In our profession, the term “advisory services” is used frequently, but there is little consensus about what it actually means. When we ask multi-service firms which advisory services they offer, the spectrum of responses is incredibly broad and often overlaps with traditional compliance services.
Why does it matter?
Compliance services are required, and there is very little differentiation in the deliverable between practitioners. A tax return or financial statement usually looks the same no matter who prepared it. The fact that most firms include the exact same compliance description on client invoices reinforces that there is nothing special about the compliance report.
Conversely, the advice, expertise, planning and strategy that went into the process before the report was created are very differentiated. Advisory services grow from our unique experiences and expertise, and are the secret sauce that creates value for our clients.
We know this intuitively, but many firms do a poor job of separating advisory from compliance, and communicating their advisory expertise to clients. Advisory supports specialization, which leads to higher-value services and separation from the sea of generalists. However, if we can’t articulate our advisory expertise, it’s a certainty that clients won’t be able to untangle our compliance services from higher-value advisory services.