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Ask the Experts

How do I know if my firm has outgrown my accounting software?

When your family office was smaller, your desktop accounting software was probably a great entry level accounting solution. As you have added more clients and consequently more complexity, you’ve probably hit some common pain points. 

The common ones to look out for are:

  • Too many manual processes that you wish you could automate.
  • The need for more visibility and robust reporting.
  • Concerns about security and the need for transparent workflows.
  • Needing to handle multiple entities with ease.
  • Having data flow seamlessly from one system to another without the need for staff to rekey data.

The good news is that outgrowing your desktop accounting software is a sign of success for your family office. Since your desktop accounting software was never designed for the family office world, it’s not surprising that you are struggling with multi-entity accounting, manual errors, and having to ask your staff to constantly rekey information into disparate systems. 

After working closely with hundreds of family offices we know that having a multi-entity general ledger is a minimum requirement, as high-net-worth individuals have a multitude of different entities that need to be accounted for and managed. We also know that your clients often ask questions on the fly and expect fast and accurate answers.

That’s why AgilLink is a multi-entity, multi-user accounting system that incorporates document management into the workflow so that the images of invoices follow the approval process and can be easily retrieved when there are questions on certain bills. AgilLink also allows you to scan one document and then parse that document to different invoices. Integrating documents into your approval workflow means you will always have easy access to the original invoices and source documents for disbursements.

With AgilLink, firms also benefit from:

  • Ease of access with a fully web-based platform, and mobile application
  • Customizable approval workflow with configurable entitlements by user
  • Multi-Client General Ledger
  • Reduced manual data entry

AgilLink integrates accounting, bill pay, document management and banking workflow into an all-in-one system that helps reduce errors, ensures accurate transaction processing, and most importantly lowers risk with better business controls and fraud protection.


Buying new technology is hard on our team, we have limited time and lots of priorities. How do I set up my team for a successful implementation?

This is a great question that we get a lot from many new clients. Here are 3 steps to consider:

  1. Get buy-in from your team.  When you’re implementing anything new, it can be challenging for your employees. They may resist trying it, and many of them may wonder if they’ll even have a job once the implementation is complete. Get ahead of this hurdle by reassuring your employees, and being transparent about why you are making this choice and how it benefits everyone. By involving them early on they will take more ownership, and give you input about how it works, and improvements that can be made.
  2. Choose a member of your leadership team to drive the implementation. Many firms expect junior-level employees to manage the implementation, and while they can certainly be involved, they can’t do it alone. That is because you don’t want them to be solely responsible for setting the controls and defining what your reporting and processes are going to be. Senior management should ensure the solution meets the firm’s strategic goals.
  3. Prioritize training throughout the implementation process. To ensure early employee adoption, your team has to look beyond implementation to training and ongoing support. That’s why we build ongoing training and our AgilLink community into our process. The AgilLink Community is an online resource, open to all users, containing various support and training-related resources including:       
    • Knowledge Articles
    • User Guides
    • Release Notes
    • Forms
    • Support Cases (for your firm)
    • Events (Webinars, Special Presentations)


What are the pros/cons of using checks in bill pay?

A surprisingly large number of firms still use paper checks to pay a portion of their client’s bills. According to our 2021 Bill Pay survey, 67% of firms still use checks to pay bills on behalf of their clients; they do so because it gives them a false sense of security and control. Using checks is more expensive and opens your office up to the risk of fraud.

First let’s talk about the cost. Depending on how many checks your firm is processing, the cost of issuing a check can range from $4 to $20 per check (source). The cost will differ based on the number of checks you process, the amount and cost of labor involved, and the cost of supplies, like envelopes and stamps.

Another big reason to avoid using checks in bill pay is the risk of fraud. The risk of fraud stems from a lack of transparency and control once the check leaves your office. Check fraud is estimated to be in the tens of billions each year. The kicker is that the average fraud scam can last 18 months before being detected. Issues can be caused by having an accounting system that is separate from the firm’s treasury management system, but also by checks getting intercepted in the mail. Think about the financial information that is available on a check and what a bad actor can do with that information.

