Over the years, technology has grown at a rapid pace, changing the way we do our business. In today’s world, having an online presence is a must for any business to grow and become successful. This implies not only to the product industry, but also to the service industry. In fact, a lot of businesses prefer not having a physical office or store and instead, move all their operations online. This will not only help them save on operational cost, but also increases their reach internationally. The advancement of technology and the ease of access to the internet have made the transition of conventional business to an e-business possible.
No industry has stayed away from this trend. Instead, one of the industries took on the opportunity. That is the corporate secretarial and accounting industry. The newer company incorporation, secretarial, and accounting firms in Singapore such as Osome, Sleek and HeySara, have introduced new ways of serving secretarial and accounting services. These firms leverage technology to automate their routine work to save time for both themselves and their clients.
Digitalization helps in reducing paperwork, shorten processing time, minimizes the risk of human error, and improves efficiency. It is a win-win for both parties. Cloud can be used to store and retrieve records at any time, phone applications can be developed to access information, chatbots to get queries resolved and video conferencing facilities can be used to have an effective face-to-face communication with anyone around the globe. All these developments give company secretaries more time and ways to provide quality value-added services to their clients.
Traditional Corporate Secretarial and Accounting Firms
Every company in Singapore is required to appoint a company secretary within 6 months from its incorporation date. There are many traditional corporate secretarial and accounting firms that have been operating for years and have built a strong brand name in the industry. While these companies are well known in the industry, they still rely heavily on the old traditional way such as emails, paperwork, and phone calls.
In Singapore, some of these big players include:
3E Accounting was founded in 2011 and is one of the leading firms in providing business solutions in Singapore. They are headquartered in Singapore with a global presence with more than 115 offices worldwide. They provide tailor-made solutions like company incorporation, accounting, taxation, legal, immigration, and compliance services for start-ups and SMEs. Over the years, 3E Accounting has bagged many awards and is frequently featured on several media channels and radio.
Rikvin is an established corporate secretarial and accounting firm offering corporate services like company incorporation, corporate secretary, taxation, accounting, immigration, HR outsourcing, and international expansion. It was founded in 1998 and has been providing quality service since then.
In 2015, Rikvin was acquired by InCorp Group, which has a global presence. Rikvin’s clientele includes both national and international high profile brands as well as SMEs of different industries.
ContactOne is a corporate secretary and accounting company founded in 2009. The company offers secretarial and accounting services, along with company incorporation, business formation, compliance management, taxation, payroll management, and other corporate administrative services for startups and SMEs. It also provides personalized services catered to their clients.
How Technological Advances Shape the New Role of a Corporate Secretary and Accountant
The role of a corporate secretary and accountant has changed over the years. They are expected to be more of an advisor to the board of directors rather than just a compliance officer. Regular communication is a must for the corporate secretary to excel in the role. The use of modern modes of communication such as video conferencing helps in being in touch and collaborate better with their clients.
Digitalization has helped corporate secretaries to move some of their time consuming administrative and tactical work online to spare more time for other important matters. Going paperless and the use of digital signatures have significantly improved the processing time to incorporate a company and meet statutory requirements.
There are now various platforms available that can help in keeping a record of all the documents submitted, as well as track the due dates of future filing of returns and forms. The system can help companies to be 100% compliant to ACRA’s requirements and improve corporate secretaries’ efficiency and service quality. The use of these systems can also help in sharing and retrieving the secured documents with ease. As all these documents are highly confidential, they are safely stored on the cloud and can only be accessed by the authorized personnel.
Cloud, an Important Server for Corporate Secretary Purposes
Cloud is an integral part of the digitalization journey. The new-age corporate secretaries rely on the cloud to securely store and share all their confidential and financial documents. So what exactly is the cloud and why is it becoming so popular?
Cloud is a centralized data center that allows users to store their data remotely and run their applications and software on these servers. Users do not need to set up or manage physical servers and can leverage on the cloud servers located all over the world. As the data is not physically stored on the user’s device, the data can be accessed through any device anywhere anytime.
The biggest benefit of using the cloud is that businesses can save on a lot of costs as the cloud vendor takes care of all the infrastructural requirements of setting up and maintaining the cloud servers. Other advantages are that the files and applications are securely stored in a cloud server that can only be retrieved by the authorized person from anywhere in the world and there are little chance of the data getting lost.
A company secretary has to maintain a lot of documents, regularly update the changes in the company’s particulars if any, file company annual returns, issues shares and meet other statutory requirements. Having all these documents on the cloud helps them be more organized and keep a tab on all the data to make sure that the company is compliant with the law. The cloud also makes getting internal approvals and signatures of the board of directors simpler and faster.
