Client & Customer Onboarding

Accountants: Here’s How to Automate Your Client Onboarding Process

Accountants: Learn why and how to optimize your onboarding process and elevate the overall efficiency of your practice.

The new client onboarding process is a critical opportunity for firms to establish positive working relationships while demonstrating thoroughness and efficiency. Across industries, a smooth onboarding process drives both client acquisition and retention. In recent surveys, 63% of clients report that onboarding processes directly influence choices in service providers, and 86% state that effective onboarding and continuous education earn long-term loyalty.

As traditional onboarding processes involve many repetitive, manual tasks — especially during the document collection phase — automating your process with the right technologies is key to winning over new clients and keeping them satisfied. This guide covers the steps of accounting onboarding and outlines tasks you can automate for a faster, more client-friendly onboarding experience. 

Steps Of The Client Onboarding Process

Onboarding new accounting clients typically involves eight steps.

1. Introductory Meeting

You hold an introductory meeting to discuss the scope of services, set expectations, and understand their client's needs.

2. Needs Assessment

You learn about incoming clients’ existing financial state and most pressing needs. A comprehensive assessment of the client's financial state, objectives, and existing tools is often necessary to get started.

3. Documentation Collection

Often the longest and most labor-intensive part of the onboarding process, you have to collect your all necessary financial documents from your client, including:

  • Previous tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Payroll records
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Credit notes

Firms can collect documents in hard copy, by email attachment, or through a secure client document portal. 

4. Review and Setup

After collecting all the required documentation, you must review the provided information, set up the client's profile in the accounting system, and establish a personalized reporting structure.

5. Software Installation and Configuration

You install and configure any necessary accounting software tools they will use to provide services.

6. Training

Depending on the software used, your new clients may need training on how to use the new tools and systems.

7. Review Meeting

Conducting a final review meeting is common practice to address any questions or concerns and confirm the client's understanding of the new processes and systems.

8. Ongoing Communications

Maintaining continuous communication for clarification and confirmation fosters a successful working relationship.

Benefits of an Automated Onboarding Process

Automating your client onboarding process provides many benefits.

1. Enhanced Data Privacy and Security

Automation significantly enhances data privacy and security, especially for managing sensitive data such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Financial Information (PFI). Across the board, cyber threats to private data are on the rise, with 422 million reported incidents of data breaches in 2022 — a 41% increase over 2021 totals. In an era of rampant cyber threats, automated platforms bolster security measures, aligning with regulations such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Safeguards Rule

Replacing vulnerable communication channels such as email with a secure client document portal mitigates the risk of data breaches and ensures compliance with emerging privacy regulations across various jurisdictions. Secure handling of financial information instills trust in clients and demonstrates your commitment to safeguarding their assets and personal information. In essence, automation creates a robust shield around critical data, which is paramount for both legal compliance and customer confidence.

2. Increased Efficiency

Automating the client onboarding process results in remarkable efficiency gains. By automating routine and monotonous tasks like data collection, client profile creation, and document tracking, financial institutions free up human resources to concentrate on more complex and value-added activities. 

This leads to increased productivity, the potential for higher revenue, and more opportunities for staff development. Additionally, automation can reduce human error, providing more accurate and consistent results. Fewer data entry errors reduce onboarding times, enhancing client experience and allowing teams to handle more challenging workloads.

3. Better Client Experience

Automation enhances the client experience by substantially speeding up the onboarding process, reducing the time clients spend providing information and waiting for responses. The ability for clients to track their progress in real-time gives them a sense of control and engagement. 

With automation, error-free data handling becomes the norm, which significantly contributes to client satisfaction and long-term retention. Overall, clients benefit from a smoother, faster, and more predictable onboarding process, enhancing their relationship with the financial institution from the outset.

4. Cost Reduction 

Automating client onboarding significantly reduces the operational costs associated with manual procedures. By eliminating the need for repetitive manual tasks, financial institutions can allocate resources more strategically. The savings are not only in terms of manpower but also in reduced errors, which might require costly remedies later. The return on investment in automation often justifies the initial expense, resulting in long-term cost efficiency.

5. Scalability 

Automated onboarding processes enable financial institutions to scale their operations effortlessly. As the client base grows, the automated system can handle increased volumes without the need to proportionally increase staff or other resources. Having agility in scaling helps organizations adapt to market demands and capitalize on new opportunities without being constrained by labor-intensive processes.

6. Compliance Adherence 

Regulatory compliance in the financial sector is complex and keeping up with applicable regulatory changes can challenge even experienced teams. Automated onboarding processes incorporate real-time updates to laws and regulations, ensuring that the onboarding process is always in line with current legal requirements. 

This proactive approach minimizes the risk of non-compliance, reduces the administrative burden on staff, and ensures clients are onboarded according to the latest regulatory standards. Automation in compliance is not only about avoiding penalties but also about demonstrating a commitment to lawful and ethical business practices.

How to Automate Your Onboarding Process

Automating your client onboarding process helps reduce the hours spent on time-consuming, rote tasks. Accountants should consider automating these two parts of their onboarding processes.

Document Collection

Document collection for new clients can be an arduous task requiring repeated communication to obtain all necessary paperwork. The average client onboarding process involves the exchange of more than 100 documents — many containing PII and PFI — for more than 150 data fields. Adopting an automated document collection platform streamlines this bottleneck and reduces the need for back-and-forth emails and calls.

Data Entry

Transferring client data into the accounting system can be tedious and error-prone. Automation software ensures a seamless, accurate transition of data from one platform to another, reducing errors by as much as 41%. Even when done correctly, data entry in the client onboarding process is costly, with 39% of accountants reporting they spend more than half their typical workday filling out form fields.

Onboarding Automation Tools

The market for accounting onboarding tools is growing and accountants have more options than ever before. Here are four platforms you can use to get started.

1. Practice Ignition

Practice Ignition is a popular choice with features for

  • Online quotes and proposals
  • Auto-generated contracts and engagement letters
  • Premade client templates and lists of onboarding tasks

2. TaxDome

TaxDome is a subscription software-as-a-service (SaaS) for accounting firms. The platform offer users:

  • Customizable forms and surveys
  • Secure client portal for messaging
  • Unlimited e-signatures
  • Email search and synchronization for organizing client information and communications

3. FileInvite

FileInvite is a comprehensive automated document collection platform. FileInvite’s secure document portal allows clients to upload documents at their own pace to a single repository, simplifying the process and giving both parties complete visibility into pending tasks. Additionally, FileInvite includes:

Automate Your Document Collection Process with FileInvite

FileInvite’s secure client portal software reduces document collection cycle times by an average of 30%, allowing you to spend your time on valuable accounting client services, rather than unraveling email threads. 

To learn more and request a demo, visit FileInvite today.

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