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ICAEW/RQ tie-up aids integrated advisory

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 19 Mar 2024

RQ platform puts ICAEW members at the heart of a professional services eco-system that enables them to provide more integrated advice and support to their clients.

Accountants wanting to deliver joined-up, proactive business advisory services to their clients can now benefit from a tie-up between ICAEW and technology company RQ.

The RQ platform offers a compliant way to manage a network of complementary professionals such as solicitors, financial planners and wider providers of business advisory services, allowing ICAEW member firms to introduce them to clients and collaborate when specialist assistance may be required.

As part of the offering, RQ carries out due diligence and monitoring on financial planning firms – to help manage the regulatory complexity and uncertainty of building a network. Meanwhile, RQ’s client diagnostic tool – Compass – can radically improve client onboarding and help accountants really get to know their clients. 

The RQ platform’s commercial agreements wizard smoothes the way for accountants to earn income from cross-professional collaboration. Any firm can use the RQ platform to collaborate with other professionals, but only those that meet an exacting set of industry standards earn the right to refer to themselves as RQ Certified. This makes it easier for ICAEW members to build a panel of trusted business advisers.

Although the platform is not a substitute for compliance, it can help to ensure that accountants adhere to the ICAEW Designated Professional Body (Investment Business) regulatory regime, which allows professional bodies to supervise and regulate members that undertake investment activities. 

Way to add value

Johnny Ridd, RQ CEO, explains: “Increasingly, accountants are looking for additional ways to add value to their clients as technology commoditises the core elements of the accounting profession. An important way they can do so is to bring in third-party advice and support to their clients. However, even the most seemingly benign referral can fall foul of regulatory constraints and, if they’re not careful, accountants could stray into an exempt regulated activity.”

“Client stewardship is everything. You can use the platform to form relationships, leverage the due diligence that we do on those parties and even set up commercial agreements with them. Crucially, the RQ platform allows you to manage these relationships in a compliant way,” Ridd adds. 

The information on the RQ platform takes data from a wide variety of sources, including the Financial Conduct Authority register and Companies House. In addition, RQ-certified firms must answer an extensive questionnaire about their documentation, processes and policies. This is followed up by verification by RQ of client files to assess the advice that has been offered. 

The first stage of the process is intended to help ICAEW identify professionals they can trust. However, Ridd says it’s difficult for accountants to offer high-value advisory services without also engaging business owners in a wider conversation about their personal and business circumstances and objectives. “Firms that are able to have these conversations will build deeper relationships with their clients, who are then more likely to come to you for advice on a wider range of issues and to see you as a first port of call for their wider business needs.”

Pointing the way

RQ’s Compass diagnostic tool is an interactive client questionnaire designed to help accountants understand the financial situation, concerns and business aspirations of their clients. “It’s a mechanism to get to know your clients better, so that you can be more proactive with them without adding to your existing workload.” 

Under the terms of the agreement, the core RQ referral platform is provided to ICAEW member firms free of charge. The Compass tool is an additional cost starting at £50 a month up to around £1,000 for the largest firms, contingent on the number of clients the firm has.

John Gaskell, ICAEW’s Head of Personal Financial Planning, says: “We are pleased to have worked with RQ in creating this technology platform, to help ICAEW members collaborate with other professionals on advisory services. ICAEW Chartered Accountants have a long and successful track record helping SME businesses remain competitive and this technology should help strengthen client relationships and drive client value.”

The smaller the business, the more intertwined matters relating to the business and the business owner’s personal affairs tend to be, Gaskell says. “This is about ensuring ICAEW members are best placed to provide advice and support that meets the needs of their clients, putting them at the heart of the professional ecosystem they own and manage.

“It helps people to look under the bonnet,” Gaskell adds. “Compliance-based services are essential, but the real value-add for accountants comes from engaging with clients in a more holistic way and being able to offer broad professional advice that meet clients’ needs. Having a platform like this helps to manage the complexity.” 

Tried and tested

Keith Lesser is Managing Director of Chingford-based Lesser and Co, which works with a portfolio of around 350 primarily limited-company clients and is an early adopter of the RQ platform. “Focusing on fewer, more profitable clients pays off,” Lesser says. “You have deeper relationships and more conversations with your more strategic clients, which then brings additional work.” 

Referring clients to independent financial advisers, solicitors, insurance brokers, mortgage brokers and even other accountants via the RQ platform makes the process far more professional and easier to manage, Lesser says. 

“Ultimately, it’s about delivering a great client experience and saving the accountancy firm time in doing so. There’s also a client retention benefit because you can offer a broader service. Having a network of professionals that we can recommend is a strength of our firm. And if you are receiving commissions, RQ provides a way of tracking them and making sure they are ICAEW compliant.” 

Overall, is RQ a valuable offering to ICAEW members? “If your firm is in chaos, RQ is not going to solve all your problems,” Lesser says, “but if you’re looking to be more strategic and do things properly, and aim for quality and best practice, it’s a very natural fit.”

This short video gives an overview of the RQ/ICAEW platform. 

To find out more and access resources on personal financial planning, join ICAEW’s Personal Financial Planning Community.

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