UHY member firms are known worldwide for their core accountancy services. But member firms are expanding their service provisions into allied services specifically to meet the varying needs of their clients. As a result, clients have developed a longstanding trust of UHY and retained those services over many years, often over successive generations of family businesses.
The phone rings again – and yet another ‘cold caller’ tries his hand at impressing you with his professional business services. Usually, you don’t want to be interrupted; you’d rather they sent you an email (which you could choose to ignore); and, in any case, you just haven’t got the time to spare. After all, you’ve had good, reliable service from current suppliers for several years now and you don’t have any reason to make a change.
In fact, if only you could put all your outsourcing, of all your requirements, to the few trusted suppliers who know your business inside out, and who you’ve known for years, that would work well. You would feel more comfortable. The trouble is, usually, business services offered by your suppliers are standalone services, limited to resource in one particular speciality or region.
That is, until now.
Increasingly, professional service suppliers have branched out into a broad range of expertise across related, but identifiably separate, service areas – and, as a result, are able to meet a range of client needs with the same level of trust, commitment and knowledge that you’ve experienced with single-function suppliers of the past.
Any risk of multi-tasking business suppliers ‘watering down’ expertise as a result of offering multiple services is readily discounted by suppliers appointing talented experts in their specialities while sustaining one point of personal contact with a key over-arching figure (usually senior and long-standing) to ensure consistency of service values and continuing goodwill.
“Once you have established yourself as the ‘trusted advisor’ with a client, it is important to be able to provide as many of the services they require as possible,” says Joseph Fay, of UHY Fay & Co, Spain. “By coordinating numerous services through one point of contact the value of using your firm increases dramatically. And client retention is hugely enhanced.
“In the last decade or so, the way businesses go about using professional services has changed dramatically,” says Joseph. “Customers and clients no longer simply expect firms to offer a standard suite of services but instead expect firms to cater for all their professional service needs.
“Traditionally, a business would engage several independent service providers to cater for their different needs: lawyers, accountants, labour consultants, tax consultants, corporate finance consultants, and so on.
‘In the last decade, the way businesses go about using professional services has changed dramatically. Clients expect firms to cater for all their professional service needs.’
“For each of these services, the client would have a contact person, normally a partner. Of all these professionals, perhaps one would be a ‘more’ trusted advisor who would occasionally be consulted on matters outside his or her area of expertise.
“As a result ‘trusted’ advisors were often in a position to recommend other professionals to the client as well as advising them on different courses of action.
“This was a reasonably fair state of affairs, but it had one major drawback. The client had to coordinate the efforts of all the independent advisors, which could be an immensely time-consuming task. In addition, conflicting advice from advisors could often lead to a feeling of significant dissatisfaction on the part of the client.
“The first change we noticed came as a consequence of consolidation and of larger firms, including the Big Four, starting to offer a broader range of services. Clients soon became accustomed to not having to coordinate the different professionals as they were all now under one roof. This saved the client time and energy which he or she could dedicate to more value added core business, thus resulting in a more efficient business environment and shorter business cycles.
“Unsurprisingly, the ‘trusted advisor’ figure permeated through this new way of engaging professional services and indeed this role became much more important. The ‘trusted advisor’, normally a partner, took responsibility for coordinating the different professionals within the firm and had authority to make matters progress at the required pace. This is where the figure of the ‘trusted advisor’ comes into play as very much a new service in its own right.”
UHY Fay & Co has put its proposition into practice by, for example, launching a legal division alongside its more traditional accountancy related services. The firm has a team of 26 lawyers based in Barcelona, Spain.
One of the team’s areas of expertise is anti-money laundering, a service it launched in 2008. The move stemmed from 2005 European Union legislation applied to professionals including lawyers, auditors and notaries (apart from traditional recipients of this type of regulation), as well as financial entities and insurers.
Following EU Directive 2005/60/CE, the law also now applies to any other type of economic operator conceivably susceptible to money laundering activity.
All such operations are required to put into action internal policies designed to identify and know their clients, reject those suspected of money laundering, and communicate suspicious operations to the authorities.
The firm holds seminars for clients and prospects on preventing money-laundering for financial entities such as banks, investment companies, insurance companies, casinos, real estate companies, commercial jewellery organisations, and money exchange companies – all organisations that are legally bound to comply.
Elsewhere in UHY, our member firm in Uruguay, UHY Gubba & Asociados, has a human resources department, responsible for the recruitment of professionals on behalf of clients.
“We offer to manage human resources, creating a new product that is very well received by existing and new clients,” says Ximena Zampedri, who runs the operation.
The operation not only offers selection and recruitment but also a wide range of other services, including organisational diagnostics, drafting of position manuals, career plans, training, and performance evaluations.
From a client’s perspective, outsourcing this type of service requirement is often far more cost-effective than providing it in-house – especially as HR regulations and policy, often provided by experienced/qualified individuals, is needed.
Bookkeeping may be more traditionally associated with an accountancy network, but one of UHY’s member firms has specialised in it. “We like to do things other people do not like to do,” says Peter Van Rooy, of member firm, Handson & Partners, Belgium.
Clients in Belgium, he says, often prefer to outsource non-core business to a specialist supplier, rather than contract their own staff, because a service level agreement for outsourced work stipulates deliverables, deadlines, quality and flexible use of people.
Use of technology – including access to a secure, dedicated client portal via a website – is at the heart of the firm’s outsourcing success; while the firm’s investment in young people has given accountants a ‘new image’.
Risk advisory services
Meanwhile, UHY Advisors’ Enterprise Risk Advisory Services (ERAS), US, has a significant reputation for helping companies establish and enhance compliance programmes to reduce the risk of fraud, including bribery.
In one case, an international drilling company wanted to implement a global anti-bribery programme covering key elements of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the UK Bribery Act and other international standards.
