Scott Kennedy is a man with a couple of notable accolades to his name. The first being that earlier this month he became the first Figured Certified Partner in the UK. The second - he’s the brains behind a world record attempt at getting the most people dressed in Peter Pan outfits in Kirriemuir, the birthplace of Peter Pan author, JM Barrie… But that’s a story for another day.
When he’s not coming up with ideas to raise funds as treasurer for his local cancer research group in Kirriemuir, Scotland, he’s Manager of Amber Accounting Services, a division of accounting firm, EQ Accountants.
Advisory at its core
Scott is a qualified accountant who has been with EQ for over 24 years. Around 7 years ago, EQ identified that they were lacking a presence in Forfar, and asked Scott to take the lead in establishing the business locally. While Amber Accounting had started off as a bookkeeping brand, Scott recognised the need for services that went beyond end of year compliance and focused instead on business advisory. Scott and his team now support clients with day to day business bookkeeping, through to monthly management reporting.
Business advisory, says Scott, is where he gets the most enjoyment - helping businesses identify where they are struggling, and taking them through the steps they need to overcome it. “It’s about having those - sometimes tough - conversations, looking at a business’s spending, and not just telling them what they want to hear, but what they really need to do. Through this approach we’re really building relationships as a trusted advisor”, says Scott.
EQ’s focus is on offering client-driven services. That is to say, it’s not about EQ telling clients what services they can choose, but tailoring their services to what the clients really need. “We ask them: ‘where do you want to spend your time, where do you need help, what’s important to you?’’, Scott explains.
As a champion of cloud accounting systems, Scott advocates that these systems have allowed EQ to be more proactive in their approach to supporting clients. Rather than waiting on clients to approach them with questions or concerns, they maintain regular contact throughout the year. This means there are no surprises when year-end comes around, and no chasing up on historical accounts.
“Being proactive allows us to deliver a better service to our clients, rather than having the client come to us with a problem, we’re able to identify potential issues and offer solutions ahead of time, as well as identifying issues that they may not even be aware that they have”, says Scott.
Tailored industry advice with cloud software
Using cloud accounting software, Xero, has been beneficial from an internal efficiency point of view, but also for the flexibility in what EQ can offer their clients.
With the help of add-ons, it enables EQ to offer advice better tailored to specific industry needs. “Using Xero, we can service most industries by calling on the Xero ecosystem to personalise the business solution for each client. Xero will perform the core accounting function of the business, with the add-on fulfilling the specific business need we identify. This means we can give each client a bespoke business service tailored to them.”.
For EQ’s farming clients, this is where Figured comes in. EQ are agricultural specialists, servicing clients throughout Scotland. They provide advice around financial management, succession planning, land taxes, growth and diversification, which is becoming an increasingly common discussion. Several members of the EQ team are farmers themselves, so they understand the issues that the industry is facing.
Scott says that farming has always been a ‘hard to reach’ place for management information. While farmers have good intentions of setting and working with budgets, their focus is on working the land. He’s excited to see a tool that will help them, as advisors, to work with up-to-date data and provide more insightful management reporting, rather than chasing farmers for numbers and using data that is 6-8 months old.
Scott says a big advantage of Figured over other software is the ability to switch between cash and profit and loss. EQ have already begun using Figured’s reporting functionality for several larger estate clients, and after familiarising themselves will begin to roll it out to more of their client base.
Leading the way
Making Tax Digital will be a driver for accounting firms to get on board with automated tools, but EQ are already a step ahead.
“Accountants can be resistant to change, but we’ve done a lot of work up til now, staying abreast of developments in software and seeking out leading-edge tools”, says Scott. “Making Tax Digital is a conversation starter around technology for many of our clients, but we know we are well-positioned for bigger discussions around better financial management with the help of cloud software and already have the insight to bring real value to our clients”.
As Figured’s first UK-based Gold Partner, and having worked alongside us as a beta partner since 2017, EQ have certainly demonstrated their commitment to supporting the industry as leading advisors in agricultural accounting.