Aquila Super – SMSF Adviser’s 2023 SMSF Audit Provider of the Yea

Promoted by Aquila Super
February 13 2024
4 minute read
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Winner’s Q&A profile

Q. Can you tell us about Aquila Super and its history in the SMSF space?

Aquila Super is one of the most established SMSF firms in Australia, having started operations in August 1997 in Canberra.

The founder of Aquila Super (Chris Levy) had previously been a manager responsible for SMSFs for the Canberra office of EY and before that PwC (or Price Waterhouse as it was called back in the day). At this stage, SMSFs were called excluded funds and were governed by the Insurance and Superannuation Commission (ISC), which became APRA.

Aquila Super is now a leading SMSF audit and administration specialist that supports accounting practices’ compliance and SMSF sector growth. Accounting practices increasingly actively seek to partner with an external SMSF auditor to boost their capacity and extend their services.

In particular, accounting practices appreciate that partnering with Aquila Super removes the complexity, liability, and internal resource drain from a practice’s regular accounting services.

Q. What sets Aquila Super apart from the rest of the market?

Our points of difference are:

  • Australian-based firm (no offshoring)
  • Custom-built interactive audit portal
  • Actively striving to secure client data at the highest capacity
  • Short turnaround times with competitive pricing
  • Tight partner/client relationships
  • Highly specialised technical compliance knowledge
  • Recognised industry experts who are regularly sought for media commentary

Q. How has Aquila’s SMSF service proposition evolved over time?

While Aquila Super has always focused exclusively on self-managed superannuation, its service offering has morphed considerably since 1997. Initially, the firm focused solely on accounting and technical assistance to accounting firms, essentially acting as their SMSF division.

Furthermore, the firm did not initially offer an audit service, partly based on the principle that as it was the accountant’s client, they should be willing to take ultimate responsibility for any advice provided to a trustee.

As the accounting firms increasingly came to rely on the technical and compliance advice of Aquila Super, this position was no longer feasible, and the firm started offering an SMSF audit service in the early 2000s. Around this time, the firm also began accepting financial planning and individual trustees which has grown considerably, although the heavy emphasis on assisting fellow accounting firms persists to this day.

Q. How does Aquila help SMSF trustees manage key pain points in the accounting and auditing process?

When an SMSF client encounters problems with the accounting or auditing aspects of an SMSF, we find that the issue will typically fall into one of three buckets:

  1. A lack of expertise and knowledge from the accounting/auditing professionals involved.
  2. A lack of resources which may be due to a lack of properly trained professional staff or poor and/or ineffective software and systems. Either way, such problems typically result in delays, poor service.
  3. A ‘one-size fits all’ approach to the provision of accounting and especially auditing services, leading to sub-optimal strategic outcomes.

Recognising these potential problems and pain points, Aquila Super invests significantly in the technical training of the professional team and the IT systems and framework that supports them. Doing so allows the team to mitigate and resolve issues efficiently and provide tailored solutions to client problems.

Q. What sets Aquila Super apart from key competitors? What has underpinned its recent success?

While there are many similarities between Aquila Super and the large SMSF firms that we compete with, there are two key differences that we embrace.

Firstly, the work done by Aquila Super is entirely done within Australia by Australians with no part of our accounting or audit service being sent overseas. Not only does this remove various security and privacy concerns that we have with such operations, but it allows us to invest in professional staff within the country.

Working in parallel to this is a philosophy that the firm stays true to its Chartered Accounting roots, acting as a trusted and experienced advisor to our clients rather than a sort of massive assembly line more akin to a factory than a professional services firm.

Q. What are some of the key metrics/performance indicators attesting to Aquila’s success in recent years?

Aquila Super as a firm has experienced significant growth since its inception. Revenue has more than doubled over the six years, partly through organic growth and partly through acquisition.

The number of SMSF audits conducted by the firm, largely on behalf of other accounting firms, has been a key driver for Aquila’s recent success, growing from approximately 3,500 to over 8,000 audits over the last five years. The physical footprint of the firm has also grown over the last 10 years from a single office in Canberra to also having an office in Sydney and, most recently, the Gold Coast.

Q. Why should accountants partner with Aquila Super to support SMSF trustees?

Accountants that partner with Aquila Super can expect:

  • Highly competent and experienced staff all based in Australia and well versed in the complexities of SMSF legislation and accounting. This professional competency and knowledge have been built up over three decades and is constantly refined through extensive staff development.
  • Efficient and comprehensive communication throughout an accounting or auditing engagement through the use of our custom web-based portals and IT systems.
  • A strong focus on client service including the delivery of work in a timely manner.
  • A commercial and creative approach to problems and issues.

Q. How did it feel to be recognised as a leading SMSF services provider at the 2023 SMSF Awards?

The SMSF accounting and audit industry is populated by a vast number of practitioners. There are a few SMSF specialist firms that stand head and shoulders above the many. To be recognised as being at least equal to these SMSF champions was both surprising and a deeply humbling experience. While we have spent nearly 30 years on a constant path of improvement and refinement, we never suspected that we would one day reach such a lofty pinnacle.

Q. Looking ahead, how does Aquila Super plan to capitalise on its recent successes and further develop its SMSF offering?

The primary benefit of winning the award and achieving other successes is that it allows us to project our service offering to a far larger audience. We believe that what we do at Aquila Super is unique for firms our size – a specialised yet large SMSF Chartered Accountant practice built upon the skills of a professional team of Australians based in Australia.

To learn more about how Aquila Super can assist you, click here.

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