Bureau service ‘on steroids’

Known as Virtual Accounts Office (VAO), the new service hopes to offer their clients more than just a ‘traditional’ bureau service.

The system includes an online facility that allows accountants’ clients to view accounts or reports remotely over the internet. If it is piloted successfully, VAO will be launched at Birmingham’s Softworld Accounting & Finance show, held in October.

Exchequer Software is providing the technology in terms of software, hosting services and also tools and processes for the product’s ‘effective running’ within an organisation.

‘VAO will be a new concept to many small and mid-tier accounting firms as it provides far more than the traditional bureau service,’ according to Rob Steele, marketing director of Exchequer. ‘It is a huge potential revenue stream for SMEs,’ he added.

‘Not only are accounts and bookkeeping services provided, but also the outsourcing of credit control, banking, pro-active business alerts and automated report scheduling.

‘In addition, clients can log in and view the accounts or reports remotely across any internet connection. This is a bureau service on steroids.’

Swindon-based accountants Morris Owen originated the scheme in the late 1990s. ‘It’s an outsourcing service of accounting,’ according to Ian Sumbler, partner with Morris Owen.

‘No-one has really taken the whole ownership of the accounts, rather than just have an online “application service provider”. But we’ve been looking to provide a better and more flexible VAO package. Exchequer has looked at us, seen our presentation, and started talking to us about the VAO concept.’

The Independent Association of Accountant Information Technology Consultants (IAAITC) has also been involved in piloting the initiative with a number of accountancy firms, having initially approached Exchequer with the idea.

‘It’s going very well,’ said IAAITC chief executive Dave Reynolds. ‘There are no issues with the technology.’

Reynolds added that the new scheme should not be confused with those offered by a ‘pure application service provider’.

‘The difference is that the accountancy firm retains control of the management information. There’s a whole raft of additional services that an ASP wouldn’t want to get on with. It also gives SMEs access and support.’

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