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What is the ICAEW Business Advice Service?

The ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS) is to promote ICAEW Chartered Accountants as the first source of financial and business advice to entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized businesses

Firms in the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS) will offer an initial consultation at no charge to start-ups and SMEs, preparing them and their business to succeed.

To register your office/firm to the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS), please click on the link to Join BAS.

What is the ICAEW Business Advice Service?
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Under the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS), start-ups and SMEs will be encouraged to consult an ICAEW Chartered Accountant over the issues facing their business. They will be directed to businessadviceservice.com

The Business Advice Service aims to promote ICAEW Chartered Accountants as the first source of financial and business advice to entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized businesses; to help develop local economies and small businesses; whilst demonstrating to the Government our public interest role in supporting private-sector led economic growth. .

The website contains a directory of participating firms, broken down by location the potential client can decide which firm to contact.

A practice in the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS) will offer SMEs and start-ups an initial meeting at no charge to discuss the client’s business needs.

Why is ICAEW doing this?
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The ICAEW Business Advice Service has been set up to promote ICAEW Chartered Accountants as the first source of financial and business advice to entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized businesses; to help develop local economies and small businesses; whilst demonstrating to the Government our public interest role in supporting private-sector led economic growth.

Firms in the ICAEW Business Advice Service will offer an initial consultation at no charge to SMEs and start-ups, and advise them on their business needs.

ICAEW strongly promotes the value that its firms can provide to business and in particular raising awareness of the need for businesses to ensure they are getting expert advice from qualified business advisers.

How much time must we devote to these consultations?
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We have deliberately decided that no time limit should be set for the initial consultation. In some cases, the meetings may be over very quickly; others may take some time. You should judge the duration of the meeting depending on the nature of the enquiry. You should devote as much time as is necessary to offer the client some value from the meeting.

Why should my firm sign up when we do this already?
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Most firms offer an initial consultation at no charge with a potential client. However, many SMEs and start-ups are wary of asking for professional advice in case they are charged from the outset. Under the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS), it would be made clear that no financial commitment is made by the SME in the first instance. We believe this will encourage SMEs and start-ups to seek support from an ICAEW Chartered Accountant rather than resorting to unqualified alternatives.

What checks am I expected to carry out on BAS enquirers?
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You may consider that many of the businesses approaching you through the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS) come into a low risk category, for example where they are locally based small businesses, with a clear and easily understood business model and structure and little chance of being used for criminal purposes. In these cases, the kind of third party documentation that a potential client might well bring anyway to a business consultancy meeting may be sufficient, such as bank statements or contract correspondence with large or public bodies.

Alternatively, firms could seek electronic identification confirmation.

Indicators of a higher risk category might include an obscure ownership structure, a high-turnover cash business (such as pubs and clubs) or links with foreign jurisdictions with a difficult reputation. More than one form of independent identification information will be needed for these, and of as high a standard as is easily obtainable. Hopefully, though, even this will not be too difficult, given the wide range of sources of reasonably reliable independent evidence that are available. 

The rules are not different for BAS enquirers or other clients, though BAS ones may be of slightly higher risk as they are less likely to be introduced through existing clients. You should have sensible procedures for all client acceptance and risk assessment.

One element of standard procedures could be to require referral to your firm’s MLRO or another senior person, in relation to acceptance of any higher risk client. However, as all citizens get more and more used to having to proffer a passport and utility bill to their bank, whenever changing their banking arrangements, they become more likely to be perfectly willing to offer these to professional advisers as well. If a client of any risk profile comes into the office with their passport and utility bill ready to present, it would not be wise to refuse them.

So you are advised that with BAS enquiries you should follow normal ICAEW guidance regarding customer due diligence requirements.

For further information go to www.icaew.com/moneylaundering or ring the members enquiry Money Laundering Helpline on +44 (0)1908 248250.

Do I need to issue an engagement letter?
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Not at this stage but you must set out in writing details of your fees, details of the individual to whom complaints should be addressed and the rights of users of the service to complain to the ICAEW. This is required by the Code of Ethics and the Bye-laws respectively. This can be done simply in a standard note setting out the service you are providing (before the meeting) under this scheme (please feel free to copy and paste) as follows:

'The services provided under the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS) are free of charge. If you subsequently become a client of this firm we will discuss our usual charges with you.

In the meantime if you are in any way dissatisfied with the service you receive from us please address your concerns to (insert appropriate name and title). If you are still not satisfied you have the right to raise the matter with the ICAEW'.

