Matthew Milne CA empthasises the benefits of cloud accounting services
Matthew Milne CA, Cloud Accounting Technologist at Bridge Financials, tells Laurence Eastham of the variety offered by working in digital services – and the challenges associated with start-up life
Since opening its (virtual) doors in May 2020, Edinburgh-based Bridge Financials has sought to promote the benefits of cloud accounting services for businesses of all sectors – as well as the value of having a qualified accountancy professional onboard to manage the transition and upkeep. It proved to be serendipitous timing for a firm founded during lockdown.
“The cloud’s natural sell is the recurring theme of difficulty in accessing decision-useful information. That was evident over the past few years, certainly at the start of lockdown,” says Matthew Milne CA, the firm’s Cloud Accounting Technologist. “Businesses were still using paper purchase orders or waiting three weeks after month-end to get a report. All that information can be right at your fingertips – and that’s generally the expectation that people have of everything now, even in their personal lives.”
In this spirit, Bridge Financials has designed its offering around three distinct areas: insight, skills and technology. The practice prepares reports on financial systems and processes, trains clients in the use of cloud software, and uses its expert insight to improve software systems and business decision-making.
“With our clients, there’s an initial piece of work around resolving the problems they might have in the business – such as information gaps or systems weaknesses,” says Milne. “But our role is primarily dynamic in terms of having an ongoing problem-solving relationship where we touch base with clients frequently to resolve issues they have over time. The fundamental philosophy behind what we do is empowering clients.”
That has translated into the incredible variety of clients that Bridge Financials takes on – something Milne says keeps him motivated about working in the practice sector.
“We focus on solving business problems,” he explains. “Those pain points – such as management reporting, document approvals, inventory management – tend to manifest in the same way regardless of sector. Our focus is getting to the bottom of the systems clients are using and finding the best fit for them. The range of people we get to work with means every day is different.”
Milne and Bridge Financials founder Hilary Dyson first met while colleagues at their previous firm. Milne had returned from a year’s secondment in industry in October 2018 and was unsure which direction he wanted to take his career in. Again, it was a case of fortuitous timing. “I had been out of the sector for 12 months and I didn’t know if I’d be able to naturally drop back into audit,” he says. “But Hilary had joined the firm and was in the process of setting up a cloud team. She needed some support – I began working with her.”
By the time Dyson launched Bridge Financials nearly two years later, the two had already developed a strong rapport – and a shared understanding of the service offering that would most benefit clients. “It was a natural transition,” says Milne of the switchover. “We’d built a particular skillset and we work really well together. Our goal was to deliver that service line – software implementation and support – but with our own philosophy of empowering clients.”
He describes the experience of going from a 250-strong firm to a two-person (now three-person) start-up as a “positively challenging” experience, eased by their close working relationship. “We were able to navigate a lot of the challenges that arise when you transition to a small business,” he says. “Before, we had particular departments for VAT, corporation tax, personal tax, and so on. When we moved, we had to build a network of relationships to meet those client needs,” Milne explains. “That was challenging, coupled with the fact we weren’t having face-to-face meetings. But it’s definitely paying back now and proving the concept of what we wanted to do.”
ICAS has also helped Bridge Financials to establish itself as a young practice, with Milne using its support services to advise on everything from anti-money-laundering queries to bigger questions around the structure of the firm itself.
“We have made use of both the practice support team and technical helpdesk at ICAS. We sought advice on the structure of the practice – as well as structuring going forward – as we have goals to expand beyond our team of three,” he says. “It’s good to have these touchpoints on the things we need support with – and it’s been completely invaluable for what we do on a day-to-day basis.”