The Outsourced Controller: Who is monitoring our client’s bookkeeper?

Client Advisery and Accounting Services (“CAAS”) has been a hot topic in the accounting industry for years now, but little is being discussed about fractional/outsourced controllership. Offering an outsourced controller service in your accounting or CPA firm can create more opportunities because most small to medium-sized businesses have only one person performing all the accounting functions. We all know that segregation of duty is one of the best ways to deter fraud. The bookkeeper also reports to the owner. Owners are pressed for time and many have little accounting knowledge. So, why not offer them an outsourced controller service?

Most firms we hear from state, “We do not know where to start.” We recommend that they just start mapping out what they would be comfortable offering to clients. Most firms are offering some variation of this service already. Fractional controller services have just not been defined and actively sold to other clients. Here are some ideas for added services:

  • Accounting process assessments and recommendations

  • Bank and credit card reconciliations

  • Payroll review

  • Bookkeeper coaching

  • Budget preparation

  • Holding bookkeeper accountable to deadlines

The next step is meeting with clients. Your virtual controller services do not need to be perfect before this step. This is not an audit that requires a peer review. During client meetings, make sure you explain why having oversight is important. Real-life stories are the best way to convey the value of this service to clients. For example, we had a colleague provide similar services to a client. When they began, it was discovered that the wife of the owner who was handling the bookkeeping had stolen over five figures from the company. She was able to get away with this because no one was monitoring what she was doing in her role. Most clients place too much trust in their bookkeeper. But when you convey a real-life story, the point is clearly made that fraud can happen to anyone. We understand that fraud cannot be completely prevented. So, you need to make it clear to the client in the engagement letter that the service will not and cannot eliminate all fraud. But by adding another layer, it will help deter most fraud and ensure that financials are more accurate and timely.

Offering a new service can be intimidating, so start with a client you know well. Be transparent that this is a new service. Most clients will appreciate the openness. If they’re not interested, move on to the next client. Starting now is the key to success. For more information on offering CAAS click here.

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