Realising it’s impossible to guarantee the security of standard emails, this practice is using a secure client portal to send and receive files and messages.

Based in Weybridge, Surrey, the four partner firm of TWP offers a broad range of accounting, audit and tax services to local businesses and individuals, including business planning and advice in a number of specialist industry sectors and specialist tax planning for companies and high net worth individuals.

A year after it was first installed at TWP, the firm’s Practice Manager (AK) and a member of staff who provides admin support within the practice (BT), discuss how TWP and its clients are getting on with CCH Portal.

What made you first think about using a client portal?

AK: One of our most important considerations was security. As an accountancy practice, everything we do for our clients is of a confidential nature so we have to be able to protect sensitive data in transit. It’s not possible to guarantee the security of a standard email so, although we had been taking the precaution of password protecting our emails, we were looking for a more efficient solution, something more in line with best practice for accountancy firms and something that would enable us to comply with any legal or professional requirements.

What do your clients think of CCH Portal?

AK: We’ve been using CCH Portal for about 12 months now and already around a quarter of all clients choose to exchange documents this way. The key for us has been to market our client portal whenever we have an opportunity; for example, we explain about it in our engagement letters and we’ll mention it again as an alternative whenever we send out a letter with a physical document for approval. We also include it on the strapline of our emails.

We have a page on our website where we explain the benefits and where we link to the unbranded videos that Wolters Kluwer produced for end-users. One explains in simple terms why the portal is a good idea and the other outlines how to use it. We’ve also used these videos in emails that we send out about our portal.

Because we can’t guarantee the confidentiality of standard emails, the option we offer our clients is portal or post and most of them now choose CCH Portal. Obviously we’re happy to carry on using post for those who prefer to communicate this way or who aren’t set up for using web-based services.

The major benefit that we emphasise is security, but speed and convenience are also plus points for the portal. It only takes a few seconds to put a file on the portal and, because there’s no restriction on disk usage with CCH Portal, we can leave documents up there indefinitely so if a client needs something that we’ve sent them in the past – say a set of accounts to help them complete a mortgage application – they know they’ll be able to download it instantly from the portal, even when our office is closed.

BT: CCH Portal gives us the ability to deal differently with individuals who work in different roles. We use the portal to send out monthly reports to our payroll clients but the person who deals with the payroll in a firm doesn’t usually need to see the accounts or the CT return and with CCH Portal it’s easy to keep individual logons separate within a single client portal.

Of course clients do sometimes forget passwords or type in their activation code rather than their user name so, even with the self-service Forgot your password? function, we do sometimes get questions. We’ve created our own training instructions for clients and staff and these help us to deal with queries.

So how have staff adapted to using CCH Portal?

AK: Implementing a client portal represents a big change to the way that people work with documents within the practice so obviously there were initial concerns from staff and a learning curve for them to overcome. Even more so because we installed CCH Document Management and CCH Portal as the same time. We spent quite a bit of time putting together clear instructions for people to follow and we organised some basic training sessions to go through the new systems and answer questions. That investment has paid off and staff have adapted well to the new software.

What are your plans for the future?

AK: We’re already using most of the CCH Central suite, including CCH Personal Tax and CCH Corporation Tax, CCH Practice Management, CCH Document Management and, of course, CCH Portal and we’re going to start using CCH Accounts Production soon so we’ll get even more benefit from having the fully integrated suite.

We initially took a licence for 500 portal users and we’ve just increased that to 600; I’m pretty sure that will go up again as we encourage more of our clients to use CCH Portal.

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