There is also some information that is required to be disclosed by the Provision of Services Regulations. It is likely that this information is already included on your website, letterhead or brochure but you can find out more about these requirements in the practice helpsheet: Services Directive.

If you need further guidance, please call the Advisory Helpline on +44 (0)1908 248250.

Does my PII cover BAS enquiries?
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If you follow normal client acceptance procedures your Professional Indemnity Insurance should cover you for BAS enquiries. If you have any concerns check your PII policy and, if in doubt, contact your PII insurers.

What happens after the consultation?
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Following the initial meeting, the SME or start-up is free to end its association with your firm. On the other hand, it is quite possible that a number of business issues will have been identified which your firm can assist with. If that it is the case, the SME or start-up may decide to employ your firm as advisers at a commercial rate agreed between the two of you.

What sort of business advice should we offer?
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We would expect that the main areas of interest among SMEs and start-ups will be around starting a business, taxation, financial management, access to finance and turnaround and restructuring. However there is no reason why enquiries should be limited to these areas.

Do I need to contact the new or existing accountant?
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You will need to find out if the business has an accountant acting for them and also whether or not they have already sought advice on the issue they are consulting you about. The following table shows the relevant steps to take depending on the circumstances.

  What should I do? Code of Ethics reference
No on-going relationship with an accountant Nothing. Code of Ethics s210
Existing accountant but no advice given on the subject matter you are being consulted on under the scheme. You are not obliged to contact the accountant but may choose to do so – e.g. if you feel you may need information from the accountant in order to carry out your role. Code of Ethics s210.12
Existing accountant who has advised on the subject matter you are being consulted on under the scheme. This is akin to providing a second opinion and you should contact the existing accountant for information. If the business refuses permission for you to do this you will need to consider whether it is appropriate to act. Code of Ethics s230

Whatever the circumstances, if the business subsequently appoints your firm you will need to make contact with the last accountant that acted for the business. (Code of Ethics s210).

For further information, please ring the Advisory Helpline on +44 (0)1908 248250.

What enquiries should my firm make of any business wanting advice under the scheme?
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You should make enquiries to find out if the business already has an accountant as their adviser. The existing accountant may need to be consulted in accordance with sections 210 and 230 of the Code of Ethics.

How do we sign up for this Service?
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To register your office/firm please sign up here

If you have any queries please email the BAS team: bas@icaew.com or call +44 (0)20 7920 3561.

Is there a cost to sign up to the ICAEW Business Advice Service?
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There is no charge to list your firm in the ICAEW Business Advice Service.

How does the Business Advice Service differ from the SME Funding Adviser scheme?
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The Business Advice Service offers one initial meeting at no charge to discuss any one of a range of business issues. The SME Funding Adviser Scheme allows practices to indicate specific advice they offer on any one or more of 10 specialisms of business finance. There is no commitment to offer advice at no charge under the SME Funding Adviser Scheme.

How will the ICAEW Business Advice Service be promoted?
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ICAEW launched a new advertising campaign last autumn promoting ICAEW Chartered Accountants and promotion of the Business Advice Service (BAS) ran alongside this.

This included national and local media to ensure coverage across the UK. The advertising schedule shows the range of media used for the campaign. We are continuing to promote ICAEW BAS into 2012.

All firms that have already signed up to BAS receive a free starter pack of marketing materials to help them promote their practice. These include flyers, window stickers, web banners and a booklet promoting why a business should use an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. To see what’s available go to icaew.com/orders and please note you will need to register with new details as your icaew.com details will not work on this site.

Will it impact my entry on the SME Funding Adviser scheme or the ICAEW Directory of Firms?
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No. This is an additional directory listing and does not affect any other listings of your firm.

When was the service launched?
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The service launched in September 2011.

How can firms update their entry?
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You can amend and update your entry by logging into your account, if you have any enquiries regarding your listing contact the member enquiries team: faca@icaew.com or +44 (0)1908 248 250.

What happens next?
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We hope you will agree the ICAEW Business Advice Service is a valuable new method of supporting SMEs and start-ups and demonstrating the value of ICAEW Chartered Accountants. We also hope that your firm will agree to participate in the service.

Once you do so, we will add the BAS symbol beside your firm’s entry on Find a Chartered Accountant. We will send you an acknowledgement of your entry and will follow this up with publicity material you can use to promote your participation in the ICAEW Business Advice Service.