Matt Boon, senior accountant at FUSE Accountants talks here about why they selected Silverfin, the impact it’s had on their firm, and what he’d recommend others look at when they begin their own digital transformation journey.
Tell us about FUSE accountants?
We’re a two partner practice based in North London primarily specialising in the hospitality, property and technology sectors. I’m client-focused — so I help clients with work ranging from corporation tax, VAT and Management Accounts, all the way to things like forecasting cash flow, counselling processes, and advisory services.
Here at FUSE, we’re extremely client-centric. Our primary focus is always on receiving excellent client feedback rather than simply the bottom line. This has stood us in good stead so far. Over the years, this approach has allowed us to build up a number of strong, long-lasting client relationships, and we’ve always received plenty of referrals off the back of our work.
How have you seen the profession change?
There have been the obvious changes: the growing importance of advisory services, the move towards cloud-based solutions, and the need to access real-time data and analytics. But I think despite the challenges of 2020 it has really done wonders in terms of pushing the profession into the 21st century.
We used to have to sell clients on the benefits of advisory services. When COVID first appeared, however, literally all of our clients came flooding to us looking for advice. We’d help them with their cash flow planning, advise them on the various government initiatives that could apply to their business, and more generally, help ensure their business would make it through the pandemic and come out the other side.
This meant we had to extend beyond compliance-related services and instead throw ourselves into the role of being trusted business advisors. We did countless what-if scenarios, forward-thinking financial forecasts, and contingency planning. Silverfin has helped us enormously throughout this - to be honest, we actually implemented it within the practice at just the right time.
What was life like before Silverfin?
We were still preparing everything on Excel which was an untenable situation. There were so many inconsistencies in the way that each individual prepared their working papers or year-end accounts, for example. We were all using the same tool, but everybody was using it in a different way. We realised that this had to stop - we believed that making our workflows more consistent would not only make us appear more professional, but we’d also be able to improve the quality of the work itself. If we wanted to be as accurate as possible, we really needed to have a repeatable process in place that everybody could follow.
So why did you pick Silverfin?
Our three main goals were to improve process efficiency, save time, and standardise internal processes. We decided to look into a wide range of software but we found that a lot of them didn’t actually talk to client bookkeeping software as well as Silverfin does. Silverfin integrates nicely with other tools and can seamlessly pull through data from QuickBooks or Xero without any hassle — this was a real plus for us.
We also just really enjoyed using the tool. It felt intuitive and looked smart, which was in stark contrast to some of the other clunkier, more old-fashioned tools out there on the market. We were also looking to implement a tool that would allow us to review jobs more efficiently. Now, with Silverfin, we can collaborate together easier than ever before: leaving notes, adding comments, and assigning actions when putting together working papers. It’s been a lifesaver when it comes to reviewing a set of accounts.
We’re massive fans of the alert function. We always make sure to set up a variety of threshold alerts - for example, when a client's turnover goes above the VAT registration threshold, we instantly receive an alert and we can then relay this information to the client quickly and easily.
Going forward, we’re looking to use Silverfin with clients. We want to really make use of the client-facing dashboard. While Silverfin has helped us improve what we do internally, we think that it has great potential when it comes to presenting information directly to clients and explaining what their accounts mean. So far, our clients just know that we’ve been able to halve our turnaround time (which is amazing), but they haven’t yet been introduced to the tool that’s allowed us to do this. When we do introduce it to them, I’m pretty sure they’ll love it too.
We’re happy with how far we have come but we need to make sure we don't rest on our laurels — we need to continue working hard and extrapolate as much value as possible out of the tool. It would be easy for us to just continue using it for our own internal processes but to do justice to the tool (and to do right by our clients) we need to properly put it front and centre of all client-facing activities.
Did everybody jump on board immediately when you decided to use Silverfin?
We really pride ourselves on our ability to be pretty flexible as a firm. I know that massive organisations can sometimes be very set in their ways and actively push back against change, but as a smaller practice, we knew that we needed to adapt to the times or risk falling behind the competition.
This willingness to experiment was led from the top. Our partners are really receptive to anything that will help us improve the quality of what we do, so we were fortunate enough to be able to count on their support.
What was the onboarding process like?
It was surprisingly simple and straightforward. We didn’t have to ask people to jump through hoops or digest a lengthy and confusing training manual. Instead, the Silverfin team came to our offices, walked through the solution with our team in person, and were on hand to answer all our questions. It was a really seamless process - I can’t thank the team enough.
Just as importantly, we’ve also been really well supported on an ongoing basis. Silverfin didn't just roll out the product and leave us to our own devices - our Account Manager has been absolutely fantastic. We have regular catch-ups and we’ve been able to get in touch at any point with questions or queries - no matter how dumb they might seem.
Finally, what advice would you give to other firms looking to transform how they work?
Don’t be caught off guard by change. As the old adage goes, change is the only constant in life. Don’t sit back and be worried about what might change - instead, go out there and proactively seek out changes that you think will improve what you do.
Remember that everyone’s going through the same thing right now. Every industry or profession is being reinvented by technology, so you’re far from the only ones affected by the rapid pace of technological change. Take a step back, objectively assess what could be improved within your practice, and then go out and change it for the better. If you think technology will help you get to the next level, then you need to take that leap of faith - that’s the only way you’re going to build a successful future.