First class SMSF: How Macquarie saves 40% by using SMSF Sorted Pro

 

When Christina Mainey from Macquarie Business Accounting began using SMSF Sorted by Cloudoffis in 2020, she quickly witnessed efficiency savings of more than 40%.

It’s big news that SMSF Sorted Lite—a core version of SMSF Sorted Pro which includes powerful OCR tools—is now included with Class at no charge. So thousands of SMSF accountants are ready to enjoy similar efficiency gains.

But with a simple upgrade to SMSF Sorted Pro, much more is possible.

Looking at How Christina and Macquarie use SMSF Sorted Pro shows why—and is just the start of the SMSF revolution on its way with a groundbreaking AI engine that offers next-generation accounting features.

Why Macquarie chose Sorted.

Before SMSF Sorted, Macquarie’s accountants were spending too much time on workpapers—especially with the outsourcing of other firms creating price pressure.

Christina knew there were options, but chose SMSF Sorted for the support and integration.

“We were already paperless, and we’d trialled a few options—but Cloudoffis SMSF Sorted was head and shoulders above the rest”, she says.

According to Christina, the time savings are priceless.

“OCR is my favourite because it saves me time as well as the reviewer. Up to 40%—and with the updates and releases we’re expecting that to reach 50% very soon”.

Christina also says SMSF Sorted delivered more than she’d bargained for.

“I knew it was integrated with Class and BGL—but I had no idea how well. It’s more than trial balances—it has 17 reports with all kinds of checks”.

Next generation accounting.

For Macquarie, SMSF Sorted Pro is opening the doors to the next generation of SMSF accounting—with the release of a new AI engine for industry-first automation that removes whole accounting steps.

“The automated wrap statement reconciliation is next level”, says Christina. “Some of our wrap reports are up to 200 pages—so importing them for automatic reconciliation is a game-changer”.

Christina says this kind of automation can often over-promise but not deliver—but not with Cloudoffis and SMSF Sorted Pro.

“With other software you expect things and it maybe doesn’t work. With Cloudoffis, you can believe it—and it just gets better with every release”, she says.

Automation and optimisation.

The Cloudoffis AI is built on strong foundations of automating and optimising day-to-day SMSF accounting.

Because SMSF accountants have their own methods, Sorted Pro includes 8 ‘Excel-like’ workpapers for easily customised reconciliation checks.

Automated push notifications and query alerts keeps workflow moving and save dead time between necessary changes.

But for Christina and Macquarie, the bedrock of automation is the over 21 that standardise compliance checks with automated red flags.

“With observations, it’s great to double-check my work with observations—whether work tests are met, payment summaries done, pensions allocated—it just really helps”, says Christina.

There’s a portal for that.

The unique Cloudoffis portal—which supports the accounting, review and auditing processes alike—is a huge plus of using SMSF Sorted for Christina.

“Our auditors are already using SMSF Auditomation—so we can take full advantage of what’s possible”, she says. “There are fewer queries about workpapers, and we’re using comments to never write anything twice”.

But the portal dashboard offers more than just seamless audit integration—it’s a “great snapshot of how many jobs, how many ready for review”, says Christina.

“We’re cracking down on budget with very high accuracy”, she says. “It just gets better with every release”.

Your smartest upgrade.

Using SMSF Sorted Pro to revolutionise Macquarie’s SMSF accounting, Christina’s not looking back.

“It’s amazing—“I can jump in at night and do a few things, then jump into Class—it’s so easy”.

And on whether the upgrade to SMSF Sorted Pro is worthwhile?

“Anything less than SMSF Sorted Pro wouldn’t be enough”, Christina says.

Book your live demo today or call 1300-979-457.

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Auditomation and beyond: How a family audit business got its time back

SMSF is about choosing today what gets you ready for tomorrow.

For Daniel Surjenko of award-winning SMSF auditors Superannuation Audit Services, moving to the cloud was about creating a better future—for the firm.

“In moving to the cloud, we knew we’d reap the benefits of modernisation—including speeding up our process, sharpening accuracy and creating uniformity”, says Daniel.

“What we didn’t realise is that moving to the cloud would create a better future—for our family.”

In reducing errors, creating flexibility and reducing stress, Cloudoffis gave Daniel and the team more time for living.

“We have more time to be a family,” says Daniel.

Writing on the wall.

Superannuation Audit Services was founded in 1996 by Denise Surjenko—Daniel’s wife—to provide independent SMSF auditing services to public practitioners. Since then, the business has built a reputation based on continued excellence and a personalised, on-shore service.

They’ve also seen the industry change drastically.

“Audit legislation is an ever-changing game,” says Daniel, “Staying ahead of changes is critical—it’s what clients have always relied on us to do.”

It’s one of the reasons Superannuation Audit Services performs over 1200 audits annually and has retained foundation clients for over a quarter of a century.

“When it came to going paperless, the writing was already on the wall,” says Daniel, “Well before COVID, we’d noticed the digitisation of our industry—we knew we needed to act or face getting left behind.”

For Daniel and the team, improving efficiencies was critical—staying paper-based was restricting their growth.

“In addition, our clients were going cloud-based,” says Daniel, “We didn’t want to be the bottleneck—we had to integrate or wave goodbye.”

