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Systems control: new clients

In this last of three articles, we look at two more areas of practice where a gap in your systems can swallow some vital information.

The previous articles in this series, Systems control: monitoring filing and submission deadlines and Systems control: Excel errors provided a reminder of what can go wrong and the importance of keeping deadline control systems under close review.

New clients or new client services

There must be a sufficiently strong system to ensure that new clients make their way onto all appropriate control spreadsheets.

For example:

a) Your firm has acted for a partnership client for many years. During the closing meeting on the 2011 accounts, the partners ask you to prepare the 2011/12 P11Ds. How does this client get onto the 2011/12 P11D monitoring system?

b) A new corporate client engages your firm to prepare and file the CT600 and iXBRL tagged accounts. A file is set up and the client is added to the billing database, but how do you ensure entry on the corporate client deadline control?

Controls ‘per manager’

Depending on the structure of the practice, having client controls based around each manager’s portfolio can be effective. However, if your practice operates on such an approach, it would be considered best practice to:

  • ensure sufficient access rights to cover manager absence so that other staff can access information the manager is using to monitor deadlines
  • “watch the gap” – in these cases it is fairly common to come across scenarios where work is spread between two or more departments and each thinks that the other is controlling a particular deadline.

Standard checklists for ‘new’ clients and services

In order to tackle the above issues, the firm should review its checklists for new clients and services.

New clients

While we are all used to ID checklists for new clients, does your checklist also indicate all the services required; who will be responsible for them; and how this will be controlled?

New services

Some firms find it very helpful to have a checklist whenever the client asks for a new service. The checklist can then cover the issues of responsibility as above. It can also identify: the quote for the work; the quality / type / amount of records expected; and any deadlines.

This can be a good way of making sure that everyone gets into the habit of properly quoting for extra services, rather than running the risk they get lost in the client’s overall bill. Clients are much more likely to pay for a service if it is properly quoted for and then billed separately, in line with the original quote.

August 2012