A Guide to Outsourced Bookkeeping Services in the UK –Can Small-Scale Accounting Firms Succeed in Outsourcing?


A Guide to Outsourced Bookkeeping Services in the UK –Can Small-Scale Accounting Firms Succeed in Outsourcing? 

For many decades, outsourcing was considered to be a taboo concept in the UK’s accounting industry. “It will lead to loss of jobs and the destruction of small-scale accounting firms.” – that’s the attitude people had about outsourcing back in the early 2000s.


A Guide to Outsourced Bookkeeping Services in the UK –Can Small-Scale Accounting Firms Succeed in Outsourcing?

In the next twenty years, most small-scale accounting firms stayed away from outsourcing while the larger firms like HSBC, BDO, Smith & Williamson, etc., heavily invested in offshore accounting teams. As a result, the smaller firms were unable to grow as rapidly. 


Now, the UK’s small-scale accounting firms face crippling staff shortages. The cost of recruiting native accountants has skyrocketed. The accountants they manage to hire don’t want to waste time crunching numbers and instead prefer advisory roles at bigger firms.


A recent survey from Purdue involving accountants from across the Western world revealed that client demands are increasing extremely rapidly. 83% of the accountants who took part in the survey stated that demands from clients are higher than ever. 67% of them reported that the accounting profession is more competitive than it has ever been. 


Small-scale accounting firms that wish to remain competitive in 2021 and beyond still have the chance to expand and send part of their day-to-day responsibilities to offshore accounting teams. By doing so, they can expect advantages like – 


Competitive Edge

Small-scale firms have the perfect chance to start providing business advisory services. Doing so before their competitors can help them solidify their long-term commercial prospects. With an offshore team handling their routine accounting responsibilities (bookkeeping, tax filing, payroll management, etc.), the firms’ in-house staff members can focus more on business advisory services. 


Add More Clients 

Instead of refusing work, small-scale accounting firms can now simply redirect them to their offshore partners. They can even take on tedious tasks that promise minimal returns and still stay in net profit as offshore accounting teams offer extremely cost-effective services. 


Adapt to Changes 

The UK’s rapidly changing accounting industry is ripe for innovation. Outsourcing duties like bookkeeping, creating financial reports, back-office compliance tasks, etc., can help boost in-house staff productivity and creativity. The in-house team members can use their free time to innovate and find new ways of generating more revenues for the firm. 


Ideally, a small-scale accounting firm can maintain a flexible operation with offshore partners handling 50% of the firms’ responsibilities while the front-end UK staff focuses more on firm expansion. In the US, 79% of accountants state that their clients now expect business and finance consultancy services. A similar trend is expected to develop in the UK. So, accounting firms of all scales need to treat outsourcing very seriously. 


Selecting an Outsourcing Partner  

For small-scale, not publicly traded accounting firms in the UK, finding an outsourcing partner can be difficult. However, several firms have done it before. Here are the qualities these firms looked for in their providers of outsourced bookkeeping services in UK – 


Technical Expertise

An offshore accounting team’s technical expertise must be at the same level as their partners in the UK. An easy way to test an offshore accounting teams’ technical expertise is by asking them these basic questions. 

·         Can they report whenever their partner asks them to? 

·         Do they agree to stick to strict timescales and work hours?

·         Can they examine some existing accounts to spot mistakes or errors? 

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Do they use advanced accounting tools like Sage, QuickBooks, etc.? 

·         Are they up to date with the Brexit-related changes to payroll management?  

·         Can they produce accounts from half-complete records?


Infrastructure and Technological Capabilities

The offshore team must have private cloud networks and advanced data security tools to provide their partners back in the UK with total security and 24×7 availability. In hectic periods like the upcoming tax season, the list of responsibilities keeps increasing.

Small-scale accounting firms can’t afford to let their clients down just because their offshore team’s public internet system wasn’t functioning! That’s why learning about the outsourcing partner’s cloud infrastructure and other technological capabilities are vital before any contracts are signed. 


Accounting Knowledge 

Most importantly, the offshore team needs to be full of high-quality accounting professionals who are proficient at the fundamentals of accounting. A good way of checking whether the offshore accountant you’re dealing with is knowledgeable enough is checking their credentials.

All the top chartered accountants from the UK have accreditations from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). What’s the equivalent of ACCA in the country of your offshore accounting team? Does your offshore accounting team consist of certified chartered accountants?

Looking for such qualified experts aren’t difficult. Contact institutions like the Institute of Certified Practising Accountants (ICPA), ACCA, or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) for more information on various nations’ certification agencies. 

Interview several outsourcing providers and compare them by conducting background checks. Ask for references or proof of past work. Even better, send the providers who’ve been interviewed test assignments. If they pass the test, authorize the fee structure in writing and start collaborating! 


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