In short, there aren’t many good reasons for using checks to pay client bills. 


How are family offices using technology?

Technology has long been a challenge in the family wealth industry, but it also presents immense opportunities. Firms are actively seeking innovative solutions to enhance their technological capabilities. By harnessing the power of fintech and leveraging advanced tools, firms can streamline operations, improve efficiency, and provide clients with real-time data and insights. Embracing technology also enables advisors to offer a more personalized and data-driven approach to wealth management.

Bill pay technology has been a hot topic lately because it’s one of the “stickiest” services that can be provided for families. The volume of data, and insights derived from offering bill pay is helpful for advisors to understand the day-to-day happenings, for tax prep, and for creating powerful holistic reports. 

An established firm with procedures/infrastructure is a better solution than firms that only use a bookkeeper. It’s challenging for a client to know that there isn’t any fraudulent activity, when one person is responsible for all the bill payment. By separating duties, meaning the person entering the bills isn’t the same person approving the bills, you lower risk and increase your client’s confidence in the process.

A professional bill pay offering can really give clients the freedom they demand. Clients can be anywhere around the world, they can access everything digitally, and can, when needed, approve bills that meet the threshold that they’ve determined they need to see.  


If I am thinking about expanding my wealth advisory to offer more holistic services for HNW clients, how should I think about pricing?

One of the challenges is that advisors want to provide excellent service, but don’t want to discuss charges whenever a need comes up. One option that can help is using a bifurcated approach, typically using a combination of basis points on assets under management, along with a fixed fee retainer model. This method includes more education for families because it’s new and can be harder for families to see the value right away. Other firms have been successful with having a flat, all-in fee that doesn’t fluctuate from year to year. In this method, when there’s volatility or down markets, you can see less fluctuation in their revenues. 


I want to grow my family office and start to offer more services for Ultra-High-Net-Worth clients. What do I need to think about?

Rick Higgins, CEO of Risclarity, and Paul Ferguson from Schwab Advisor Family Office to offer their perspective on how wealth management firms should add and scale their services for UHNW clients. There are two primary approaches to achieve scale: talent and technology.

Talent: Firms need experienced staff who understand the complexities of UHNW clients and can deliver exceptional service. The high touch nature of the family office space means a much greater need for experience. “That part is very challenging to scale, the people themselves and the trust and the competence and the education and the talent and all of the things that go into that."

Technology: There's a lot you can do with technology to scale your ability to serve more clients. For example, where historically you were reliant on bookkeepers or portfolio analysts to pull together data from various sources into an excel spreadsheet. This could take anywhere from 10 days to 3 months depending on the complexity and sources of the data. Technology can take those middle and back-office functions and make them faster and more consolidated.

Change management is often a challenge for firms when upgrading their technology. Rick advises firms to identify what is working effectively and to focus on augmenting or supplementing areas that need improvement rather than overhauling the entire system. This phased approach allows for a smoother transition and minimizes disruptions.

Paul recommends segmenting the client base to better tailor services. By understanding the distinct needs of each client group, firms can offer specialized solutions. Outsourcing certain services can be beneficial, but Paul stresses that firms should assess their clients' specific needs before implementing any new service.

This article and the information contained herein is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of AgilLink. AgilLink, as a matter of policy, does not give tax, accounting, regulatory or legal advice, and any information provided should not be construed as such. Rules in the areas of law, tax, and accounting are subject to change and open to varying interpretations.  You should consult with your other advisors on the tax, accounting and legal implications of actions you may take based on any strategies presented, taking into account your own particular circumstances.

AgilLink is an RBC company and is an affiliate of City National Bank Member FDIC.

City National Bank is a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. Deposit products and services are provided by City National Bank.

Rick Higgins and Risclarity are not associated with AgilLink, City National Bank, or Royal Bank of Canada.  

Paul Ferguson and Schwab are not associated with AgilLink, City National Bank, or Royal Bank of Canada.