Choosing the right software.

Moving to the cloud was not something Daniel took lightly.

“We had reservations about automation in general,” says Daniel, “Our process and filing system was watertight and built to last—we needed absolute confidence that our software could match that.”

Initially, Daniel considered building their own software.

“While on the face of it, it seemed like the better route would be to build software in-house, giving us complete ownership over it,” says Daniel, “But we quickly realised the costs and risks involved.”

According to analytics firm Gallup, custom IT projects overrun by 27% on average and ‘one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% on average and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.’ ”

“We understood how damaging inaccurate cost estimations and project overruns can be”, says Daniel, “The ease, security and transparency we’d get from choosing to buy vs. build made the decision a no-brainer for us.”

Choosing the right partner.

Having decided to buy, it was time to find the right partner. Daniel interviewed multiple SMSF software providers, even flying to Sydney to personally meet with them.

“Choosing to work with Cloudoffis was a very considered decision,” says Daniel, “They had the best value to service combination, a second-to-none user interface and user experience, and enterprise-grade security.”

“We also had access to their key staff and we trusted them. The exceptional training they provided for our staff meant no one was left behind.”

The future doesn’t wait—Cloudoffis’ plug-and-play solution took Superannuation Audit Services from on-boarded to auditing in a matter of weeks. Like Superannuation Audit Services, the Cloudoffis team is based in Australia. It means businesses and their clients can access personal support from an expert local team—on-demand.

“We went paperless—without the learning curve,” says Daniel, “Everyone’s loved it.”

Prepped ahead of a pandemic.

With young kids at home, Daniel and Denise often worked remotely—and encouraged their staff to do the same.

“Before Cloudoffis, we were still running around with stacks of paperwork,” says Daniel, “Once we moved to the cloud, we could do everything securely online—from document organisation to receiving files, reviewing work, sharing jobs and populating reports. We were well ahead of the technology curve.”

When COVID hit—and competitors scrambled to stay afloat amid world-wide lockdowns—Superannuation Audit Services didn’t miss a beat.

“We had clients messaging ‘are you still around,’ ” says Daniel, “and we were like ‘nothing’s changed here!’ ”.

In fact, Daniel and the team were helping their clients get on the cloud too. “Cloudoffis offers training for clients in how to use their portals,” says Daniel, “Going that extra mile has kept us highly competitive.”

More time for living.

Going paperless has shown Superannuation Audit Services the way of the future.

“We can standardise every job—no matter the source. We have uniformity across all staff members—making reviewing easier. We’re freed up to do marketing because we’re not drowning. And we’re quicker—with a faster audit process there’s just more time for everything,” says Daniel.

That includes being a family.

“We’re less stressed and have a better lifestyle. Despite lockdown, we’re able to stay fit—we go to the park at lunchtime with the kids and have time to help them with school and assignments,” says Daniel.

“With SMSF Auditomation we got our time back, achieved growth and are closer than ever as a family.”

There’s also excitement about what’s possible with new Cloudoffis AI features in SMSF Sorted for Accountants—which will make the workflow for Auditors even more efficient..

“We’ve seen Cloudoffis evolve—they’re consistently reducing pain points and we couldn’t be happier,” says Daniel, “Compliance review still has a manual, human side—so we’re excited about the possibilities from new releases on the administration and transfer to audit side, like AI-driven data matching, which could transform our efficiency.”

Consistent, compliant and automated, SMSF Auditomation leverages tech to free you from the grunt work—leaving more time for what counts.

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Book your live demo today or call 1300-979-457.

How pandemic breakout affected the business & brought a breakthrough

It’s a trying time for businesses.

The global economy is reeling from the effects of Coronavirus, impacting the livelihood of people worldwide.

In Australia, auditing and accounting businesses walk a tightrope—on one side, remote work has become a safety challenge-on the other, there’s no margin for error in SMSF accuracy and compliance.

With the help of Cloudoffis, SMSF business leaders-like hmh Advisory’s Sarah Molinaro-have been able to innovate amidst adversity.

Cloudoffis was built for SMSF to be ready for tomorrow-so hmh Advisory used it to stay in front of the remote work revolution.

For over a decade Sarah ran the SMSF department at hmh Advisory-in their physical offices of course. “When lockdown hit, we had to adapt fast,” she says.

“From one day to the next, our entire SMSF team was confined to home. Our paper-based accounting audit system was great—but it wasn’t going to cut it during the pandemic.”

Poised for paperless.

As a specialist, Sarah came to hmh Advisory to run the SMSF department. She’d re-designed and re-built their paper-based systems for very high standardisation. Sarah supervises a team of 3 to 4 staff and personally reviews every fund before it goes to audit.

She’d been looking at going paperless—but was wary of risking quality, and wary of the initial admin investment.

“We have over 240 funds, from $100k to $15M—with about half of our clients using our financial planning services. There’s high complexity around member balances, pensions, investments such property and options trading”.

“We’d seen Cloudoffis at the SMSF Association conference in the Gold Coast”, says Sarah.
“We knew from using their SMSF Auditomation product that they offer great support—but we feared the admin burden, and had some older staff who were unsure about the technology side”.

