How machine learning and OCR adds value to your accounting firm

Machine learning and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) have had plenty of lip service in recent years.

Big businesses have set them on the agenda, but what does it mean for growing small and medium-sized businesses?

The good news is, much of the hard work has been done for you. Today, it could not be simpler or easier to use machine learning and OCR every single day in your business. If you are a Receipt Bank partner, you already are. Every time your clients submit their expenses, bills and invoices, the data on the documents is read using state-of-the-art OCR and machine learning.

The result? More accurate data in your system, and less time wasted for you and your team on time-intensive, boring, manual data entry. Here’s how three of our partners are using machine learning and OCR to their advantage, and how you can use it too.

Farnell Clarke Ltd is a chartered certified accountant firm based in Norwich and London. As an early adopter of cloud-based accounting technology since 2007 – just a year after they were founded – they have since embedded it within their value offering.

“We aim to stand out from the crowd by working smarter,” says Will Farnell. “This means ensuring that we are constantly looking for technology that helps us to innovate and ensure our client offering stands out from the competition.”

Now, they are a Xero Platinum Partner and use the ecosystem of connected apps for everything from their CRM, stock management, HR and – of course – receipt processing. Their website is a great example of how you can make your firm’s passion for technology a unique selling point in your area. The key takeaway? Don’t be afraid of shouting about being on the cloud.

Matt Portt, founder of Portt & Co, decided to use cloud-based software and Receipt Bank even before starting his company. Like Farnell and Clarke, his taste for innovation is presented as one of Portt & Co’s key selling points: built “into the heart of everything we do as part of our mission to eliminate pointless data entry”.

Interestingly, Portt & Co takes inspiration from being a startup to relate with his clients. Indeed one of their clients, Eloquent Technologies, chose Portt & Co for this focus on innovation. For Eloquent Technologies, “when we selected an outsourced bookkeeping provider, it was crucial that they could understand our business and share our innovative ethos. Portt & Co were able to deliver on both of these aspects.”

f you are taking on similar businesses, putting your interest in agility and innovation at the forefront could well give you that extra edge.

Nick Wilson first heard of cloud accounting back in 2016 and was convinced of its potential from the get-go. In his words, “I could see that in this day and age, it’s what entrepreneurs will come to expect”. The idea went on the back-burner for a while as he gained experience. Then in mid-2017, he pitched the idea to the partners of Robson Laidler and shortly after, became the Head of Cloud Accounting.

His mission? Convert 80% of their client-base to a cloud-based system by 2019.

For Nick, the machine learning and OCR in Receipt Bank “is magic. It’s so new and clever, clients want to know more. When it’s the clients asking the questions, it shows that they want to learn, rather than feeling that a new technology has been forced upon them.”

If your clients are risk-averse, take a look at last week’s blog post on how to pitch the power of paperless. It includes five of the most common client objections, plus five tried-and-tested solutions. One of the most effective solutions is also the simplest. Simply take your clients out for a coffee and show them how Receipt Bank works.

The mission of our product team is to translate new and emerging technologies into tangible business benefits. So no matter what the buzzword, we care about what it does for you – whether that is making your processes more efficient, or helping you add even more value to your services.


For a step-by-step guide on how to switch to the Cloud, implement The Paperless Playbook today: the ultimate guide to perfecting your processes and taking charge of your time. Download now 

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