Luckily, accountants have more than one string to their bow to not only face these challenges, but come out of them even stronger. One such solution is to develop family office services, which will allow them to generate new revenues and further consolidate their client relationships.
There are many reasons why accountants are well-positioned to start offering family office services
Accountants generally have a large private and professional client base. Often, their best clients already turn to them for advice that goes beyond the traditional scope of their profession: from filing private tax returns and optimising professional income to transferring companies. Frequently, accountants give this advice as an add-on to their services, without packaging it into a specific offering. However, they would be able to diversify their business activities and thus overcome the current challenges they face, only by formalising their approach and turning this additional advice into real "family office services".
The reasons why they are well-positioned to develop those services relatively easily are many.
1. Privileged relationship of trust with the client
Although accountants generally have a vast client base, they tend to maintain a very personal and close relationship of trust with their best ones. Just because they often go beyond simply managing their accounts, but also advise on personal wealth, retirement organisation and even wealth transfer, accountants typically have a deep knowledge of their clients on a personal and professional level. They are, in a way, one of the general counsels of a family. Therefore, the nature of the relationship between accountants and their clients can often be compared to that of a notary or even a family doctor.
2. Holistic knowledge of the client
As a consequence, accountants tend to have a very extensive and global knowledge of their best clients that goes beyond their professional lives. They know their clients’ families, income and assets, especially if they they take care of matters like filing private tax returns.
3. Recognised as independent professionals
In addition, since they sell advice and services and not products, accountants are considered independent and “non-conflicted”. They are ideally positioned to independently and objectively provide the best global wealth advice to their clients.
4. Estate planning knowledge and skills
Since accountants already tend to address issues beyond their traditional framework, they generally already have developed extensive skills to assist their clients in achieving their wealth objectives. Internal skills are often not lacking to start offering global wealth advice and, if knowledge is still needed on a specific topic, they can easily outsource those issues to external experts who can cover them. In other words, if accountants have the knowledge internally, developing family office services allows them to value it. If they don't have the knowledge internally, they can call on the expertise of trusted partners. Yet in all cases, the accountants remain the central managers of their clients’ asset information. They are, as it were, the conductors of their clients’ wealth. They collect all the needed information internally or externally and turn it into music: successful and solid wealth advice.
On top, an economic context that values holistic advice more than ever
On top of those characteristics inherent in the accountants themselves, the current economic context also favours them to develop global wealth services. The crises of recent years have indeed brought major fluctuations in the market, making investing more and more uncertain and achieving high returns increasingly difficult. As a result, people are more cautious about investing their money and are more inclined to bet on insuring, consolidating and transferring their wealth than on increasing it by investing. It is this context of fluctuating markets and people that want to secure their wealth that today creates a favourable climate for accountants to assist their clients with global wealth management advice on the organisation, structuring and transfer of their assets.