ERAS conducted a global anti-bribery risk assessment covering the company’s operations in the US, UK, Asia and Middle East. The risk assessment results drove the amount of effort that was appropriate for the company and served as a starting point for implementing a risk-based third party due diligence programme.
‘Clients soon become accustomed to not having to coordinate different professionals as they are all now under one roof. This saves the client time and energy which he or she can dedicate to more value added core business.’
The team worked with management to develop and implement a series of policies including anti-bribery, business ethics, travel and entertainment and gifts and hospitality. Additionally, ERAS advised the client on selection of a web-based training programme and assisted with the roll-out efforts.
Now that the company has rolled-out policies, established due diligence procedures and conducted training, ERAS is helping the company measure compliance through internal audits. They include determining the awareness of policies, compliance with procedures, third party contract and due diligence review, and forensic examination of payments.
By retaining ERAS to assist in preventing bribery and fraud, “the company has made significant strides in establishing an effective compliance programme and optimising efforts to isolate itself from a rogue employee who may be tempted to commit an unethical act such as bribery”, says Christopher Lozier, principal, ERAS.
Trust, between client and supplier, resulting from the longevity of a business relationship is all-important when managing sensitive issues such as those handled by ERAS.
Migration for business
Some professional business service lines are particularly relevant to their regions and environments. For example, a team at UHY’s Australian firm, UHY Haines Norton, is helping business migrants settle into Australia.
“All business migrants need to fulfil certain conditions, both before and after arrival in Oz [Australia], and there are different business visas depending on age and other factors,” says Richard Swarbreck, consultant to the Perth office.
Conditions usually include employing a certain number of people, meeting a level of turnover, having and bringing funds to Australia and investing a minimum amount in the business.
“To a new migrant this presents a stressful challenge and our aim is to help them achieve success with minimum stress,” says Richard.
The firm’s main sources of business migrants are from South Africa, the UK, Malaysia, Singapore and China. But the firm has also had clients from most of the Asian countries, France, Italy and Lithuania.
Migration services offered by UHY firms are a natural progression for clients who are increasingly looking to expand internationally and move key staff to positions in foreign branches or subsidiaries.
Real estate valuations
A niche market – providing valuations for fixed asset reassessments – has been developed by one of UHY’s firms in Chile, in a joint venture with an engineering company.
The move follows a new law in Chile in 2006 which sets new criteria and standards for determining the taxable value of fixed assets, while allowing taxpayers to submit to the tax authorities legitimate and sound supported reclamations.
For the past six years, UHY CE&A, Consultores y Auditores de Empresas, Chile, has had a strategic alliance with the engineering firm, Urban Consultores Ltda, to provide real estate valuations in support of fixed asset reassessments.
As a result, the firm is able to offer non-audit clients a multidisciplinary package of tax, legal and real estate valuation services when reassessing taxable value.
“Our work is done in two stages,” says partner Ronny Frederick. “The first stage provides the client with a cost-free diagnosis of the likelihood of success in the application for a reassessment of the fixed assets tax assessment in force.
“We estimate the chances and the amount of the potential rebate from the assessment in force. Subject to both being material, we go ahead jointly with the client.”
The firm’s experience over six years is that, in cases where the diagnosis shows it is worthwhile pursuing (80% of those studied), 99% are successful.
When and if the application is accepted and approved, the taxpayer has been entitled to an average rebate on the tax assessment of the assets in the range of 20-25%. In some instances, the rebate has proved to be more significant.
Consequently, the corresponding tax on the client’s property tax assessment is reduced by the same resulting proportion, on future payment flows, provided new legislation does not become enacted that changes the assessments criteria and standards.
The service includes a search of the client’s files and administration of the fixed assets. It also includes matching information with building drawings filed at government public offices.
Clients looking to support their investments and acquisitions with tax-efficient vehicles rely on business service suppliers, such as members of the UHY network, who with the benefit of an in-depth knowledge of their client affairs, are able to provide robust and productive services.
Back in the US, Frank Fenello’s goal is that for every dollar a client pays in fees, the client gets five dollars back in efficiencies.
Managing director Frank Fenello set up the managing consulting group at UHY Advisors’ Atlanta office. He has also launched Enterprise Optimization, a methodology that defines and provides sustained value for companies by eliminating inefficiencies in business processes.
The firm identifies and assesses waste in a client’s business then creates a solution.
Clients benefit from processes and training aimed at improving the efficiency of the client’s workforce, which create a culture of continuous improvement and systematic elimination of waste, thus improving the client’s bottom line.
“The result is straightforward: improved company performance,” says Frank. “The key to making it work is to make processes more predictable and reliable. This raises productivity levels and ultimately results in increased profits.”
UHY Advisors engages a cross-functional team of the client’s employees to ensure all departments are working as effectively as possible, both individually and as a whole. By taking a look at the supply chain, accounts payable and field operations altogether, for example, UHY Advisors can see how many steps a process has, and then try to consolidate and reduce that number.
Typically, UHY Advisors implements improvements within three to six months and clients start to see results immediately.
One client, Cox Communications, Inc., expects to save 52,000 man hours and USD 3.9 million annually as a result of the programme. Cox is the US’ third largest cable company and has six million customers, 20,000 employees and a turnover of USD 8.7 billion. The client has already realised a 5:1 return on its investment.
“Very few companies are doing this,” says Frank. “But those that do are experiencing more streamlined processes, increased productivity and higher profits. In addition, running more efficiently means fewer headaches and bumps in the road, happier employees, satisfied clients and customers. What’s not to love about that?”
If you have a particular professional business service you need to outsource:
Contact: Dominique Maeremans
Other UHY personnel referred to in this article can be contacted as follows:
Peter Van Rooy