The demand for a strong financial team in any business has never wavered and with an increasingly complex financial ecosystem, this is no surprise. When we say strong financial team, this includes the wider support. However, with a reduction in bank branches and bank managers over the past 20 years, it is understandable that many UK businesses feel that they have no one to turn to. Modern accountants have been stepping up to fill this gap for a number of years. As your financial team, their role is actually bridging the gap for SMEs in a way that banks never could. They are bringing back the relationship-driven, trusted advisor role.
Business finance support 20 – 30 years ago
If you were in business and you wanted a loan or to open an account, you would just head to a high street bank to speak to your Bank Manager. This bank was also highly likely to be the same one where you had your personal account, mortgage, savings accounts and even investments. Meeting your Bank Manager was likely to have a positive result in an overdraft and the add-on of a Relationship Manager.
This was a win-win relationship. Business Owners and Directors had access to a bank manager who they could physically meet to discuss anything from finances to providing a better relationship to their service and growing their business. In return, Bank Managers had clients who didn’t just come to them for a one-off shop (e.g., a loan). They were loyal customers and did their full weekly shop with them every week (e.g., accounts, mortgage etc).
Financial support today
When we look at banking today, there has been a huge reduction in bank branches (almost 3,000 branches across the UK closed between 2015-2018 alone). For those banks that are still operating, most have digitised their relationships to create ‘efficiencies’. When it comes to any face-to-face services, these have been reserved for the bigger businesses who are bringing in more money.
This has left thousands of highly valuable SMEs without access to a trusted advisor. Driven Business Owners and Directors have been left to make crucial financial decisions themselves. This challenge is magnified when this management team is expected to make these crucial decisions based on limited or poor information without a strong financial team to support them or knowledge of where to turn.
The accountant is key to creating that strong financial team
According to a survey by Capitalise, 98% of Business Owners said that they had no idea who their Bank Manager was and that, at best, they have a call centre. This is a true representation of the financial support network today. Business owners and Directors are missing that Relationship Manager role.
Whilst Business Owners and Directors may have lost this relationship element from their banking service; many aren’t aware that their accountants can offer this and more. Modern accountants recognise that SMEs need guidance across the entire financial landscape, including personal decisions as well as business (which of course cross over!), and this is where modern accountants thrive.
Accountants are uniquely positioned to be the new gatekeeper for Business Owners and Directors. They understand the value of relationships and understanding your businesses to ensure the finances support the business drivers. Many accountants have naturally stepped into this role of ‘Trusted Financial Advisor’; especially with the way that accountants have evolved over the years while the banks seemed to have devolved.
However, for someone to truly understand your business, you will never beat the experience and business acumen of a Financial Advisor who has worked within a business as a Finance Director. This experience is powerful for any accountant supporting Business Owners and Directors, especially in delivering an effective service.
Where do business owners go for financial AND business support?
Long story short, if you are one of the many Business Owners or Directors who miss a relationship-driven service rather than a transactional one…if you need a financial advisor who starts with your business and what you want to achieve, but also someone (or a team) you can trust and talk to openly and honestly about anything. The right accountant means you will have a ‘partner’ who can provide guidance to come up with the best financial solutions for your business needs now and with consideration of your future plans.
The right person or team should be your first port of call for any question or query that you have. If it’s a wider finance question that they don’t specialise in, e.g., mortgages, they will have contacts that they can recommend, knowing that you will be looked after. They will manage this for you and make the best introduction.
The modern accountant will:
- Be your trusted advisor who will be the first point of contact as someone you can rely on, call or sit with
- Source the right funding solutions for your business to solve debt, provide access to loans and recommend data-driven finance applications
- Manage your cash flow including accounts, reviews, and forecasting
- Facilitate regular and useful (not sales driven) business advisory discussions
- Have access to quality partners who can also support you with wider business support e.g., insurance, pension advisors, bank accounts, business succession/exit plans
- Provide personal wealth and finance introductions to support you with mortgage, investment and pension decisions
- Support your business growth through activities such as implementing and training for accounting applications that better assist your business, increasing efficiency and facilitating growth
The key takeaway from this? Next time talk to your accountant first. They can give you invaluable support in the 4 main areas of business (people, sales, service and risk). They put your relationship first; giving you the best guidance and support because they actually know you, your business, and your needs as well as their own.