As discussed, innovation is crucial for accounting firms and here are few pathways that these firms can adopt to innovate successfully.

  1. Identify your buyer group and persona – A buyer group refers to a general category, like manufacturers or physicians. Within that group, it is required to search for a persona, which is a vivid profile of your anticipated user. An example of a persona is ‘members of a medical practice with 5 or fewer physicians’. Being specific is the key.
  1. Understand the market – Get a thorough understanding of the market, and learn why does the marketplace want what you have to sell? Your execution must be grounded on market research. Talk to everyone you can – prospects, clients, and industry leaders – to know about their requirements and pain points. It is important to think like a client and look at the market outside in, and not inside out.
  1. Use conceptual designs – For translating an idea into a service or product, conceptual designs should be used to assist the client. It can be said as a straightforward and simple picture of innovation concept. For example, growth can be shown as a three-legged stool where growth is the seat supported by functional areas of marketing, product management, and sales.
  1. Analyze market position – Access your market position by determining competitive offerings and your market differentiators. Interviewing your competitors can be one of the most reliable resources. Only with the in-depth analysis of the competition, you will be able to provide something that is absolutely compelling in the market.
  1. Give a name to your innovation – Provide an attractive, distinctive, and memorable name to your innovation strategy. Choose a name that throws light on the purpose and value of your offerings. Be creative with your thoughts, for example, instead of going for ‘accounting outsourcing,’ you can accommodate something more appealing like ‘concierge accounting.’

Conclusion

As discussed earlier, innovation does not work with the concept of one-size-fits-all, and hence, it should be structured according to your own business strategies and requirements. Implement new technologies and let yourself be creative with new ideas for innovation over the marketplace.

Finance

The ever-changing representation of value

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The ever-changing representation of value 1

By Vadim Grigoryan, Partner, Lunu Solutions

Ask a selection of people about cryptocurrencies and you’ll likely receive a wide range of answers. Some will wax lyrical about the huge potential of the underlying infrastructure that supports them, while others will dismiss them as nothing more than a worthless speculative bubble.

Cryptocurrencies have often been described in this way, mainly because – according to their opponents – they aren’t backed by tangible value. This is an argument that could easily be dismissed as very short-sighted, particularly if we remind ourselves that our current currencies all rely on trust – not exactly the most tangible of assets.

As Kabir Sehgal, a bestselling author and former JP Morgan vice-president, said: “In order to deal in money, humans must be able to think symbolically”. Financial history teaches us that money, in its first intent, was almost never meant to have intrinsic value – but to be a representation of it. For example, the porcelain-like shell of the cowry circulated around the globe for 4,000 years – longer than any other currency in the history of money. And its value was perceived not on its intrinsic utility, but on its beauty. Indeed, intrinsic value has long stopped be a measure of the real value of money. Let us not forget that each individual banknote costs a fraction of what it’s worth to produce – a $100 bill costs around 12 cents.

Money first appeared from the original evolutionary need to eat and survive by exchanging energy with another. That is why money has become whatever represents that energy: first food commodities – such as barley, cacao beans or salt – and then the tools to cultivate them. The symbolic distancing of money from its real value has developed over the years into coins, paper currency and mobile payments. Since money is fundamentally a mental abstraction of symbolic representation of value, what money is and what it will be can be is limited only by human imagination. Could something as invisible and intangible as cryptocurrencies be the next step?

Building value through trust

Something that has value should check two boxes: scarcity and utility. Scarcity of cryptocurrencies is often guaranteed by their design, in terms of a finite or limited supply (e.g. Bitocoin has a set cap of 21 million coins). Their utility is already embedded in the divisible nature of cryptos (unlike gold, which is very difficult to use transactionally, you can buy a coffee, a ferrari or a house with bitcoins). As such, the potential of cryptos to be a more efficient currency than what we already have would further increase with the wider adoption of digital currencies in retail.

We know that the representation of value has changed over time and is a fast-moving one in our society. That’s one reason why the concept of ‘money’ is much more abstract and complicated than most people realise.

But one thing that has never changed throughout the long evolution of money is the importance of trust. The reason money works is because people trust in its value; this is a key rationale behind most currencies – including cryptos. In fact, one of the key selling points of cryptocurrency is that it is built specifically on trust.

Although they lack the legal and institutional backing of traditional financial services, cryptocurrencies provide trust through technology. Blockchain technology enables the use of a distributed and immutable ledger of records, providing total transparency and making every transaction tamperproof. Data is decentralised and encrypted so that it can’t be interfered with or changed retrospectively. The crypto sphere is also intrinsically democratic. There is no central authority and no individual entity can change the rules of the game, which protects against government interference and makes it almost impossible to lobby private interests.

So, with this in mind, why are cryptocurrencies still largely used as an asset rather than a means of payment? It’s mainly because the real-life economy is still lagging in terms of providing crypto-based payment solutions. Many stores still fear accepting cryptos as a means of payment – whether due to technical limitations or concerns around fees and exchange rates – creating a vicious circle reinforcing the speculative nature of cryptos as assets that are just bought and sold.

