UK property consultancy Strutt & Parker has more than 125 years of experience in real estate management. Through their more than 50 offices and a team of about 700 agents, they look after a huge range of farming, residential and commercial properties and when the time came to update their client financial management system, their choice was Greentree.
Strutt & Parker’s clients range from landlords who own one or two houses or other buildings, to farms of various sizes and major landholders. “Our customer base is quite diverse, in terms of segmentation,” explains Shaun Spalding, Head of Client Finance.
Such a comprehensive service demands serious accounting software, capable of tracking an annual throughput of around £60 million. Strutt & Parker’s legacy system just couldn’t cope with the growing demands.
“We were running the previous system for about 10 years and it was restricting our future development,” says Deputy Head of Client Finance, Alex Heffer. “It didn’t have any web-based capabilities.”
Among the software evaluated were Yardi, Access Accounts, Sage, Greentree, Landmark and Farmplan. “Greentree was the one that ticked the most boxes,” Alex recalls.
“Everyone is happy that Greentree is managing that money up to all the regulations, it’s open, it’s transparent; there’s nothing missing.”
Strutt & Parker chose Greentree’s financials, CRM and eCRM modules. Excel integration allows easy compiling of transaction reports. Heavy use is also made of Greentree’s transaction trees, especially for customers with multiple properties who want monthly, quarterly or annual profit & loss reports.
The CRM system handles all the property data, to coordinate rent demands and direct debits. Strutt & Parker’s agents can also use the eCRM module to get quick reports if they’re away from their office. Processing agents’ information is a core function of Greentree. “The agents have Greentree on their desktops, allowing instant access to their clients’ data,” Shaun explains.
Paying by direct debit has become increasingly popular, both with Strutt & Parker’s agents and its customers. Greentree’s direct debit module has brought significant benefits, automating a time-consuming manual process from the old system. “Effectively we collect direct debits from tenants on behalf of multiple companies and pay it out in bulk when the funds are cleared,” Alex says.
Greentree’s automation of various tasks has brought increased efficiency, boosting the throughput of staff. “The ‘gross domestic product’ of an individual employee increases,” Shaun explains, “and that’s what the accounting industry is always looking to do: less people doing the same output. You end up charging less to your clients, so what you’re actually doing is maintaining an operational competitive advantage over others.”
Greentree’s scalability has also enabled Strutt & Parker to compete happily with local bookkeeping firms and to offer clients a more personal service. ”When it comes to dealing with corporate customers, we know that whatever their requirements, we have the ability to create a bespoke service, tailored specifically to their needs,” Shaun says.
Alex adds some words of praise about Greentree’s ability to drill-down for information. “It’s great to be able to double-click on an item on the screen and to automatically drill-down to the details of that customer, invoice or any other element of the system. This allows you to find all the answers that you want, without having to close everything down, go into another screen and start from scratch.”
Key performance indicators supplied by Greentree have benefitted Strutt & Parker’s client accounts department. “From an operational point of view, we are able to plot monthly output and volumes taken from the data in Greentree we can analyse this by region or client – this is something we simply couldn’t do before,” Shaun says.
Strutt & Parker has to satisfy not only its directors, agents, clients and auditors; there are also compliance obligations to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (its agents are all RICS qualified).
“Everyone is happy that Greentree is managing that money up to all the regulations,” Shaun says. “It’s open, it’s transparent; there’s nothing missing.”
Summing up Greentree’s strengths, Shaun says, “I think it’s in being able to give us operational statistics internally. It has been the next level of software that has enabled us to think about automation and standardisation of all processes and to know that it’s got the capability to do things like link with external systems and automatic imports of data.”
“It’s the flexibility of the system,” adds Alex. “I don’t think I’ve ever been told that Greentree can’t do something – there are always solutions to what we want to do.”
Strutt & Parker was founded in 1885, and has grown to be one of the largest property partnerships in the UK, offering services and professional support in all aspects of property and land. The firm and its agents handle rent demands, collection and expenses through a network of some 250 bank accounts, with £19 million of client funds under management on average at any one time. Strutt & Parker today, and through history, has a love of the land, of homes, of developing and creating business opportunities through property and above all a belief in the power of true partnerships with clients.