Edgar Thomas, COO of Avise, recalls the early years of his career in accounting.
“We were all eager young professionals, working towards our CPAs, brimming with skills and knowledge. Then we went out into the workforce . . . and we’re formatting excel documents.”
“You think to yourself, well, this is certainly not what I’m trained to do.”
As many finance professionals have witnessed first-hand, the lack of advancements in FinTech over the past decade created a sea of painful manual processes and a dose of disillusionment to go with it.
Thomas knew that he could build a better accounting system, and this belief motivated him to join forces with business partner, Graham Stanton, in founding Avise, a robust accounting ledger that is able to deliver real-time analytics on the financial health of a business.
Thomas also knew that a well-designed accounting solution would transform the jobs of many in the accounting office, which was exhilarating.
“By removing days and days of manual processes, I knew we had the potential to unlock vast amounts of human capital and, in doing so, change the nature of the accounting office completely.”
Glean AI founder, Howard Katzenberg, echoes this sentiment. Katzenberg firmly believes that the inherent value in finance departments has been overlooked for too long.
“The Finance and Accounting team has always been treated as a back-office cost center, which makes no sense because it is the group that understands the business the most broadly. Through technology and FinTech solutions, data is now far more easily accessible. Every transaction can be mapped to a specific product or customer making analysis so much easier today than it was years ago.”
By embracing FinTech solutions, human capital is unlocked because finance and accounting departments are freed up to do higher level analytics and revenue-generating activities.
Graham Stanton, CEO of Avise, wholeheartedly agrees, adding, “Everything happening in the business flows through the accounting system which presents an incredible opportunity. Technology gives accounting teams the opportunity to synthesize this data and provide real time insights to other departments throughout the organization.”
When one considers what today’s technology is capable of, there is no reason why a finance professional should be hunting through systems and manually compiling data — yet they do.
Says Thomas, “In my experience, it would be perfectly normal for an accountant to have to go into several different systems, download data manually, upload or summarize the data, then input this data into the ledger.
“We're talking about an army of trained CPAs who are essentially formatting excel documents.”
And as Stanton points out, “A lot of the work in accounting is duplicative, especially in the month-end close process. There is manual data entry and then manually copying data from one system to another. This just feels silly given that everything exists in a digital form.
“And let’s talk about the insanity of the reconciliation process. You have to dedicate time and resources to get the general ledger clean and organized, even though you already have all the data in your general ledger to begin with. What? You are basically doing the work twice, but the second time calling it a ‘reconciliation’. This is a job that really should just be a button press – it is not magic.”
Says Stanton, “When the work gets more painful, we just ask people to work later.”
But has anyone considered the larger negative effects on motivation and job satisfaction of these tedious practices, especially when being performed by highly trained finance experts?
Research has shown that job satisfaction and motivation can only be achieved through work that is meaningful and rewarding. FinTech gives businesses the ability to transform many of their finance roles, from mind-numbing to highly stimulating. This is all the more important when we consider that we are in the midst of the Great Resignation, with professionals leaving their jobs in record numbers.
Katzenberg is excited to see the finance department’s evolution from back-office cost center to valued strategic partner.
“I really love seeing finance teams becoming profit centers. Finance professionals are able to harness data and identify what's going on ‘under the hood’ of the organization. FinTech systems such as Glean and Avise accelerate this evolution, which is exciting.”
By embracing FinTech, organizations are able to unlock human capital in their finance departments by helping team members develop important skills such as critical thinking and resourcefulness. Instead of wasting time manually assembling a report, a team member can instead be tasked with reviewing the report, analyzing its contents, and identifying important trends or issues.
Similarly, Thomas points out how dramatically an accounting team is transformed once the month-end close process becomes automated.
“Using Avise, the month-end close takes a job that was previously two weeks and reduces it to just two or three days. Imagine - an entire team of highly trained finance professionals are essentially given back two weeks of every month to work on satisfying, higher level projects. It is remarkable.”
Research has shown that motivated employees work harder, work smarter, have lower absenteeism, and have higher retention. The positive effects of using FinTech to unlock human capital within a finance team will ripple throughout your entire organization.
Edgar Thomas, COO of Advise, leaves us with the following important question:
“Do you want your people doing high level analysis that provides real insight into your business or do you want them working hours and hours copying values and formatting a spreadsheet?”
I think we all know the answer.
This piece is part of a 4-part series originating from the “Future of Digital Finance” webinar featuring Edgar Thomas (COO, Avise), Graham Stanton (CEO, Avise) and Howard Katzenberg (CEO, Glean AI). To watch the full webinar, click here.