When you hear the phrase ‘holistic’ you are often reminded of the colloquial term used in many medical practices. Holistic medicine is the consideration of many factors including, but not limited to, physiology, psychology, sociology, and even spirituality in the management and prevention of diseases. However, the term holistic can be used in the accounting world as well: swap out-patient for business owner and focus on a multifaceted approach to maintaining wealth and financial health and you got yourself holistic accounting.
What Is Holistic Accounting?
Holistic accounting is the practice of considering many aspects of a client’s overall health and performance in order to provide a higher level of client service. Clients are looking beyond paying for compliance and are actively searching for trusted advisers. They expect their accountants to know more about technology, insurance, wealth management and other areas outside of accounting to better service their needs.
The greatest push for holistic accounting is in the technology sphere. Clients are looking to accountants to help with setting up or developing accounting systems that meet their financial reporting needs. Whether it is internally developed accounting software or a SaaS (Software as a Service) based product, accountants should know enough to advise their clients on their best options.
By no means does this require accountants to know everything about IT and software development. However, partnering with an IT consultant or other SaaS based companies can give accountants a competitive advantage when it comes to the quality of their services. Typically, referring a client to a service provider that saves your client money will boost other’s perception of you as a trusted adviser.
Wealth management is another pillar of holistic accounting. This service provides clients with a high level of professional service that considers retirement savings, accounting and tax services, legal, and estate planning when developing a road-map for financial success. Going beyond regulatory compliance, wealth management looks at the life cycle of individuals, from starting a business to estate planning, to grow the wealth of their clients.
Accountants can use their knowledge of the financial life cycle to better predict the needs of their clients. For example, the needs of a new business owner will be vastly different from the needs of someone thinking about retirement. Using tax planning tools paired with investment advice, accountants can craft a plan that will build a client’s wealth while meeting regulatory compliance.
Accountants typically know just as much, if not more, then a client about their financial position. Whether it be industry bench-marking or tracking the latest trends, working with several clients within an industry allows accountants to be on the front lines. Instead of merely observing the industry as a whole, accountants can use this knowledge to create business consulting opportunities.
One example would be the use of benchmarking tools to analyze a business’ cost of goods sold or other G&A expenses. Accountants can easily track negative trends within a client’s business and see if it matches the industry as a whole. For example, if a medical practice is experiencing an unhealthy growth in the cost of their medical supplies than accountants could be the first to pinpoint this problem. By working with outside consultants, accountants can negotiate with vendors to save their clients money.
There are several other facets of holistic accounting and this article is only a glimpse into the broad set of services an accountant can provide. By using a holistic approach, accountants can differentiate themselves and provide a higher level of service to current and future clients.