4 min read

5 Essential Tips for Building Your CAS Department


As aspects of accounting become commodified with the rise of technology, market saturation, and rising outsourcing tendencies, firms everywhere must find ways to adapt and find their own Unique Value Proposition (UVP). One way accounting firms can change the game is by taking their services a step farther by setting up a Client Advisory Services (CAS) department that supports client business more closely.

There is so much data to take into account (pun intended). New tools allow businesses everywhere to glance at what matters most on a daily basis. However, these tools also offer a ton of unstructured data that carries enormous value, but is difficult for untrained professionals to get at. That’s where advisory services come in.

A CAS department expands your range without fundamentally changing what your firm excels at. It’s a team dedicated to providing your clients with insights beyond accounting. They use all the knowledge your firm has pulled together about a business’s financial situation to benefit your clients and bring them closer to their goals. It helps firms stand out from the wide range of competitors and prepares them to engage more directly and precisely with clients. This unique department requires strategy and planning. Here are our top five tips to help you build and nurture your CAS department.



1. Prepare to Change

Whether changing your entire firm to be CAS-focused or opening a department within, know that big changes are on the horizon — new responsibilities, new scopes of work, hair in unexpected places, and a new smell that won’t go away. 

Advisory services are closer to the client by nature, and you must be prepared to approach accounting from a different angle and communicate with your clients in an entirely different way. You are no longer informing — you’re discussing, debating, promoting ideas, and sharing recipes. It’s a completely new form of value for the client, giving them a kind of business partner whose head is always in the numbers.

You will also need to adjust your business model and revisit your pricing. You’re shifting from a transactional accounting service to a more personal, strategic approach, and hourly rates risk making your clients hesitate before they reach out, straining the relationship from the get-go. An hourly rate may work for some clients, but value billing speaks more to the level of service they’ll receive. Only you — and the gods of research — know what works best for your clients.

Bear in mind, as you take the step, that the success of starting a CAS department comes in the long run. It will take testing procedures and protocols with your first few clients before the true extent of the service kicks in. There will be changes in communication, service priorities and delivery, pricing protocols, team dynamics, and more as you adjust, but your team will get the hang of it. Very few CAS departments are a raging success out of the gate.


2. Build a Team of Diverse Profiles

As with any successful team, a strong CAS department is a collection of varying backgrounds and experiences that complement each other. Your clients have many needs of varying natures, and one of the ways you can ensure that you can meet those needs is with a diversity of profiles and perspectives. Seek accountants, analysts, technology professionals, financial planners, business consultants — maybe even a stage magician, in case you need a distraction. You must also invest in client-handling professionals who can convey the right message in the right way — this gets into professionals who offer “soft skills,” which we’ll get to in a moment.

As you recruit or promote, ensure that you dedicate the designated players to CAS work. Due to the nature of advisory services, your clients must be sure that the team will be ready when they call. Therefore, compounding the team’s new responsibility with their former work in your firm will most likely overwhelm them — go figure — and affect how they support your clients’ businesses. Automate where you can, but remember that the team needs focus. For every team member you move within your firm into CAS, you must replace them if you want the best results.


3. Master Analytics, Problem-Solving, and Soft Skills

As we’ve mentioned before, CAS is a combination of accounting knowledge and customer support. Your CAS department will become consultants for your clients, which means putting a lot of effort and investment into analytics and real-time problem-solving. Be sure to invest in adequate training for the team, even if they have a background in the skill itself. This will help keep your entire team in tune as they learn to navigate your client’s financials and expectations and to come up with solutions to their concerns.

Then there is the matter of soft skills. Included in these are interpersonal skills — those that define interactions with others inside and outside the team. You must explore ways the department can enhance leadership and client communication. Though they may be experts in the matters they handle, only some are equipped to share their insights clearly and proactively. Those who struggle with this — or other soft skills such as organization, time management, or conflict resolution — may require additional training. This is their chance to make up for that time when they were unprepared to stand in front of the classroom and talk about Teddy Roosevelt.


4. Learn the Technology

So much has changed in recent years concerning accounting and bookkeeping tools. Ensure that a team member is in charge of technological developments and updates, and train the team to handle them. The same technology that has seen clients take charge of their accounting, thus commoditizing bookkeeping, can yield much better results in the hands of a knowledgeable team. Encourage your team to make the most of their tools. After all, platforms like Botkeeper Infinite (wink!) are built to support accounting professionals with automated, comprehensive data handling.


5. Pick the Right Clients

For advisory services to work, they must have a set system of tools and procedures that support the department. It’s enticing at first to open your doors to every client who needs the support, but buckling under their demands will send your team into chaos. Maintain an open conversation with prospective clients and be willing to negotiate, but knowing when a client isn’t the right fit is essential.

Transitioning to CAS frameworks or even implementing a new department that adds new services to your accounting skill set is bound to come with changes to your firm. It will let you find new ways to use your everyday tools and provide more comprehensive insights for your clients, enriching your relationship with them. Exploring new avenues and fostering a culture of continuous learning can help develop the diverse team you put together into a versatile department that adds immense value to your firm and your client’s success. 

Are you interested in making the shift? Using the right tools to analyze and address your clients’ requirements is essential to a CAS department’s success. Botkeeper Infinite offers a powerful platform for monitoring and handling bookkeeping for many clients — their finances, documents, and more — to give you a much better understanding of their needs. And coming soon, Botkeeper Infinite will offer Financial Insights, a tool designed to develop advisory insights from clients’ financial information.

Ready to get started? Check out Botkeeper Infinite today.


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