Xero, a Software Built for Digital Accounting Purposes
Xero is a global cloud-based accounting software for small businesses and advisors. Xero connects more than two million subscribers with an ecosystem of over 800 third-party apps and over 200 connections to banks and financial service providers. They have won many accolades in different forums since their inception.
The software tracks and maintains all the financial data of the user’s business. This data can be accessed anytime anywhere, as well as shared with any authorized party. They also have a mobile app that helps users perform all the tasks on the go.
Here are some of the things you can do with Xero:
- Link your bank account with Xero to get all your business transactions into the software and reconcile them with ease at the end of each business day.
- Send electronic invoices with online payment options and keep a track of the same. You can customize the invoice, send automated reminders to your clients, send bulk invoices, and get notified when the invoice is viewed and paid.
- Easily record, claim, and manage employee expenses like travel, food, or other expenses. You can also assign an expense to a particular client or project to get the amount adjusted in the next billing cycle.
- Get a quick glance at all your key financial details with the help of a customized dashboard. You can track your cash flows; view your bank, credit card, PayPal transactions and balances; as well as manage and follow up on pending invoices all through one dashboard. You can also further drill down on each of the areas to get more details.
- Make customized reports and share them with employees, advisors, or shareholders.
- You can pay your bills through Xero by scheduling and grouping payments. The software gives you a view of all the bills and purchase orders, and highlights those that are due for payment.
Singapore government provides grants to all businesses who want to adopt IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes. This is to encourage digitalization and provide online solutions in all industries. One such grant is the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), a joint initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore. Xero has a list of pre-approved partners who can offer their Xero services with PSG.
Who is eligible to apply for the PSG grant:
- SMEs who are registered and operating in Singapore,
- using the subscription of the IT solutions or equipment in Singapore, and
- have a minimum of 30% local shareholding (for selected solutions only)
The maximum funding support level is raised to 80% from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020.
The New Generation of Digital Corporate Secretarial and Accounting Firms
With so much changes in the corporate secretarial and accounting industry, the new generation firms are providing digital services to meet the expectations and demands of the growing businesses. The adoption of technology and AI applications have helped these firms to reach significant heights in the industry, as well as making a name for themselves. In barely 1-2 years from their incorporation, they are proving to be tough competitors to the traditional companies who have been in the industry for decades.
Here are some of the digital Corporate Secretarial and Accounting firms that you should look out for:
Sleek started its operations in Singapore in May 2017 with the idea of providing 100% paperless and digital company incorporation, corporate secretary, and accounting services. They expanded into Hong Kong in 2019 after receiving a positive response from their clients.
Sleek is one of the first company to offer 100% digital service in this industry in Singapore that allows its clients to e-sign company documents. Their online platform is efficient and provides its users with services like:
- Automatic document generation: All the required forms are available on the platform in the desired format. It takes only 10 mins to fill in the template for the document you need.
- Electronic signatures: All the documents can be signed electronically with the help of advanced technology used by Sleek. It makes the process fast and convenient.
- Status dashboard: Users get a real-time view on the status of the filing process. They can view what documents have been submitted and if any action is required from their end.
- Secure digital mailroom: All documents are securely stored on the cloud on multiple data centers across 3 continents and can be accessed by the user anytime anywhere. The access rights can be given to all the authorized directors, shareholders, and stakeholders.
Osome is an AI-powered corporate secretary, incorporation, and accounting company launched in 2017. They are headquartered in Singapore with offices in the UK and Hong Kong as well. One gets a feel of the digital service they provide from the very first interaction with them.
From their website, the first point of contact is a chatbot who will get the basic details of the user and guide them through the process. An agent is then assigned and joins the chat once the basics are done and the user wants to move forward with their service request.
From Osome, users can get the following services:
- 24/7 service: As most of the work can be done by the chatbots, they are available 24/7 and are able to address the user’s queries within 15 minutes. Users can incorporate a company, request for their annual report, or file their annual returns at any time of the day.
- Mobile app: Every user is given access to Osome’s in-house app that allows them to view their documents, due dates calendar, get nudged if any action is required, make payments, e-sign the documents, use the chatbot, or speak with their assigned agent.
- Integration with Xero: Osome is a Xero Premium partner and is fully integrated with the online accounting software. All the documents are securely stored on the cloud via Xero to make sure that all the paperwork is in order and no deadlines are missed.
