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Reinforcing Trusted Advisor Status through Technology Innovation



Business owners have always relied on their accountants to be their ‘go-to’ for support, advice and help – to be looked after by them. Simply put, accountants are the trusted advisor to their clients and an integral part of their operation. Good accountants will firmly embed themselves into their clients’ businesses, providing comfort that they have an advisor who understands and supports their goals, removes unnecessary hassle from red tape and generally keeps them on track.

That said, there are pockets of service delivery, such as Research and Development (R&D) Tax Claims, that some clients still have to access through third parties because their accountants have not been able to unlock the capability to offer this service in-house – and this can potentially create business risk. Whether clients opt to work with another accountancy firm or a dedicated R&D Tax Claims consultancy, there is a chance that the accountant could be left picking up the pieces if the claim has been mishandled or worse still, they could lose the relationship to a full-service firm.

With recent research from WhisperClaims reaffirming that accountancy firms are increasingly driven by maximising efficiency, upholding best practice and being recognised as a credible professional by their clients, it is more important than ever to be able to provide a holistic, end-to-end client portfolio – and that includes R&D Tax advice.

Mike Dean, Managing Director of WhisperClaims, explains: “Dedicated cloud-based R&D Tax Claims technology, with training and support on tap, provides accountants with the ability to build and maintain strong client relationships and reinforce their trusted advisor status.” 

Unlocking your status

Mike Dean

Accountants that have embraced the trusted advisor role understand how important it is to ensure their clients get the best advice and support at every step, but that is hard to control or guarantee when any aspect of the service is outsourced.

How can an accountant sign off on a tax return when they have not been involved in the preparation of the R&D Tax Claim? Anyone can call themselves an R&D Tax specialist yet have no accounting background or tax qualifications – and importantly they will not be subject to the same level of regulatory scrutiny as certified accountants.

Given the potential risks associated with outsourcing, many accountants are therefore looking to extend the depth and breadth of their service offering – and R&D Tax advice is becoming an increasingly important part of the overall service portfolio. Research carried out by WhisperClaims confirms that accountancy firms’ primary motive for providing R&D Tax advice is based around their role as a trusted advisor to their clients.

The research revealed that firms want to be able to manage the end-to-end process without handing over responsibility to a third party; and while the additional revenue stream is obviously welcome, this outcome carries far less weight than the client satisfaction accountants want to be able to offer.

For firms to be able to deliver a complete service portfolio for clients, it is vital to establish an efficient, cost-effective and reliable approach to preparing R&D Tax Claims. Just as technology has transformed every other aspect of the accountant’s role over the past decade, dedicated R&D Tax Claims software can empower accountants with a framework and structure that enables them to deliver a high quality service that is robust, compliant, and repeatable.

Embracing technology

SaaS technology, such as some R&D tax software, provides a financially scalable model to support accountants with variable levels of client demand for R&D tax claims preparation. It provides the foundation for a process designed to be used by qualified accountants with a strong understanding of their clients’ businesses and a fundamental understanding of the guidance and what qualifying work looks like.

Deploying technology to support R&D tax service delivery in this way not only facilitates easy collaboration between accountant and client, it also makes data easy to analyse, allowing accountants to demonstrate the viability and worth of a potential claim with confidence and reassurance that the work being put forward meets HMRC expectations. Access to training and expertise alongside the technology enables accountants to build up experience and extend their trusted advisor status.

The other huge benefit of dedicated SaaS R&D tax software is the continual evolution of the technology to keep users within the boundaries of the scheme and up to date with the changes being introduced by HMRC. From risk mitigation measures to the offer of optional claim reviews prior to submission, technology provides robust support to give accountants additional confidence. It should also support the more comprehensive sign off process between client and accountant demanded by HMRC from April 2023, ensuring the name and signature of both the advisor and a senior officer from the client are included in the claim.

Build confidence, access support, mitigate risk

For many accountants it is unlikely that a significant proportion of their client base will be engaging in qualifying R&D activity and therefore may find they are dipping in and out of the process only a handful of times per year. As such, it is really important that the individual(s) responsible for preparing claims have access not only to technology but also support, even if that is just a sounding board for advice and guidance.

HMRC’s R&D Tax Claim information can be opaque in places, and the ability for an individual to tap into the knowledge and experience of a team that has been involved with thousands of successful claims is hugely valuable. The best R&D tax software on the market is designed by R&D tax experts with hands-on experience of R&D tax consultancy and a solid understanding of the scheme.

