How PEM delivers client onboarding consistently at scale

“It’s a two way relationship. We want to be considered part of the client’s team. We want to be proactive in the relationship.”

We caught up with Andy Turpin, Partner at PEM recently to discuss how his Virtual Finance Office team are scaling, repeatable processes to consistently onboard new clients. It’s been a busy couple years for their team as they’ve seen increasing growth from a diverse client base needing similar financial services. Given this it’s no surprise that building scalable, repeatable processes is Andy’s key focus to empower his growing team and build their client base.  

What sorts of businesses work with PEM’s Virtual Finance Office?

PEM is the largest independent practice based in Cambridge, UK. While the practice covers a multitude of different accounting and tax disciplines, the Virtual Finance Office provides outsourced accounting services to about 250 clients.

Andy shared: “We have a really diverse client base. Some tech startups, some charities and we work with some more mature businesses. We work alongside existing bookkeepers who work for these businesses. We also work alongside finance directors and CFOs to fill the gap that clients need and tailor our service to fit the client.”

How has PEM changed how client onboarding is delivered?

“The client is at the centre of everything we do. To make sure we’re supporting them in the way they need us to is imperative.” 

Andy’s team has been successful in growing their business and team size, increasing to 31 people over the last 10+ years. The team leverages technology to support clients and deliver on their service offering. From Xero to Dext, cloud applications are a key component of how they work with their client and it’s essential they are onboarded to use each. 

In recent months, new client onboarding includes getting clients used to the way of working together using regular video calls using Connect4 to set the bar for regular communications.

The upsides of consistent client onboarding

“Our aim is to meet our clients at least once, if not twice, a month. The idea of a regular conversation with an agenda focused on their needs and how we can support them as a business going forward.

The beginning of reaching this aim is setting the bar with all during new client onboarding. The diversity of their client base, including overseas clients, means clients like to communicate differently, but this is a must do for the PEM team. 

“I think you get a lot more from a call. You can ask questions, get the clients to talk about their business and their goals. What they want to get out of the relationship going forward. Whereas just by nonverbal communication you’re asking questions. Getting to the bottom of the potential business issues the client’s experiencing. What keeps them up at night and what we could potentially help.”

Why do you use Connect4 for onboarding clients?

“Connect4 is so structured. We put it into place as a standardised workflow in the handbook for our onboarding team.”

On this, Andy shared that for clients it’s about showing “this is how we work and making sure there’s that consistency of approach. So when a client comes in, we explain to them what they can expect from the relationship.”

“It’s good to have it written down in one place. It’s good to have it so they can refer back to it.

It’s good to have the materials in there, the resources, so they can refer back to. Such as knowing how to process an invoice or make payments to external parties. So having that in one place we don’t have to hunt through emails to find this information.”

Is there a part of the prepare, meet, act workflow that helps with client onboarding? 

“Absolutely. The workflow with agendas, the actions, and the minutes is really important for us to sort at the start with clients. Otherwise, it’s not a meeting; it’s a chat. And, there has to be a purpose to it.

We find that having a more structured approach gets better results with clients. The meetings take less time because you’re targeting what you want to talk about. For the clients, the opportunity for them to add to the agenda means they can look to us – our expertise and our experience – to help drive the meeting process.”

What did you do before Connect4? 

“We put Microsoft Teams in March 2020 when lockdown happened. It has really helped us to stay connected. We use it internally for chats, especially small sorts of messages rather than sending an email. And, it’s the default setting for finding somebody within the firm. We use it now for team meetings and initial calls with prospective clients.” (FYI – that may change with Connect4’s personal pod features!) 

When starting to look for something different, Andy found that Connect4 met their needs to deliver onboarding in a structured, consistent way. 

“A lot of what we do is repeatable. It’s the sort of things we do across lots of different clients – month on month, quarter on quarter. Keeping that consistency of approach, especially using agendas, is important.”  

Key takeaways

What we’ve learnt from PEM’s VFO team about onboarding clients:

  • Consistency is key – for clients and team – in a growing business
  • Build a handbook to empower your team 
  • Set expectations early with clients to enforce the importance of regular meetings 
  • Technology, especially in today’s remote environment, creates partnerships with clients to deliver services together 
  • Client relationships develop through transparency and consistency 

Watch here for the full interview:

Many thanks to Andy Turpin for taking the time to speak to us about their successes developing a fantastic client onboarding programme — we’re excited for the team’s continual growth!

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Sarah Broderick

Sarah is COO at Connect4. She leads up the commercial teams to GSD and deliver more for customers. During 15 years of client-facing roles in software and financial services, she's become passionate about creating client transparency through consistent, humanised interactions as the key to building strong business relationships.

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