Pandemic plug and play.

Then lockdown hit—and software was a non-negotiable.

Remote work was suddenly required. After APES-110 industry changes, hmh found auditors using Cloudoffis SMSF Auditomation, and made the jump to using Cloudoffis SMSF Sorted for the accounting side.

Fears of too much admin were soon blown away.

“We were up and running in a matter of weeks,” says Sarah, “The tools worked seamlessly with Class and our existing software, and the onboarding process was smooth—even for hesitant members of our team.”

It helps that the Cloudoffis team is based in Australia—giving businesses access to all the local support and guidance they need to succeed. We also run on Amazon Australia servers covered by Australian security law and protocol.

“No other provider came close to giving us the reassurance we got from Cloudoffis,”
says Sarah, “Having support—and our data—here in Australia was priceless.”

Remote and flexible with the cloud.

For Sarah and her team, opting for cloud SMSF software meant they could continue to service their clients even while working from home-at the same standard and quality they’d built their reputation on.

“We have team members  working in different locations. With a secure digital ecosystem, we can confidently deliver anywhere and anytime.” says Sarah, “Working remotely has been a big success.”

Digital transformation might be a necessity during the remote revolution. But the future of SMSF isn’t just about today. At Cloudoffis, it’s about getting ready for tomorrow. Our SMSF tools leverage technology to transform underlying processes and supercharge SMSF businesses.

“Cloudoffis technology reduces time spent on routine, repetitive tasks, resulting in a much more efficient end of year process,” Sarah says, “It improves profitability, efficiency and allows the team to better leverage their value elsewhere.”

Ready for tomorrow.

The pandemic has changed the way we all do business.

For Sarah and the hmh Advisory team, it’s shown them the way of the future.

“We can work from anywhere. We’re saving hours per fund. There’s no double handling.
And we have an excellent workpaper system that’s easy to use,” says Sarah.

There’s also a buzz about what’s possible with the new Cloudoffis AI features.

“We use BT Panorama for financial planning clients —we’re keen to try the new features like AI driven, automated platform statement reconciliations—they could be a gamechanger for our efficiency”, says Sarah.

Cloudoffis features have helped hmh go paperless, optimise processes and enjoy an
end-to-end workflow. It’s transformed their ecosystem into a streamlined, automated,
well-oiled machine—all in the midst of a pandemic.

Sarah’s advice to SMSF accountants and administrators poised to go paperless with Cloudoffis?

“Just do it,” says Sarah. “More and more  of our clients are sending documents electronically,
-it’s the new normal and Cloudoffis helps you get ready for it”.

The future knocks on every door—at Cloudoffis we’re here to help you answer.

Book your live demo today. In 15-mins, our support team will show you how to get your SMSF business ready for tomorrow..

5 key points to keep in mind when going through a software review

The software landscape is fast-moving and ever-changing. This article covers 5 key points to keep in mind through a software review.

To begin a successful review, you will first need a deep understanding of your firm’s workflow and challenges and then secondly, be up to date and familiar with the latest technology available in the industry.

Software is obviously not something you want to get wrong. Not only is it expensive to change but the change itself is time and resource-intensive. If it is done right you can keep changes to a minimum, maximise your efficiency and remain at the forefront of new developments without a worry in the world for years to come..

1. Automation

Technology is now at a point where rather than just helping with managing and organising tasks, they can be, to varying degrees, actually done for you. The AI and machine learning trend is game-changing and is offering firms new ways to gain efficiencies. If your technology is a few years old and hasn’t been actively developed, there could be new alternatives that can change the way you do things. If you are reviewing new technology, review it from the lens of “how much time will this save me or my team; can the machines do the mundane tasks my staff waste precious hours on?” This can also be considered when reviewing and improving outsourcing strategies.

2. Integration

It is important that software is flexible and plays nice with your other systems to ensure it complements your workflow. Always check the software you are reviewing already has, or is open to, useful integrations. Many software companies out there are effectively a closed-loop and try to build all the products/modules themselves, this can restrict your ability to utilise best in class technology whilst maintaining a connected workflow.

3. Tech stack context

Software products often focus on one area and do it well. e.g. a Document management system, a workflow program, a customer portal, etc. This often means a firm may have anywhere from 3 to 5 disparate software systems to fulfil a single work process. Integrations can help with this but a fully integrated 5 system solution is unlikely for most firms to construct and navigate. Rather than focusing on feature-rich or even overall best in class systems, review technology from the context of your own workflow and requirements. Is there potentially 1 system that does what you need instead of 3 individual systems?

4. Future development (A going concern)

Static software development is not a good sign. It’s basically going backwards. In such a fast-moving competitive market, you will be best served to enquire as to the growth and development plans of a software package you are currently using or reviewing. Partnering with a software firm that aggressively releases updates and new features means you are likely staying up to date with the latest tech and reducing your future risk of needing to change in the near future.

5. Cost vs Value

This is very specific to your own circumstances. The cheapest software or the most expensive is not necessarily the right option for you. It needs to solve a problem for you specifically. This sounds obvious but there are so many firms that either have low-cost solutions that don’t actually offer real value or firms with expensive pieced together solutions that can actually cause inefficiency. Understanding the actual value vs costs of software relative to your own situation is crucial. Inefficiency isn’t a line item on the balance sheet, unfortunately!

