While running a business through the COVID pandemic had its downsides, one of the upsides was learning how to onboard clients online.
This was a two-fold learning experience. Not only reviewing how we interacted with clients in the new, 100% virtual world but also, as a tax agent, how to prove a new client really was who they said they were.
Onboarding clients online also runs the real risk of cyber security breaches. While most small businesses aren’t governed by privacy laws like Australia’s, those that handle sensitive information such as tax file numbers are. The fines if there is a breach are astronomical. One of the easiest entry points to any system is email, and this makes it incredibly important to have a secure portal for client information.
SuiteFiles has this risk covered in several ways. Standard documents can be created and then shared with clients through the app to collect information, which avoids email and adds the extra layer of having the information held in a secure portal. The flip side is that documents are shared through the client portal and not emailed.
Client identification is more difficult – you need to sight the client and their photo identification to ensure it is the real person. For example, the Tax Practitioners Board in Australia state that when an individual is engaging a practitioner, the practitioner needs to see:
- Their full name and either date of birth or residential address
- An original or certified copy of a primary photographic identification document
- Or both an original or certified copy of a primary non-photographic document and an original or certified copy of a secondary identification document.
We had two ways of doing this in our practice in a remote environment. We would either sight the documentation during a video appointment before any work was done so we could see the client with their ID, or we would get the client to take a selfie of themselves holding their photo identification. This could then be stored in our secure SuiteFiles portal.
Our practice was situated in the Mitchell Shire just north of Melbourne, Australia. At one point in the pandemic, Melbourne was the world’s most locked-down city. We were caught up with most of the metropolitan lockdowns, which meant we needed to have sound remote working protocols, not only for clients but also with our team as we were all located in different places. SuiteFiles made it so much easier to share information as a team, not just client documents but also things like our trust account reconciliation files and mail register.
While hopefully the days of lockdown are now behind us, it’s clear that a hybrid workplace is here to stay. It’s more important than ever that accounting practices have secure systems to deal with clients remotely as well as managing a remote team.
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