We believe it’s time to break this circle and move towards a new financial model that accepts cryptos as a means of payment. It’s time for cryptocurrencies to be appreciated for the value they provide.

Recognising crypto personas

Our research into the ever-growing crypto community has uncovered an ecosystem of global citizens that share a philosophy; one pegged to a thirst for freedom, equality, inclusion and global interaction. For example, they are actively involved in social causes and place a high value on social responsibility for individuals and companies.

We also identified several different persona groups within that ecosystem, all of which have varying degrees of influence in the community.

  • Hamsters: this group is enthusiastic about cryptos, but lacks either the wealth or knowledge to shape the market or effectively navigate it.
  • Geeks: comprised of tech-savvy specialists who expect others to be up to their level of technical expertise
  • Cool cucumbers: a group of wealthier individuals focused on the investment opportunities and less emotionally involved with cryptos as a way of life

But the most powerful and engaged of the various user groups we identified, is the one containing individuals who have the financial capital and technical knowledge to drive and shape the future of the market – the Apostles. They are the community gurus, the public figures and the influencers who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. Indeed, their minds have the power to drive widespread adoption of cryptos.

Over the coming years, this cohort of individuals will continue to grow and impose its expectations on retailers and stores. They understand the concept of money as a representation of value and recognise the role that secure, decentralised and globally connected cryptocurrencies can play in the existing economy.

If money is a symbol of value, this community appreciates the need for other symbols that represent other values in the world of tomorrow – such as transparency, empowerment and the end of the abuses of power that we have seen in the past.

Ultimately, although cryptocurrencies have been inching their way into the mainstream steadily since their introduction in 2009, the main stumbling block has been how to use them in everyday life. The good news is that we are during a transition. Trust is continuing to build, and the ‘value’ barrier is slowly being overcome. There is light at the end of the tunnel – driving cryptocurrencies and other forms of digital money forwards as the next step in money’s ongoing evolution.

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Finance

Revolut Junior introduces Co-Parent – teach children about money together

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Revolut Junior introduces Co-Parent - teach children about money together 2
  • Premium and Metal customers can invite a team mate to jointly manage their child’s Revolut Junior account
  • Setting Tasks, Goals and topping up up Allowances can also be done by a Co-Parent
  • Lead and Co-Parents both have full visibility and oversight of the child’s account

Revolut has today announced that parents can now add a Co-Parent to supervise their child’s Revolut Junior account and make learning about money easy and fun together, because teamwork makes the dream work.

Those on paid plans (Premium and Metal) will benefit from the new Co-Parent feature at no extra cost. The lead parent can invite a Co-Parent to join Revolut on any plan, including a Standard plan. The Co-Parent can be another family member, carer or  guardian who is responsible for the financial wellbeing of the kids.

Parents and guardians can use Revolut Junior to teach their little ones important lessons about finances and responsibility so they become more informed with each passing day. Both the lead and Co-Parent can use Tasks to teach children the value of money, Goals to help them learn to save and top up Allowances when they deserve a reward or just their weekly pocket money. Both will have full oversight of the child’s Revolut Junior account.

To add a Co-Parent to Revolut Junior, the lead parent can head to the Junior tab to find the Co-Parent invite link at the bottom of the screen.

Revolut Junior’s five top tips for parents/guardians to make learning about money fun 

  1. The power of together: Utilise the power of your joint experience and arrange a time or schedule a regular monthly meeting to sit down as a family to answer any money questions your kids may have.
  2. Set your own Goals: Learning the usefulness of savings is a valuable life lesson that will benefit kids when they hit adulthood. So if your child has been begging for a new game or toy, then encourage them to create Goals to save up faster and more steadily. Parents can add to it or children can choose to fund it from their allowances or by completing tasks, giving them some financial independence, but with full parental oversight!
  3. Sharing is caring: Show your child your app and how you use it to manage money so they see how the ‘grown-ups’ do this. Perhaps take a look at Budgets, and explain your reason for using this.
  4. Cherish your belongings: Get your child to put their top 10 favourite possessions in front of them and ask them to tell you why they picked each one. Explain the importance of selecting items they really like instead of comparing them with what their friends have.
  5. Money matters: Inspire your child to take some time for themselves to go through their purchases and expenditures in-app and use this time to reflect on if they still use all these items or if the buys were a good use of money.

Felix Jamestin, Head of Premium Product at Revolut, said: “We have added the Co-Parent feature to Revolut Junior so parents, guardians and carers alike can come together to teach their kids valuable skills for life. We have made sure that those with unconventional or multigenerational families will also be able to use this, so not only parents but grandparents, carers or members of their wider family can also support their child through their financial education with Revolut Junior.”

Revolut Junior’s Co-Parent feature is currently available to all Revolut Premium and Metal users in the EEA and the UK. It’s designed for kids aged 7-17, providing an account for children to use, controlled by their parents or guardians. So far over 270,000 kids have signed up to Revolut Junior. Revolut Junior has just launched in Australia, and plans to launch the product in Singapore and Japan in the near future.