Cloudoffis specialises in automation technology for accountants and auditors in the SMSF space, get in touch with us here.

Cloudoffis & InfoTrack integrates streamline process for SMSF Auditors

Cloudoffis and InfoTrack, a leading technology provider for the professional services sector, have joined forces with a new integration set to be a game-changer for the SMSF industry. Cloudoffis has been one of the leaders in what has been a huge year for FinTech, especially in the SMSF domain, and were keen to partner with InfoTrack who shares the same approach to leveraging innovative technology to save its users time.
As AI continues to be one of the biggest disruptors in the FinTech software landscape, Cloudoffis and InfoTrack have not only taken advantage of new technology, but are now creatively integrating their services to save hours of hassle for businesses and users. The combined automated powers of the two
platforms cuts workloads in half to minimise human error, maximise efficiency and increase businesses’ bottom lines. The two tech companies have attentively listened to the demands of the industry to create software solutions that  automate up to 50% of the tedious, manual tasks that have long been a feature
of the SMSF workflow.
The new integration with InfoTrack means that Cloudoffis users can now instantly access additional information including title searches, ASIC extracts, corporate trustee searches, background checks, know your customer (KYC) checks, and more. These searches can be performed directly through Cloudoffis and the results and related costs are returned to Cloudoffis and added to your subscription.
This technology comes long overdue for the SMSF sector where tedious tasks and duplicate work have wasted huge amounts of time and diverted talented resources from more important work. With the new raft of legislative changes happening across the SMSF industry and the proposed changes to audit cycles, there is a lot of pressure on businesses to manage compliance risks and improve efficiency. Cloudoffis’ auditing software does the work that previously took hours’ of an auditor’s time – tagging, searching, document management, data presentation, compliance checklists – at the click of a button. The benefits are manifold, users will experience not only time saved and added efficiency – but with checklists and compliance tools built into the user experience, compliance has never been so easy.
The impact of this technology and collaboration of services has created far reaching changes for the industry as a whole. It not only means a new era of efficiency, automation and ease of compliance – but it has created a new path for collaboration in the SMSF industry.
To learn more book in for a private demonstration on the form below today.

Anything that you wanted to know about Auditing Investments platform

Auditing an investment platform can present some challenges. Here, we tackle some of the biggest questions that you may have about this task.

There’s a trend among modern investors to make use of investment platforms and the efficiencies they can offer. This presents some interesting challenges to auditors and accountants. Each investment platform comes with its own set of features and reporting. You have to learn about these if you want to carry out audits with ease.
Furthermore, you have to learn how to work within the confines of the platform itself and understand the tools available to you. Failure to do so could lead to you struggling to find the key information needed for the audit.
Investment platforms aren’t something that you can avoid either. The rise in popularity of managed accounts has led to more people using platforms to help manage their investments. They allow users to oversee their accounts and gain transparency. This makes them very attractive to investors at all levels.
What you may not realise is that investment platforms also offer tools to accountants and auditors.
This article examines managed accounts and their relevance to investment platforms. It also looks at what investment platforms offer to accountants and auditors. Plus, it examines whether you can rely on data feeds when auditing these platforms.

What is a Managed Account?

It’s crucial that you understand what managed accounts are. After all, it’s their rise in popularity that has led to more of your clients using investment platforms.
With a managed account, each investor has direct or beneficial ownership of the individual underlying investments. They then hire a professional manager to oversee the investment portfolio on their behalf.
This is the key difference between managed accounts and managed funds. With a managed fund, the investor has a share of a pool of assets via issued units rather than direct or beneficial ownership of the underlying investments.
The individualised aspect of managed accounts is what has made them so popular. Using them allows the owner to tailor their investment strategy to their own goals. They allow for greater ease of portfolio management, which results in saved time. They also provide access to greater transparency through professional management, as well as more comprehensive reporting.
Often, an investment platform will be used to deliver or enable managed account services.  
Investment platforms offer a good access point to managed accounts. This is because they offer a very efficient method of reporting on transactions and managing the investment. Hence, as managed accounts gain popularity, so too do investment platforms.
There’s another important point to make here. You may have to audit more than one managed account when auditing the output from an investment platform. Managed accounts are only one type of investment that these platforms offer and clients can have numerous managed investments. Others include fixed interest, equities, and cash investments. Investment platforms also generally offer access to managed funds.
There is an increasing trend towards using investment platforms that looks likely to continue. This means you’ll have to audit the outputs from more investment platforms more often as time goes on.

What Can an Investment Platform Offer an Auditor?