HeySara is a new name in the industry. It uses the latest and the most updated technology to incorporate companies, provide company secretarial and accounting services. The founders of this homegrown Singapore-based company have years of experience in the corporate and IT fields and understand Singapore law inside out. They founded HeySara in 2020 after realizing the potential of digitalization in this field. Combining technology and AI, they aim to provide the most efficient, hassle-free, and affordable corporate services to its clients.
To incorporate a company, users can either create an account with them through their website or through their customized user-friendly mobile app (find out how Heysara App works). Henceforth, all the action takes place on the app. The app uses artificial intelligence to provide efficient solutions and information within minutes.
The app allows users to:
- Request for services: Users can request services anywhere anytime through the app and easily make changes to their company details.
- Get notified: The app provides real-time updates to the users about the progress of the requested services and triggers reminders if any due date is approaching or requires the user to take any action.
- Sign electronically: All the documents can be electronically signed through the app. The app has double-layer authentication and uses encryption technology to make sure there is no compromise in security. Users can sign the documents with ease.
- View company documents: All the company information and documents are securely stored on the cloud and can be retrieved through the app. The users can view and modify the documents anytime anywhere. The app provides the details of all their companies on one single platform.
Apart from company incorporation, secretarial, and accounting services, HeySara also provides nominee directors, payroll management, work pass applications, and co-working spaces, all at affordable prices.
A Growing Trend: Why are All the Businesses Switching to Digital Corporate Secretarial and Accounting Firms?
To keep up with the competition, one needs to embrace and adapt to the market trends. Digitalization is ‘the new way’ to offer services and reach out to clients. But this is not the only reason why corporate secretary and accounting companies are going digital. They have realized the true potential and the benefits of providing their services through the digital platform. Using artificial intelligence has helped them automate mundane tasks. Customers have also excepted the new change. They prefer to associate themselves with these new-age companies as they too see the benefits of using digital corporate secretary and accounting services.
Some of these benefits are:
Who doesn’t want convenient when they are running a business and have endless tasks to do. Using digital corporate secretary and accounting services can help save a lot of time as all the tasks can be done in a few clicks while seated in office or home. There is no need to visit the office or set up meetings with the corporate secretaries to sign, submit, share, or view the documents. Digitalization has made e-signatures and uploading and retrieving of documents on the cloud secure and convenient. One doesn’t even have to be in the same country to incorporate a company or fill their tax returns anymore.
Opting for digital services saves time on issues like commuting for in-person meetings, waiting for business hours to get answers, taking prints to sign and then sending the documents to the next person who needs to sign, and so on. Digital services help in improving processing time. Users can access the details at any time of the day. They can concentrate on their core work during business hours. If they are situated in another country, time-difference will not come in the way either.
With digitalization, all the important company details and documents are saved securely on the cloud. The companies take enough security measures to make sure no one without access can get a hold of these documents. Everything is organized and easy to locate. Going paperless has reduced the turn-around time as well as the risk of misplacing important documents or missing deadlines.
The users can do nearly everything at a click of a button either through the company’s website or phone app. The phone apps make it even more efficient as users can request services, make changes, or electronically sign documents on the go. As everything is templatized and automated, there is very little scope for human error. Due to this, there are no unwanted delays in the processing of the requests. The apps also have real-time dashboards that give the users a view of the status of their requests, the due dates to submit documents, and also reminders to complete pending actions.
Another aspect that improves the overall efficiency of the corporate services is the use of softwares and tools like Xero for online accounting, company name search tool, cloud storage, cybersecurity and so on.
As everything is automated and the workflows are in-build in softwares and apps, prompt communication is possible. One doesn’t have to read through long emails to know the next action. Notifications can be used to inform any task that is due to be completed by the user. Users can also get their queries answered at any time by chatting with the chatbots.
As human intervention is reduced and routine work can be managed by the bots, digital corporate secretary and accounting firms can hire fewer employees. They can also provide better services to more clients. As this saves costs, they are able to pass on the savings back to the customers.
Gone are the days of traditional ways of doing business. If a business wants to survive and secure their future they will need to go digital sooner or later. There are several corporate secretarial and accounting firms that are still not very open to accepting this change. But it won’t take long for them to realize the benefits and adapt to this shift.
Going digital not only benefits the companies but also the clients. Companies can offer better services at reasonable prices to more people with the same amount of resources in record-breaking time. Due to this, users get pricing benefits and save precious time while firms can get better profit margins. So if you are looking for a corporate secretary and accounting firm for your business, you know that the new age digital firms are the ones to choose as they are the future of corporate services.