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Banking on the Future: Why Payments Transformation is the Key to Success

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Banking on the Future: Why Payments Transformation is the Key to Success 3

By Simon Wilson, Co-Head, Payments at Icon Solutions

Standardisation, regulation and technological innovation means payments are well on the way to becoming instant, invisible and free. This is good news for everybody.

Well, not quite everybody. Banks are now faced with the significant challenge of transforming business models and legacy technology systems to meet the demands of a new era in payments.

Banking is historically a conservative and risk-averse industry where the pace of change varies between sedate and glacial. But now is not the time to ‘wait and see’ and finding the right approach to payments transformation must be the immediate and fundamental priority for banks.

Understanding the need to transform

Firstly, we must ask: Why has payments transformation become an urgent priority?

For one thing, increased competition has seen banks’ market share of the global banking and payments industry reduce from 96% in 2010 to 72% today. Fintechs, challengers, payments companies and big tech have entered the playground and started taking banks’ lunch money, demonstrating a level of innovation and agility that incumbent banks are struggling to keep up with.

And of course, there is Covid-19. We have seen years, if not decades, of change in a matter of months. The crisis has torpedoed traditional and reliable revenue streams such as cross-border payments to accelerate margin pressure, while driving a rapid shift to online banking channels and a massive uplift in digital volumes.

Breaking the shackles

In the context of increased competition and unprecedented digitalisation, the banking industry is waking up to the fact that payments are about adding value, not just processing. There is increasing recognition that capitalising on the potential of emerging payment rails, monetising the standardised datasets unlocked by ISO 20022 and launching new external services are huge opportunities to diversify and retain relevance. The introduction of overlay services such as Request to Pay or the European Payments Initiative are also poised to spur on the move to digital payments.

Decades of inaction on legacy infrastructure, however, is limiting options. Banks across the globe find themselves lumbered with expensive, inflexible and unreliable technology estates. The ability to respond to marketplace innovation, let alone lead it, is constrained by the need to devote massive amounts of cash, time and ever-dwindling internal resource to simply keep the lights on.

It is apparent that doing nothing is no longer an option, but transformation is a nebulous concept. There is no one single way to effectively transform. Different organisations have unique considerations based on their technology, capabilities, resource and culture, and there are various routes to take.

‘Don’t outsource your heart, your soul…and your spinal cord’

One option is to make payments someone else’s problem and outsource them. This can be an appealing proposition to get a seemingly perennial cost centre off the books, particularly in the current climate. But speaking at Sibos, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon cautioned against the risk of inadvertently “outsourcing your heart, your soul and your spinal cord.”

Simon Wilson

Simon Wilson

For it is true that payments are the beating heart and soul of an organisation. Payments represent 80% of all interactions, providing critical customer touchpoints, data and service opportunities. As for the spinal cord, not much can happen when mission-critical payment systems go down.

The big problem, as Dimon notes, is that a lot of companies who have outsourced “have no idea what they are doing.”

Banks can find themselves stuck with equally costly, complex and cumbersome alternatives, falling even further behind the innovation curve and losing control in the process. “You end up paying too much money and then you’re beholden to costs that are going up.” But most importantly, “you’re not even doing a better job serving your client.”  Outsourcing a commodity execution service may well be the right strategic approach for some, but you need to ensure you have the other pieces of the payment process running smoothly and that you really are not leaving money on the table or  developing risk longer term by constraining future choice.

Still, the alternative is not necessarily better. Modernisation needs to happen now, so it is not surprising that enthusiasm for years-long, ruinously expensive and inherently risky in-house transformation projects has dimmed somewhat.

Best of both worlds

Yet it is wrong to say that the only choice is buy or build. There is a middle-ground. A collaborative approach to payments transformation that allows banks to move quickly to seize opportunities, while retaining control, significantly reducing costs and adding value.

This begins with banks understanding their starting point, defining a crystal-clear strategic vision for the role that payments play within the organisation and identifying market opportunities. Indeed, as McKinsey notes, “success for banks will depend on thoughtfully assessing capabilities [and] determining the role of payments in market strategies.”

Banks should then consider low-risk and lightweight options for upgrading legacy infrastructure to meet their strategic objectives, while minimising business impact. Payment platforms based on Cloud-native, open source technology promote flexibility, scalability and independence, rather than restrictive and expensive vendor dependencies.

Collaboration also plays a critical role. Finding the right fintech and service provider partners can allow banks to simplify complexity, reduce manual heavy-lifting and lower their cost base, driving efficiencies that enable resource to be focused on delivering for customers. As Dimon explains, “If I can’t build it better than you can, I’m better off just using yours.”

This combination of strategy, enabling technologies and true collaboration provides a foundation for innovation. It can help drive new revenues, further develop existing business lines and, by moving payments from cost to profit centre, help banks thrive rather than survive.

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