Critically, by producing a high-quality output every time an accountant uses such dedicated technology, they can be confident that they are minimising the likelihood of prompting an HMRC investigation. And, even in the event of an HMRC investigation being launched, the structured and consistent process ensures an accountant can be composed and assured in responding to any additional questions HMRC may raise, with the added back up of advice, guidance and support offered by the team of R&D tax experts.


As well as supporting their clients’ business success, accountancy firms have themselves had to consider how they will build more sustainable and profitable businesses in the future. Technology has become crucial to this process. Exploring new technology to add R&D tax advice to their services portfolio allows accountants to meet their goals of maximising efficiency, learning and being recognised as a credible professional by their clients. It also enables them to do so in a robust and repeatable way whilst remaining compliant with the introduction of new and any future changes introduced to the scheme.

There is no doubt that HMRC’s more rigorous approach to compliance within the R&D tax relief scheme will see advisors who push the R&D tax relief boundaries facing extra scrutiny and making way for firms committed to good practice to step up as the trusted advisors for their clients’ R&D tax relief claims. Clients deserve the best advice and who better placed to deliver this than their accountants?


How to identify the signs that your IT department need restructuring



Eric Lefebvre, Chief Technology Officer at Sovos


For firms to execute transformations and meet their overall vision, it is crucial that their CIOs are able to recognise the signs that their department is in need of some internal change. In the current economic climate, CIOs working to fulfil their organisation’s priorities and meet business goals might hesitate to acknowledge that their IT department needs restructuring, never mind be able to identify the signs.

However, these problems rarely fix themselves and organisational restructuring requires conviction and determination from leadership for it to occur successfully. So, what are some of the key signs that CIOs should look out for?

Eric Lefebvre


Struggling to keep up with industry demands

CIOs unsurprisingly are working in an extremely demanding environment at the moment. Meeting these evolving demands is crucial for companies. When demands are not met and not handled properly, this can have a lasting impact on organisational goals and objectives, and even impact the way in which transformations are put into effect.

Depending on the organisation’s structure, the way in which being unable to keep up with demands manifests itself can differ. Despite double digit reductions across the industry, the search for talent across the tech world continues, project costs continue to rise as the cost of labour has increased and schedules have been disrupted by significant attrition. Many companies will also find business costs, such as that of third-party software, are higher than planned and technology debt continues to pile up faster than it can be sunset.

Whilst leadership teams might dedicate their department’s attention on the factors discussed above, they may find that their team will fall short when it comes to timely deliverables and helping maintain your organisation’s tech stack and guide its business transformations. Looking beyond the immediate problems of high costs and considering an internal reshuffle may be the solution for many IT departments.


Internal conflict within the team

Organisational designs with underlying issues can cause constant friction, especially when they go unacknowledged. An IT department that lives in conflict will certainly be reflected in results and less than successful tech transformations. CIOs will find that by adopting an organisational design which works through staffing issues, will better innovate, especially if they can all work together.

Department leads should have a strong understanding of their team’s work environment and guide them through any long-term or potential problems. When an individual is working in a demanding or complex industry, working well with your team shouldn’t be the main impediment to innovation. By acting quickly to eliminate internal conflict, CIOs can better lead and ensure their team’s focus is entirely on producing more optimal outcomes.


Delays are commonplace

When a large amount of your team’s time is spent setting objectives, budgets and timelines for the projects they are working on, it is vital that they are met. When delays are coming from the IT department, they will inevitably hinder the development of any business transformation, especially if it prompts teams to spend excessive amounts of time rearranging budgets and timelines and therefore hindering innovation.

IT departments are a crucial aspect in many different parts of a company’s transformations, so remaining on track when it comes to timelines and innovation is critical to operational plans. If delays have become commonplace in an IT team, and external factors are impacting projects, CIOs should look at restructuring an IT department to solve these issues.

The strongest team relationships do not happen by accident and are the result of good planning, strong leadership and a motivated team. CIOs can ensure this by providing vision and long-term strategy with clear goals and objectives to produce high levels of quality output.

When internal issues are noticed in an IT department, and are noticeably impacting team morale or productivity, this should indicate the need for departmental restructuring. Be that due to an inability to meet market demands, issues with productivity and meeting deadlines or internal conflict, these issues all risk a department’s functionality and an organisation’s ability to achieve its goals. In short, don’t overlook the warning signs!


