Categories
Business Trends

Banks Court Accountants in Miami

Large commercial banks have decided that Accountants in Miami, despite their typically modest borrowing needs, are highly desirable customers.

They have several reasons for coming to this conclusion:

Accountants in Miami can be a good source of referral business from their clients;

Accountants in Miami  partners and senior managers may be likely to switch their personal banking arrangements to the bank that handles the firm’s business;

Accountants in Miami have, in the words of one banker, “not gone through the trauma” that many law firms have, as symbolized by the recent spectacular bankruptcy filing of Dewey & LeBoeuf; and,

Small Accountants in Miami  may fit into a bank’s larger push to expand their commitment to small business in general. (“Small” may include firms with up to $20 million in revenue, based on Small Business Administration criteria.)

The upshot of all this is the emergence of a marketing push to capture Accountants in Miami business with packages of banking services deemed to be custom-tailored to the needs of public accounting firms.

Whether this marketing effort will deliver any genuinely new services and economic benefits to accountants and CPAs will vary from one bank to the next — but the attention may be welcome.

DEDICATED TEAM FOR ACCOUNTANTS IN MIAMI

Bank of America, for example, proclaimed a “new milestone” in 2012 when it extended a practice acquisition financing service originally focused on medical professionals to Accountants in Miami. The bank reports that it has a “dedicated team of specialists who focus solely on providing financial solutions for the Accountants in Miami  markets” throughout the country.

Citibank, meanwhile, came out with its dedicated CPA package (“CitiBusiness Solutions for Accounting Professionals”) last year “because we saw the value of this customer group. It’s extremely important to Citi,” said Maria Veltre, a managing director at Citi who heads up the bank’s small business unit.

“We have looked at this space and love it,” proclaimed Jay DesMarteau, who holds an equivalent position at TD Bank, which operates about 1,350 “stores” (the term preferred to “branches,” with its “stodgy” image, according to DesMarteau) on the East Coast. TD expects to formalize its marketing program and service package for public accounting firms by the end of the year.

One way that TD Bank expects to express its love for the Accountants in Miami field is to follow the approach it has recently taken with medical practices in making practice purchase lending decisions based on the practice’s business valuation, instead of the strength of its collateral. “Collateral coverage never looks that good” with professional practices, DesMarteau conceded.

TD Bank now offers medical professionals 100 percent financing on 10-year term practice acquisition loans, although it might not offer those precise terms to Accountants in Miami.

For its part, Citibank offers an “automatic second look” if prospective borrowers initially don’t make the grade according to standard credit criteria, and has a “robust” process for assessing creditworthiness, according to Veltre.

SMALL BUSINESS PUSH

Earlier this year Citibank declared its intention of expanding lending to small businesses based on a “fundamental goal” to “create economic value and support progress.”

Beyond the generalities, Citibank has determined, through customer surveys, that what matters most to many accounting firms is cash management, Veltre says. Sophisticated technology-based cash management solutions being offered to Accountants Miami Firms (not to mention all other business clients) include remote check deposit, credit/debit card merchant services, payroll systems, and the panoply of online banking services that have become a staple of the banking industry in recent years.

The pitch to Accountants in Miami  is preferred pricing arrangements, including waived fees and low (or zero) account balance requirements.

A cash flow challenge for many Accountants in Miami  (especially those that do a lot of tax work) — which banks report they are eager to help solve — involves the cash gap between the period in December or January when bonuses are paid out to partners, and the spring months when clients pay for tax preparation services. “We do a lot of lines of credit” for such firms, said Gary Gilbert, executive vice president and senior business loan manager for BB&T, a Southeastern regional bank with operations in 12 states.

CASH MANAGEMENT SERVICES

Debt consolidation — perhaps more of a working capital optimization exercise than a cash management function — is a need among some Accountants in Miami that Bank of America is willing to perform. The bank says that it will finance up to 70 percent of a practice’s revenue for that purpose, with terms as long as 10 years, “with flexible principal reduction and early payoff options.”

A common borrowing need of CPAs — not the firm itself — involves financing a partnership interest when the accountant is invited to become a partner. Union Bank’s “capital contribution buy-in program,” according to David Jochim, a senior vice president and director of the bank’s professional business services unit within its private bank group, allows new partners to finance 100 percent of their purchase for terms up to five years, without collateral, priced at prime. While these are personal loans to individual borrowers, this loan program applies to partners of accounting firms that have an existing relationship with Union Bank.

Equipment financing is another, perhaps more routine, credit need that banks are anxious to provide. Bank of America’s offering in this area, under its “Practice Solutions” service package, for example, features fixed-rate loans from $10,000 to $75,000 for up to seven years, with no application or documentation fees.