This trend towards investment platforms can seem like a scary proposition. While most auditors have worked with the outputs from platforms before, there’s an issue of complexity to consider. Managed accounts and other investment types make the auditing process more difficult. Their increasing prevalence means that auditors need to adapt.
The good news is that many investment platforms offer an array of features. These features often benefit auditors and aim to make it easier for you to do your job.
These features include the following:

  • Direct access to investment information for accountants and auditors. For example, some investment platforms can offer you access to live reports. This gives you an up-to-date picture of your client’s finances and actions. Better yet, these reports can often complement the end of year reports received and provide more detail. They cover every aspect of the transaction. Plus, they’re often automated. This cuts down on issues related to human errors.
  • Access to audit reports issued for the investment platform. The issuing of these reports allows auditors to rely on the year end data that the platform produces. The reports also offer greater transparency to auditors, clients, and advisors.
  • You may have access to data feeds if the platform supports them. In fact, many platform providers have introduced data feeds into their offerings that cover all investment types. These feeds provide greater automation of data entry and can provide greater transparency around the underlying transactions that the client undertakes.

It’s also important to remember that each investment platform offers different features. These are only a couple of examples of what the platforms provide to accountants and auditors. Your client’s platform may not have all these features. Or, it may have extra features that can provide you with even more help.
These differences affect your auditing approach. They call on you to learn about the specific features that a platform has to offer.  But taking the time to do this usually leads to you saving a lot of time later on.

Can I Use Data Feeds?

The use of data feeds when auditing investment platforms is a contentious issue.
On one hand, some platforms don’t yet have the required functionality. The use of feeds doesn’t come as standard across all platforms and the treatment of different investment types (particularly managed accounts), differs across the software consuming the feed. That’s not to say you should automatically not use feeds. You just have to be aware of the source and any limitations, as you do with any feed that you use.
But things have started to change. Investment platforms have started to evolve their feeds and many include tools that offer greater support to auditors and accountants who use the platform’s data.

Conclusion

It’s crucial that auditors come to grips with the evolution of investment platforms. The popularity of managed accounts has led to more people using them. You need to adapt to the greater complexity of the investments that people oversee using these platforms. You also need to know about the new tools that they provide in regards to accessing up to date data and providing online access to platform users.
The key lies in understanding what these platforms have to offer. You have to take full advantage of the resources that the platforms provide.
This may require some research on your part. However, there’s a strong payoff. Accessing these tools can save you a lot of time during the auditing or accounts preparation process.
Of course, using a good audit platform can speed up the auditing process further. That’s where Cloudoffis can help.
Cloudoffis is an automated SMSF audit solution that allows for even greater efficiency.
Arrange for a live demonstration with our team today. With Cloudoffis, you can make SMSF audits more efficient than ever before. Simply schedule your demo on the form below. 

Data feeds are time-saver, but all data feeds are not equivalent

The purpose of data feeds is to allow for the automation of data entry. Hence, data feeds are a time-saver. But there are differences between data feeds that auditors have to take into account.

Data feeds are a divisive topic among SMSF auditors.
A data feed is an automated process of receiving data from a data source. Using data feeds can save an auditor a great deal of time and effort. It also reduces the administrator’s workload.
The upsides are obvious. Relying on data feeds lets you go over more information, which can result in more comprehensive audits. The feeds also reduce the time needed to perform your analyses.
This is a competitive industry, and auditors need every advantage they can get. Hence, it’s important to make your audits as efficient as possible.
However, many auditors dislike using data feeds. They do not trust the accuracy of these feeds. Many believe that the electronic delivery process is not secure enough. There’s also a possibility that processing and technological errors may occur. This has an impact on the integrity of the data.
All of these concerns have merit. But you should consider the facts before you discard data feeds from your auditing process altogether.
It’s crucial to recognize that there are different kinds of data feeds. Some of these are poorly rated, but others can be extremely useful and trustworthy. Once you know what to look for, it isn’t particularly hard to tell the difference.

The Reasons Why You Can’t Treat All Data Feeds the Same Way

While they’re changing the face of the industry, data feeds are still a mystery to some auditors.
But with the introduction of Transfer Balance Account Reports (TBARs), data feeds will be increasingly used to provide up-to-date data. This means more auditors will need to consider how data feeds can be incorporated into their processes.
So, how do you know where to place your trust? Let’s look into the differences in different data feeds.

1. They Come from Different Sources

Using data feeds simply means getting your data electronically transferred from the source. Each institution (e.g. bank, broker, or wrap) has its own data feed setup. The quality of these sources varies.
Here are a few factors you should take into consideration:

  • How does the institution source the data that is coming through your feed?
  • What is the format of the data feed?
  • Does the format impact the accuracy of data treatment?
  • Does the feed include a daily reconciliation of transactions?
  • When you set up the feed, do you also get access to historical transactions?
  • Is there a chance of someone manually altering the data at the source?

Some sources have trustworthy and robust feeds. But always look into the data source before you decide how much to trust your feeds.

2. There Are Two Different Kinds of Data Feeds

The two types of data feeds are as follows:

  • Direct-Connect Feeds

When a direct-connect feed is set up, the data comes directly from the source. This happens via an encrypted link. There are no third parties involved in this process.
Since direct-connect feeds are purpose-designed, the format of your data should suit your needs. These feeds are authenticated, so you can be sure the source is valid. Additionally, you can monitor and track these feeds on your own schedule.
Direct-connect feeds can automatically process income entitlements. Instant tax statements can even be set up for some of the institutions your clients are working with. With direct-connect feeds, you can also see historical transactions.
If you’re worried about consistency, direct-connect feeds have you covered. The process is automated and while errors might pop up on occasion, it’s unlikely data will stop arriving altogether as it can’t be intercepted or altered.

