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Adviser Insight: Joking aside, accountants can prove perfect partners
by Paul Lothian on Aug 21, 2013 at 12:50
Forging relationships with accountants can be rewarding and result in perfect pairing so long as you follow a few tips to rise above the dangers of their stereotype, writes Paul Lothian of A2+B Wealth.
A patient was at her doctor’s surgery after undergoing a complete physical examination. The doctor said: ‘I have grave news for you. You only have six months to live.’
The patient asked: ‘Oh doctor, what should I do?’
The doctor replied: ‘You could marry an accountant.’
‘Will that make me live longer?’ asked the patient.
‘No,’ said the doctor, ‘but it will seem longer.’
Jokes aside, accountancy is arguably the profession most obviously suited for a symbiotic relationship with financial planning. There is a grain of truth to the stereotypical accountant being introverted, detail driven and serious, but if you can understand them, you can also make them see the value of partnering with a financial planning firm.
There are myriad reasons why the relationship works:
- Unlike most solicitors, accountants see most of their clients on a regular basis.
- They are ideally placed to identify client needs and planning opportunities.
- They understand and appreciate the value of good financial planning and investment management.
- Their clients are accustomed to paying fees for professional services.
- Many accountants used to offer financial advice before the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, but no longer can.
- There is great deal of crossover between what accountants do for their clients and what financial planners do for theirs.
- There are opportunities for joint consulting, especially in the corporate and trustee space, but also to provide family office services, auto-enrolment compliance and so on.
- Your knowledge and expertise will increase; it is brilliant for continuing professional development.
- Joint seminar opportunities, such as on corporate tax compliance, business protection, auto-enrolment and so on.
- Accountants value the convenience of having financial planning experts close at hand.
- Similarly, planners and their clients will also benefit from having the accountants’ expertise and services on hand.
- Referrals generally come with trust and respect already a given.
- It will increase your professional standing by association.
- You will be introduced to their professional connections, such as solicitors, and to their clients.
- Accountants can be professional introducers who could have a financial incentive to actively refer business, regardless of referrals being made in the opposite direction.
Think through relationships
There are many ways to engage with and, if appropriate, formalise relationships with accountants. We happen to have two separate joint venture companies, A2 + B Wealth and Anderson Anderson & Brown Wealth, but even seeking an informal referral arrangement should be carefully thought through.
There are so many challenges you may face as you try to get into bed with an accountant:
- differences in corporate culture;
- accountants’ pre-conceptions that IFAs are commission-hungry salesmen;
- accountants’ existing IFA connections;
- charging percentage-based fees is not favoured by many chartered accountants;
- accountants are generally reactive rather than proactive;
- the degree accountancy partners buy-in to and support the relationship will vary;
- they can be protective of their client bank;
- the level and nature of accountancy firms’ involvement in client management can vary;
- agreeing a fair and equitable arrangement for revenue profit sharing.
Be prepared for the stereotype
I could add to this list the accountant stereotype, which is the butt of the joke I began with. Simply put, the common view I have heard is that accountants are introverted, process-obsessed control freaks.
That is a gross generalisation. Such personalities will exist in every profession. However, due to the exacting nature of much of their work, the accountancy profession understandably attracts more than its fair share of introverted thinkers.
Here are some tips for dealing with the accountant archetype which you should observe, particularly if (like me) you happen to have the opposing personality of the extroverted feeling type:
- Be patient.
- Do not appear pushy.
- Provide detail.
- Be prepared and organised.
- Be punctual.
- Deliver what you promise, on time.
- Keep all communications formal and business-like.
How to approach accountants
Finally, have a look at the above as an example of a possible approach letter that might be sent then followed up.
That said, each and every one of the accountants with whom it is my absolute pleasure and privilege to be in business are wonderfully warm and engaging, and do not in any way conform to any of the stereotypes often associated with their chosen profession.
Paul Lothian is director and co-owner of A2+B Wealth.