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The need for simpler cross-border payments must be a priority for all banks



Mushegh Tovmasyan – Founder of Zenus Bank


Despite the transformative changes we have seen in the banking sector over the last decade, there remains a considerable disparity in accessing financial services from country to country and even vital day-to-day services such as cross-border payments or funds transfers.

A strong emphasis on banking personalization has driven us towards bigger and better digital experiences. Meanwhile, continuous globalization and the requirement to engage across borders means the need for global financial inclusion where individual customers, as well as businesses, have the same sort of access to useful and affordable financial services across transactions, payments, and savings, through digital banking is more apparent than ever.

The rise of challenger and neo banks, as well as fintech providers, has transformed the capabilities of the banking sector, which can now offer a vast array of services to customers. These include new interactive service models, from cryptocurrencies, Buy Now Pay Later products and embedded financial lending services from companies across various sectors – ranging from supermarkets to global sports companies – outside of the banking industry. Meanwhile, the pandemic exacerbated the trend towards completely digital companies that operate remotely and need to be able to provide cross-border services instantly to work with other globally-orientated partners, pay staff anywhere across the world and expand global supply chains into new geographic markets.

Mushegh Tovmasyan

One area that is growing rapidly is Latin America, where fintech investment has accelerated significantly. The region saw growth of nearly four times, rising from $4.1 billion in 2020 to $15.7 billion in 2021. Latin America serves as a perfect breeding ground for fintech start-ups. Primarily because banks across the region have, historically, only served affluent individuals due to a lack of competition and stringent credit requirements. A large portion of the overall population is still underbanked, ranging from 30 percent to 50 percent in major countries. Even for those with credit cards or bank accounts with local banks, the user experience is generally poor, while many banks have failed to invest in technological infrastructure and improve the digital experience.

Clearly, across the region, there is significant demand for access to a global secure bank account for a range of needs. For employees in developing economies working for companies who currently wait weeks to be paid through local banks. For small businesses looking to access and collaborate with new markets, and to provide access to a strong currency – the U.S. dollar – for those in developing countries with less stable economies, transforming the capabilities of international digital banking. This trend has only accelerated as remote working has become the new norm and companies employ staff all over the world. We at Zenus, therefore, believe offering a secure, transparent and scalable international bank will be vital for banks to provide financial inclusion to millions of people, businesses and organizations still without these essential products.

Consequently, the banking sector is now investing heavily in products that can offer secure, transparent and scalable international payment services that will be vital for providing financial inclusion to millions of people, businesses and organizations operating in developing economies. Cross-border banking, for example, and the ability to transfer money across bank accounts from different countries, provide a unique challenge that many banks are looking to address. While money has always been transferred across borders, the increase in cross-border flows of both capital and citizens in today’s world has resulted in more financial organizations looking to provide this service instantaneously.

In response, international banking licenses – the concept of globally-focused banks running on the same technology infrastructure across each country under one global license – are now being repurposed by banks to not just service High Net-worth and ultra wealthy customers but for anybody, anywhere in the world, especially in emerging countries where the need exists the most.

Banking accounts can be opened remotely and accessed from anywhere, providing customers with a global footprint, constant access to their funds and providing access to a global account for those in developing countries with less stable economies.

At Zenus, we believe this growing trend will be one of the defining changes across the global banking sector – helping to address the recurring problem of transferring money overseas from a complex, expensive and time-consuming process to an instant routine task – and is the main area we are investing and working with strategic partners to help scale these services for customers across the globe. By also offering our banking infrastructure via API’s and White Label services, we enable prominent Brands and fintech providers to expand their global reach and explore new revenue verticals. UK fintechs, for example, could service US clients or Latin American clients helping cross-border banking to become accessible everywhere.

These changes will also help complement the rise of embedded finance services such as Banking as a Service (BaaS), providing financial services to any company, no matter the sector, that is looking to adopt and implement these products on a global scale. The concept also has the potential to transform and democratize in developing nations, where it can take a few weeks for people to be paid through local banking channels.

That is our mission at Zenus – to make it easier and safe for clients to access, send, receive and store money in the U.S. from anywhere globally. Our international license gives customers constant access to their funds without requiring U.S. residency or citizenship.

The demand for simple and seamless cross-border payments could help transform the global banking system. Not only by providing new standards for the global banking sector but by ensuring customers can have access to an international bank instantly and no matter where they are based.


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