William Duncan & Co is a long-established accounting and compliance firm in the UK that has built strong relationships with its clients that go far deeper than the numbers. From the firm’s five offices in the west of Scotland, they process payroll for over 300 small to medium-sized businesses across all sectors including agriculture, healthcare, tourism, and education. The firm counts the NHS in its portfolio, managing payroll for several GPs in the region who are effectively standalone businesses and responsible for paying their own staff.
Managing Director, Robert Fergusson, says “Payroll is a very important bureau service that we offer our clients and demand has increased significantly over the last 12 months due to the Coronavirus, but also due to the fact that we can deliver this service through Xero’s cloud technology”.
Payroll is a high priority process that has to be carried out accurately, but with multiple tasks involved, it can become incredibly complex. William Duncan’s solution is an end-to-end service, provided by experts, backed up with Xero Payroll. We talk with Linda Morrison, who has been with the firm for six years and is now the Senior Payroll Manager, based in the Ayr office on the west coast.
Adopting Xero Payroll
The main software used for processing client payrolls was Sage – but Linda saw the potential for Xero to improve things dramatically. “Xero Payroll has taken several of the tasks you need to run payroll and automated the process, which makes things so much more efficient”, Linda says.
“The Xero Payroll process automates the pension assessment, the application of tax codes, and the submission of RTI to HMRC, and there are only one or two reports to run. It’s a much slicker process than we were used to. Before it would take around 10 minutes for some clients’ payrolls, but with Xero it takes less than a minute. That’s for a payroll that doesn’t change month to month. I demonstrated it live to our managing director – in just a few clicks of the mouse, it was done. He was gobsmacked. That’s obviously the smallest size payroll, but Xero payroll is just as efficient with larger volumes.”
Migrating clients to Xero Payroll
In the last 18 months, William Duncan has migrated most of its clients over to Xero Payroll.
“It’s quite easy, though you need to consider whether it’s worth waiting for the tax year changeover so you don’t have to carry over any mid-year figures. Some of our team favour a manual transfer, but some like the spreadsheet format. Either way, it doesn’t take long – around five minutes per employee once you know what you’re doing and have all the information at hand,” advises Linda.
Cloud accounting during COVID-19
Some colleagues were still not convinced that Xero was the way to go but then COVID-19 arrived.
“When we went into lockdown in March 2020, the benefits of working in the cloud became clear. I was able to work from home pretty easily and run payroll seamlessly with Xero – clients saw no disruption. But for the payrolls on Sage, we had to run that through desktop software off-server, through a VPN, which got really slow and clunky. We decided that we had to make the move to Xero for as many of our clients as we could so that we could maintain an efficient service for them. Our workload had increased substantially with furlough calculations and claims, so we had to make sure that we were being as efficient as we could be.
And it wasn’t just the practice that saw the benefits of payroll on Xero. “One of our clients was stranded in Spain because he had to quarantine. He’s a property developer, and he couldn’t get back in time to pay his staff. We moved him over to Xero Payroll remotely. I did some quick training for him, with me on the phone in Ayrshire and him in Spain. We painlessly managed to avert what would have been a crisis for him and his business.
“Working in the cloud also gives us a great opportunity to support and help clients who process their own payroll on Xero – we can remotely log in to their Xero and help whenever required,” adds Linda.
“The new upcoming tax year will see us migrating the last of our clients over to Xero Payroll. We will also be looking to progress some clients to the next stages with things like encouraging all employees to use My Payroll (their own secure portals where they can view payslips) and looking at the Timesheet facility for some clients allowing their employees to complete and submit a timesheet in My Payroll for approval making things even more efficient. We would also like to look into how Xero Projects works with Xero Payroll. In addition, there is also Benefits in Kind to consider, as well as CIS and IR35 Off-payroll working. It’s an exciting year ahead,” Linda exclaims.
Robert Fergusson also gave a further glimpse of the future by explaining how they are on a project they refer to as the ‘100% quality data initiative’.
He explains it “translates into us working in partnership with our clients, and them with us, to achieve 100% quality data on their Xero accounts systems. If we can achieve that, we can provide valuable advice to our clients using real-time accurate data.
Xero Payroll and the bureau team have a big part to play in this initiative as payroll is usually a significant cost to a business and needs to be fed into the accounts accurately and on time. Xero Payroll makes this task simple.”
To find out more about Xero Payroll, visit our dedicated Payroll Learning Centre here.