BB&T, which folds leasehold improvements under the same umbrella as equipment financing, tries to tie the loan term to the relevant amortization schedule for the items being financed. That means the purchase of an office’s worth of desks might be financed over 10 years, whereas a standard computer might require a much shorter loan term, Gilbert said.

COMMERCIAL MORTGAGES

One banking service for accounting firms that seems to garner more interest, at least among some bankers, is commercial real estate mortgages. “We are focused on owner-occupied commercial real estate,” said Gilbert.

He is one-upped in enthusiasm by Union Bank’s Jochim: “We love commercial real estate,” he said. Union operates in California, Oregon and Washington State.

A typical Union Bank mortgage will feature a 15-year term and a 15-year amortization schedule, he said, but the bank also will lend with a 10-year term and a 25-year amortization schedule. Loans generally will be up to 65 percent or 70 percent of the property’s appraised value.

Current demand for commercial mortgages from accounting and CPA Firms in Miami doesn’t necessarily match banks’ interest in making such loans. “We are seeing an increasing trend towards owner-occupied commercial real estate, but I wouldn’t say it’s dramatic,” noted Citibank’s Veltre.

In BB&T’s experience, office mortgages are typically granted to a partnership entity consisting of the accounting firm’s partners, which in turn leases the property to the accounting business. In that scenario, the bank bases loan terms on the personal balance sheets of the partners, more than the appraised value of the real estate itself.

In its push to attract CPA firm accounts, Bank of America’s small-firm-oriented Practice Solutions unit is offering commercial loans up to $5 million with a six-month payment holiday and a year of interest-only payments to defer the brunt of the monthly financial obligation.

That unit of Bank of America offers similar terms — but generally with a lower, $750,000 borrowing ceiling — to assist in the purchase of an accounting practice. “We have customized loan amounts that provide up to 70 percent financing for a practice owner or 50 percent if someone is a first-time business owner,” according to Justin Schafer, BoA’s regional business development officer for the Practice Solutions unit.

PERSONAL BANKING PERKS

Because banks consider accounting firms a good referral source, they often are willing to give partners favorable terms on personal banking services, perhaps to encourage them to give those services a test drive. For example, Union Bank’s personal private bank, featuring trust, wealth management and related services, ordinarily requires a minimum of $1 million of investable assets. But a “courtesy inclusion” policy gives CPA firm partners whose firms have a business relationship with the bank access to the private banking services without satisfying that $1 million threshold.

This suggests that in shopping for banking services for their firms, Accountants in Miami might also consider in the overall decision-making process personal banking services that they might consider attractive that they might otherwise not have access to.

In addition, just as banks are hoping for referrals of CPA firm partners and firm clients to the bank, banks should be evaluated for their potential to refer banking clients to the CPA firm itself. “We tend to do a lot of business back and forth,” said DesMarteau.

He suggests that CPAs ask banks about the nature of their clientele, and look for areas of overlap with the Accountants in Miami client development priorities.

Categories
Accounting

Miami Accountants Beginner’s Guide to Providing Advisory Services

Miami Accountants Beginner’s Guide to Providing Advisory Services

As a Miami Accountants teaching your small business clients how the income statement and balance sheet dictate operating performance and business longevity, you will solidify your role as trusted Miami Accountants.

Miami Accounting Firms operate in a highly competitive market. If your Miami Accountants only offers commoditized services like tax preparation, payroll and bookkeeping, you will win and lose customers due to price competition. The good news is that you are in a unique position to offer value-added advisory services.

According to recent USA Today/Gallup polls, Miami Accountants are considered the most trusted business professional. That high level of trust enables you to move beyond traditional accounting services and position yourself as a trusted advisor. Offering quality advisory services will ensure the long-term success of your clients.

What’s in it for You?

Helping clients do better business is always a win-win situation, but let’s focus on what’s in it for you. There are three primary reasons why Miami Accountants are shifting towards value-added advisory services:

1. Increase firm revenue: Business advisory engagements produce additional revenue streams and are more profitable than traditional, compliance-based accounting services.

2. Stop competing on price: Miami Accountants that bring more to the table can justify higher rates. Stop leaving money on the table. Command the rates you deserve by offering a higher level of service, and land more “A-List” clients.

3. Deepen client relationships: Help a client do better business and you lock-in a client for life. Quality advisory services help you forge deeper relationships with clients and also boost word-of-mouth referrals.

How Do You Get Started?

We have developed a three-step process to introduce clients to your new service offerings:

Step 1: Identify Key Clients

Start by identifying a short list of key clients (it could be as few as five) who you will start providing business advisory services to. Use the following characteristics to select key clients:

Client relationship: Identify clients that you already have a strong relationship with. You will be more comfortable and they will be more receptive as you introduce new services.