  • E-mail-Scraping and Screen-Scraping Feeds

This is the more affordable alternative for providers. However, scraping feeds aren’t as reliable as direct-connect feeds.
Here is how scraping feeds work: the source sends emails to a third-party intermediary. The intermediaries are data aggregation services which prepare a feed based on the emailed data. This process is called scraping.
The scraped data can be sourced from the body of the email. It can also come from the attached PDFs. In either case, errors can happen. For example, the computers may not be able to read the data formatting in the PDFs.
How do errors get resolved? The intermediary has to repair them manually.
So while the scraping itself is automated, there can be delays. There is also a real chance of data loss. It’s also easy to see how this can compromise the security of the data.
You also don’t have authentication in place when your data feed uses scraping. There’s a chance the initial data came from a false source.
Additionally, consider the risk of interception. When this happens, there’s no guarantee that you’ll notice the data is compromised.

3. Some Data Feeds Come with ASAE 3402 Certification and Others Don’t

As an auditor, you require first-hand confirmation. Second-hand data cannot typically be relied upon.
Some data feeds come with certification based on the Auditing and Assurance Standards. The ASAE 3402 (Assurance Reports on Controls at a Service Organisation) certification helps auditors to place reliance on the feeds based on the assessment of the design and effectiveness of the controls in place.
A feed can only receive this certification if there are measures in place to minimise data errors. When errors do slip in, there are rectification steps you can rely on. The certification also helps auditors to understand how the data has been sourced and gain comfort that it was free from manual interception.  

Why You Need to Use Data Feeds

Once again, TBARs are changing the way SMSF administration and audit work is approached. TBARs require up-to-date accounting, and data feeds are a key part of that. Automating this process makes the accountants’ lives much easier.
If you’re an auditor, data feeds give you a more comprehensive access to data confirmation. But it’s very important to stay up-to-date with the various feeds.
Over the past few years, auditors have been under increasing fee pressure and it’s becoming very difficult to operate  at these competitive prices and maintain a quality audit.
The only solution is to speed up the data confirmation process. Hence, you should make data feeds a part of your testing procedures. You can do this as part of a wider move towards automation that includes the use of data feeds in your testing procedures. In fact, this is key to operating successfully in this environment.
Always check whether the source of your data is verified. Make sure you have a clear idea of what happens to the data on its way to you. Remember that you don’t have control over what happens to the feed. Verification is a mark of trust that means you can rely on the feed.

The Final Word

With changing legislation, how to best incorporate data feeds and automation into the SMSF life cycle is  becoming a key discussion topic. It’s an important area for both auditors and accountants. If you want to stay afloat, you cannot avoid making use of automation.
Incorporating data fees into the auditing process helps you to save huge amounts of time. Moreover, it can help you to identify issues that need further attention.
How else can you automate your work?
Cloudoffis can help you complete cost-effective and accurate SMSF audits. The platform lets you cut down on the time spent on your audit process by as much as 40%.
With Cloudoffis, you can download data directly to the platform from leading SMSF software such as Class and BGL.
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OCR technology in SMSF Audits. What is it and why it’s a breakthrough?

OCR technology is the next big thing in SMSF audits. To understand why, you need to know what it is and how it can help you.
Every so often, a new technology comes along that has the potential to disrupt an industry.
Take the printing press as an example. Prior to its invention, printing was a costly process, both monetarily and in terms of labour. Type parts broke down quickly and every book needed many work hours to come to fruition.
The creation of the printing press changed all of that. Joseph Guttenberg leveraged his knowledge of metallurgy to create more durable types. His press allowed for mass printing of books. This quenched the thirst for literature from an increasingly literate population. The invention of the printing press also created a shift away from the handwritten texts of old.
You may wonder how all of this applies to your auditing work.
Today, there’s a similar shift in auditing as there was in literature so many centuries ago. The industry is moving away from the manual processes that have served it so well for decades. The introduction of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) signals a shift towards greater automation.
However, it’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology that may have the most disruptive effect. This technology increases efficiency tenfold, allowing you to carry out more audits in less time.
To understand why, let’s look at what OCR is and what benefits it has to offer auditors.

What is OCR?

OCR allows you to convert your documents into recognisable data. This includes everything from physical documents to image files.
The key is that OCR creates searchable and editable data.
For example, imagine that you have a physical contract from a client. You can scan that contract onto your computer. However, this creates an image file that you can’t edit or search. The scanner just creates a raster image comprised of thousands of black and white dots. You can’t open that document in a word processor and make changes.
OCR technology can single out all of the information held in that scanned image. It identifies the letters in the image and combines them into words. These words then become sentences and you end up with a document that you can search and edit. The same goes for any scanned documents, images, or physical documents.
The key to all of this is the technology behind OCR.
People recognise objects based on the three basic IPA principles. These are integrity, purposefulness, and adaptability.
OCR technology makes use of these three principles to replicate human recognition. For example, you can read the words on the scanned contract mentioned above. You just can’t edit them. OCR technology can also read those words. Plus, it can turn them into documents that you can actually use.
The software behind your OCR technology analyses the document’s structure. It then divides the document into different blocks. This leads to having several blocks each for the images, documents, and tables that the document contains.
It then divides these blocks down to individual words and then individual characters.
The software then compares these characters to those already logged in its databanks. After comparing against all of the data that the software has, the technology produces a document. The more advanced the database, the more accurate the resulting document. The most advanced versions of OCR technology can even recognise handwritten text.
This mirrors the object recognition process that the human brain undertakes. You see something and your brain compares it against the multitude of images and patterns that it has stored. This allows you to recognise what the object is. If it’s an object – or language – that you haven’t encountered before, you can’t recognise it.
OCR works in much the same way.

