Becoming a virtual FD

With much talk about the move from compliance to advisory, our latest Tech Essentials guide outlines the path to becoming a virtual FD, with case studies and a list of next steps included. I cover some of the essential lessons below.

What is a virtual FD?

The guide is about chartered accountants mixing their skills and knowledge with modern technology to provide a service to clients in need of higher value financial input – the virtual finance director (or, virtual FD).

Here the term ‘virtual’ is used to describe an agile service that is delivered to a number of clients using technology. A virtual finance director is a person that is dynamic and adaptable in their approach to delivering high-value services directly to their clients.

Different approaches

This guide outlines various ways practices have achieved this, allowing the accountant to work in the way that suits them best. In the ‘classic’ model, the practice offers a full spectrum of services, from basic payroll-VAT-accounts to higher value services such as strategic advice, exit planning and business plans. In the ‘strategic’ model, the practice works through regular, scheduled monthly meetings of two to three hours to discuss the board-level issues, providing financial input into all elements of strategy. And in the ‘hybrid’ model, the strategic advice is mixed with the smart use of tech, moving it from existential threat to virtual FD enabler.

Top tips/next steps

The guide lists a number of helpful pointers to get you started:

  • Start as you mean to go on – setting regular appointments and sticking to them is a key suggestion
  • Know your value – the difference between ‘billable-by-the-hour’ and higher value strategic services can be a confusing place; beware of giving away value
  • Get your time management up to scratch – noting that time is limited for the number of clients to whom you can offer a virtual FD service. One case study suggested a maximum of 10 virtual FD clients per person
  • Be prepared to be disrupted – cloud service providers have brought much change in the last 10 years, but there has been little accompanying change in internal processes. One case study suggests this is about to change
  • Focus on the clients – with a suggestion to focus the closer engagement with a smaller number of clients, which in turn provides more profitable work.

Does this mirror your experience and how much has technology been an enabler here?

The Tech Essentials Guide to the virtual FD is available free to Tech Faculty members as part of their annual subscription. You can find out more and join online at icaew.com/jointechfac

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