Client potential: Choose clients that have an unrealized potential. You and the client will be able to see tangible results as you help them grow their business.

Owner mentality: Focus on proactive clients who frequently ask questions about improving their business. These clients tend be more appreciative and willing to pay for your professional advice.

Business health: Select a few clients with poor financial health. They will perceive your services as a need rather than an unnecessary expense.

Step 2: The Discovery Process

The next step in the process is to develop a strategy for your firm to approach the list of target clients. Thinking about the needs of each business, what’s going on in their industry, their goals, what resources your Miami Accountants has to offer them, and ultimately how to communicate those services to them. Such a discovery process could include client surveys or merely conversations with clients to gauge their satisfaction with your firm and understand their business needs better.

Step 3: The Implementation

Once you’ve assessed your clients thoroughly, you are now ready to alert them of your advisory services. There are a few ways of doing this:

The “Sticky Note” Method

Perhaps the most common approach is the “Sticky Note” Method. This method entails inserting a customized or narrative financial analysis report like ProfitCents Snapshot and placing a sticky note on top that says, “I thought you might find this interesting.” This approach is apt because it doesn’t try to push a service but instead generates questions from the client and opens up the door to future consulting opportunities.

The “Let Me Show You” Approach

A slightly more proactive approach, the “let me show you” approach can also be successful. This approach involves discussing the company’s past and projected future performance. Focus on two or three key points from your findings and use graphs and/or a brief narrative report to enhance your presentation.

This approach is more thorough, but cash flow projection software can increase your efficiency. This approach works best with your inquisitive and proactive clients; often times it will lead to profitable deeper consulting engagements.

Confidence in Your New Service Offering

Think about a doctor’s job for a moment. When he or she walks in and you tell him or her that you are sick, he or she will likely run tests, show you the test results, and explain the results in an understandable language. As part of the diagnosis, you are usually asked a lot of questions about your habits, symptoms, types of medications you prefer, and any allergic reactions you may have. Based on all the information a mutual decision can be made on the proper treatment approach.

The same is true for offering Miami Accountants. You have a wealth of financial expertise and experience that will help the business fix its excessive inventory days, poor cash flow, or accounts receivable issues. But, you still need to run tests with a typical financial statement analysis and you have to ask questions. For example, if your client has problems collecting accounts receivable you might ask the following questions:

• How do you invoice your accounts receivable?

• Do you send collection requests via mail, or do you call them personally?

• What are your penalties for late payments?

Based on these and other questions, you’ll get an idea of how to fix the problems. If you still don’t have the answers, don’t be afraid to do the research to find them. It’s OK if you don’t have the answers right away; just be able to provide them to your client in a timely manner.

Best Practices for Providing Accounting Services:

Provide action items and set goals. Track the client’s results at each meeting and describe how far their company has come since your firm has been working with them.

Don’t forget about nonprofits: It is likely that you are already working with a nonprofit organization or serve as an advisor to a nonprofit board. Don’t forget that you can run financial reports on nonprofits to help them improve organization efficiency. This could include benchmarking their performance against similar organizations in the sector.

Leverage industry data: You likely serve multiple clients from a given industry and have a pulse on the financial trends for that industry. Combining this knowledge with real time industry data is a great way to provide fast and easy deliverables of high value. Companies want to know where they stand and how to improve if they are sub-par.

Pitfalls to Avoid

As you are planning your introduction of advisory services, it is important that you avoid the following pitfalls:

Do not pitch the product as an add-on: One approach to business advisory services that has proven ineffective is pitching advisory services as an add-on service. This means the advice is an optional service that the client would have to pay up front to receive.

Don’t go in without a plan: Perhaps the number one misstep in adding these services is to go in without a plan or strategy. People who fall in this category forget to make a list of clients and keep it small enough to manage.

On the opposite end, they may try to run full financial analysis reports on each one of their clients. It simply takes too long and is a waste of resources until you know the client is interested in the service. It’s better to start by offering them industry data reports or those without much customization instead.

Remember to keep it simple: Just because your financial analysis software can provide an eight-page in-depth report doesn’t mean your client needs to see the whole thing. Too much data can be overwhelming and might discourage your client from asking for the next appointment. Instead copy and paste two or three relevant sections into a document for your client to see.

As you can see, the question is not if your firm should provide financial advisory services, but when and how to start. The services are truly a win-win situation for your firm and your clients. By following the best practices above and strategically planning your financial service operations, your firm is likely to increase revenue. Remember to ask the right questions and look for answers when needed. In the highly competitive landscape of public accounting, it’s important to differentiate your firm by providing these services.