Accounting firms can benefit greatly from adding financial planning services to their list of offerings, according to a recent survey by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The Economic Benefit of Personal Financial Planning Services survey found that of the more than 2,400 CPA respondents, 49 percent said their firms offered personal financial planning services.
Attract New Clients
Of the surveyed firms that added financial planning services, 63 percent stated that adding the services greatly improved their ability to obtain new clients. This is because it fulfills an untapped need in the marketplace, says Susan Tillery, CPA/PFS, president and CEO of Paraklete Financial. Clients of all ages are looking for more, and when it comes to getting objective, independent financial advice from a trusted source, no one is in a greater position to do that than the client's own accountant, who already has expertise in taxes, estate planning, cash flow and investments.
Keep Existing Clients
Firms that primarily focus on tax preparation may be wary of adding financial planning to their repertoire for fear of alienating their tax customers. However, the survey shows that adding these services can help retain existing clients. Eighty-three percent of respondents that added financial planning services to their lineup said they very rarely or never lost tax clients due to the change, with 63 percent stating that it increased their engagement with clients, and 54 percent saying their clients appreciated them more for it. By adding financial planning services, firms can build more meaningful relationship with existing clients by reaching beyond their tax needs, according to Jonathan Gassman, CPA/PFS, CEO and founder of Gassman Financial Group.
The survey also shows that firms that add personal financial planning services tend to see greater profits, with 79 percent of those firms stating they were more profitable during their first year of offering the services. Gassman attributes this to the greater diversity of revenue sources. With more and more people handling their own taxes online and with tax preparation software, firms need to expand their offerings to include more than the typical tax services in order to stay profitable and continue to grow; personal financial planning fits that bill.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants provides training for CPAs interested in financial planning, with access to a database of information and low-cost practice management assistance. The AICPA also offers financial planning resources such as conferences, workshops, classes and networking events, including the AICPA Implementing Personal Financial Planning Services seminar in Las Vegas.
The trend of accounting firms adding personal financial planning services to their repertoire is expected to grow because it works so well for clients who value the convenience of getting all their financial services under one roof. Because accountants are already well-versed in a client's financial situation, providing financial advice based on that knowledge serves as a natural next step.
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