The Benefits of OCR to Auditors

The introduction of OCR technology will change the way that you conduct SMSF audits.
That’s because OCR offers an array of benefits to auditors.

Benefit #1 – Increased Efficiency

The process of preparing an audit file requires a lot of manual labour. You may have to sift through hundreds of documents when conducting an SMSF audit.
Think about all of the documents that you have to process as part of an SMSF audit. These used to include all of the relevant financial documents and transaction statements for the year.
The documents may also involve details about the fund’s trustees and minutes from every meeting they held. You have to process broker statements, bank statements, asset details, contract notes, rental statements, tax statements and a host of other documents.
That’s hours upon hours of reading, sorting and identification before you even get to the analysis portion of the auditing process. OCR can handle all of this for you.
The use of OCR technology allows you to quickly work your way through all of your documents. You can scan them into the software in bulk and allow it to identify all of the key data on your behalf. The technology can even be used to automate the addition of this data into your reports.
The end result is a lot of time saved on previously manual processes. For example, Cloudoffis’ OCR technology allows you to scan up to 300 pages in a matter of seconds.
OCR allows for automation of the data identification process. This frees up time that you can spend elsewhere.

Benefit #2 – Reduction in Human Errors

No matter how experienced you are, you’re not perfect. It’s possible for you to make mistakes when auditing, especially as your workload increases. With hundreds of figures to work your way through, it’s all too easy to misread something.
OCR technology takes the human error component out of the equation. With quality OCR technology, you won’t have to worry about human errors in this area of the audit process. The technology will identify objects consistently. Plus, it can even conduct analysis based on the objects it recognises.
This reduces the amount of time that you have to spend on checking your figures. Of course, it also means far fewer mistakes get made during the auditing process.

Benefit #3 – It Can Learn When Combined With AI

Modern auditing platforms can combine OCR with AI to create a constantly-learning technology.
The benefit here is that the technology doesn’t come to a standstill when it comes across objects that it doesn’t recognise. You can build on the existing databanks to ensure the technology recognises even more objects.
In this sense, OCR technology can learn in much the same way as the human brain. When you see an object you don’t recognise, you can look to other sources to identify it. For example, you could look for translation when reading a phrase in another language. OCR technology can do the same when combined with AI. This ensures the technology doesn’t become redundant.

Conclusion

OCR technology has the potential to revolutionise the auditing process. When used correctly, it can save thousands of hours that auditors spend on reading and analysing documents. It also cuts down on the human errors that lead to inaccurate reporting.
Finally, when combined with AI, OCR technology can learn constantly. Storing more objects in the technology’s databanks make it even more versatile. This proves particularly useful when working with documents that contain multiple languages.
All of this means that OCR can save auditors both time and money.
Of course, you also need to find the right platform for the job. Cloudoffis is the first auditing automation platform that makes use of OCR technology. Request a live demonstration below to see it in action.

This article was also featured on SMSF Adviser.

Concerned that cloud-based software is less secure? It’s not the fact

Besides doing an accurate audit, security is probably your biggest worry. When you heard the rumours about the lack of security in cloud-based software to conduct your clients’ SMSF audits, you might have run for the hills. After all, a secure working and storage environment is key to ensure your clients’ trust. Although you’re tempted by how easy it is to work with and store data in the cloud, still-doubts linger. Are my clients’ data secure? Can I trust cloud-based systems to keep their data secure for the years to come?
You need the facts–not half-truths whispered around the water cooler. Cloud-based software is not only as secure as a conventional IT system-it’s more secure. Here’s what you need to know:

Tight Control Doesn’t Mean
High Security

Noted computer science professor David Linthicum wasn’t always a believer in cloud computing’s security. Although well aware of its power and scope for applications, he now is ‘finding that clouds are more secure than traditional systems, generally speaking’. The reason? Contrary to the myth, the truth is that where data is located isn’t as important as accessibility. In other words, in Linthicum’s words, ‘control does not mean security’. In fact, says Linthicum, traditional, on-premises IT systems average more Web application-based attacks than do service providers’ cloud-based systems, by a ratio of 61 to 28.

On-Premises Systems Bigger Targets
for Security Threats

That’s a huge difference. Furthermore, Linthicum points out, the on-premises users had more “brute force attacks” than did the cloud-based users. Food for thought-especially since in our business-our data represents the net wealth of our clients. Like sharks when they smell blood, attackers bite when they smell money. Especially if they know they’ll have more than twice the chance of success when they know the accounting firm still uses an on-premises IT system.
Again, Linthicum stresses, a firm’s preference for an on-premises system rests on a feeling; the false premise that control equals security. In fact, he points out, those companies who design cloud-based platforms “focus more on security and governance” than their old-school brethren.

The Key: A Cloud Solution that
Takes Security Seriously

Instead, what a financial firm should concentrate on is to find a system with cutting-edge security technology and a proper strategy. Reducing the opportunities for an attack to breach the system should be the priority. A software firm that tests, tests, and tests again for vulnerability is the one companies who deal with the life’s savings of its clients should choose.
In the 23 April 2017 edition of Forbes, Louis Columbus writes about Australians’ reluctance to hop on board with cloud solutions for fear of security breaches. Although Australia is the global leader in cloud adoption for public use, the Gulf Coast Council leads in private cloud use. Yet as cloud services increase their security for public, private, and hybrid platforms, more and more companies are coming around to take advantage of cloud services for even their most sensitive data.

Security Is Now the Competitive Edge
for Cloud Providers

The question is, does your company really want to drag its heels on adopting cloud technology when it could take the lead? According to UK tech writer Ben Rossi, it is precisely the lack of confidence many enterprise companies have in the cloud that should spur them to take a second look. Because of this general reluctance of organisations to adopt cloud platforms, cloud services, says Rossi, have begun to ramp up their security to the point that they compete ‘on the security of their service’. Add that factor to the reality-not the myth-that most of the recent data breaches that have happened over the last few years occurred within on-premises IT systems.
Cloud systems, too, have no personal connections-or axes to grind-with the companies they serve. As Rossi points out, ’employees with …malevolent intentions will find it more difficult’ to do damage with cloud-stored data. In most cases, Rossi says, cloud-based services must adhere to tougher standards than do on-premises systems, since cloud services handle the data for much more than just one organisation.

Choose Efficiency and Security
with a World-Class Cloud Provider

The key, then, to take advantage of the lower cost and higher efficiency of the cloud while lessening your risk, is to choose your cloud provider wisely, conclude the authors of Internet security giant McAfee’s ground-breaking report, ‘Building Trust in a Cloudy Sky‘. Those Cloud First organisations who use unified or integrated security solutions have found it easier to adopt cloud services, since the heightened level of security from these security providers ‘reduce their response time to detect, protect, and correct threats to the organisation’s data’.
Cloudoffis takes its clients’ security seriously. Not only does it host its servers on the highly secure Amazon Australia, but it also adheres to the highest industry standards of security implementation. To discover more about how you can boost your productivity while maintaining the highest level of security for your audit files, contact Cloudoffs today.

11 Reasons to move your accounting firm on the cloud for high growth

Australian accounting firms will witness a sea change in the coming 5 to 10 years. Cloud-based services and automation tools will disrupt the business model. It is imperative for every accounting firm to invest in advanced cloud-based systems sooner rather than later. Studies show that cloud based firms add five times the amount of clients compared with traditional firms, and report the highest growth.
With the rapidly changing business environment, cloud technology allows your accounting firm to reinvent your way of work, evolve quicker and differentiate your service offerings. Here are 11 reasons why:

1

Accuracy

Cloud-based applications connect to external software and reduce the possibility of errors involved in manual feeds.

2

Enhanced security

Cloud systems have robust security protocols. They have much deeper pockets for firewalls and highly sophisticated intrusion prevention systems in place.

3

Cost savings

When you take into account the hardware, utility, software license, maintenance, and productivity costs, cloud subscriptions turn out to be more affordable. This is especially true for accounting firms who work with small and medium businesses. They also save time and improve the overall productivity of your firm.

4

Collaboration

Cloud-based platforms allow you to invite clients on online platforms. Allowing online access to clients is now more imperative than ever before – especially when it comes to offering SMSF-related advice. If you don’t, they will soon move to a firm who will.

5

No more maintenance headaches

Updates in software and hardware are done automatically. This means your systems are always up to date, and there’s no downtime due to system related issues.

6

Scalability

Cloud systems allow you to expand and grow faster without increasing immediate technology costs. It allows to upscale or downscale your existing resources as per your business needs.

7

Efficiency

Cloud technology allows to concentrate on your core competencies while leaving the task of running IT infrastructure to the cloud service providers.

8

Real time financial management

With accurate real-time data at your fingertips, firms can share the golden nuggets of information with your clients. This allows you to become your clients preferred adviser and increase revenue.

9

Flexibility

Cloud systems give you the flexibility to access your files and data even when you are off-site or at home. You and your employees can have a virtual office wherever they go through web-enabled devices.

10

Added value

Moving to cloud-based technologies allows you to automate low-value tasks. This helps you add real value to your clients business and create a certain stickiness to the client-firm relationship.

11

Robust Data Management System

Cloud technology has in-built off-site data management. Since all the data is stored in the cloud, it’s easy to have a backup or restore it. This also means, you can access any of the audit or accounting documents whenever you need them.

The cloud is here to stay and early adopters will benefit significantly in the long run. In order to survive and succeed in an automated future, accounting firms need to go beyond a service-oriented approach and start acting as advisers for their clients by deploying cloud technologies.