EY Absolute – the alternative to outsourcing
To find out more about EY Absolute – the alternative to outsourcing – we spoke to Tina Gill EY Absolute Partner.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT EY?
I am a partner at EY and co-founder of EY Absolute our fully managed finance operations service for private and mid-market companies.
HOW DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM SUPPORT HIGH-GROWTH BUSINESSES?
We work with companies who have ambitious growth targets helping them to free up time and resources by driving greater efficiency in their finance operations.
The service areas we cover include bookkeeping; management reporting, statutory reporting, payroll and tax compliance. And our clients have access to the cloud-based Microsoft accounting system we use to deliver this service.
WHY DID YOU SET UP EY ABSOLUTE?
A few years ago we were starting to hear that CFOs in the mid-market needed smarter systems, processes and data to inform strategic decision making but did not know where to go for a comprehensive solution.
Today’s senior finance executives are expected to help their companies to do a wide range of things – focus on growth while managing costs; keeping up with change while delivering value; operating effectively in an environment that expects greater transparency; and demands increased compliance reporting all while driving continuous improvement.
In response, some multinationals have implemented large projects, which may include setting up their own offshore service centres, and investing significantly in technology and building in their in-house expertise.
Smaller companies face similar challenges, but do not have the same options to address them.
We knew that our team – which included qualified accountants, experts in process efficiency and finance transformation, technical accounting experts, tax and payroll specialists and data analysts – could provide the services required, but we needed to bring them together in a way that best helped mid-market businesses.
So EY Absolute was designed to help these companies to benefit from the advantages of efficient processes, have access to experts and use leading technology in a way that was previously unavailable to them.
SO YOU CREATED AN OUTSOURCING OFFERING?
No. We learned pretty quickly that while some CFOs are open to the idea of traditional outsourcing – and may already outsource the compliance and external filing aspects of their finance function (such as statutory reporting and tax returns) – there remained some doubt about whether the core finance and accounting operations of their business could be outsourced in the same way.
We heard that CFOs think they and their teams are spending too much time getting the reporting right, for example, dealing with too many manual journals at month end. This can lead to large teams being involved in time consuming activities such as completing monthly management accounts.
But CFOs also say this type of reporting is critical to drive decision making and that they need to maintain control and visibility of their data… they need to be able to answer the questions that crop up in the business and their concern was that the accounting outsourcing options available to them did not allow them to be sufficiently connected with their data.
Before launching EY Absolute we spent a year listening to our target market to ensure that the service we designed provided the efficiency, improvements and high quality financial analysis they sought whilst ensuring visibility of and access to data was not lost.
The result? Our focus became ‘supersourcing’ – delivering efficient finance function processes, enabled by leading technology in a way that builds value, while ensuring our clients, and especially their CFOs, retained access to and visibility of their financial data 24-7.
What do you think are the key elements to ensuring you have a successful finance function in your business?
1. Put the same level of focus into your plan for your finance function as to the plan for the rest of the business
We often speak to companies whose plans for transformation of the finance function are not yet fully aligned with the overall much larger growth ambition of the business. Without this alignment companies risk taking a piecemeal approach, which often does not provide the longer-term benefits they had hoped for because it does not provide them with the data they need to support strategic decision making to drive growth.
Successful businesses have well thought through plans for their finance function with clear targets and measures for success. They are realistic about what needs to change and plan to deliver this change with an optimum combination of in-house expertise and third-party specialists
2. Review your legacy systems to identify where issues are arising
The advantages of linking data sources to ensure that there is only one version of the truth are significant. Many companies know this but do not have the time or resources to choose, implement and maintain new accounting technology.
Keeping up with fast moving developments in accounting technology may be an unrealistic investment of time and money for some mid-market companies. For these companies, by working with service providers such as EY Absolute, they can leverage the investment we have made ourselves.
Our clients include both companies who do not want to invest in an accounting system and choose to make use of access to our Microsoft finance system and companies who have implemented their own accounting technology.
3. Develop and implement consistent, reliable processes and controls
Having the right technology means time-consuming activities can be completed more quickly and, arguably, more accurately. However, without strong processes and controls, the focus of effort will still be on measuring and reporting, rather than value added activities. The technology, however good, is not magic!
And while you are fixing the processes, ensure they are fully documented to avoid the issue we often come across where a key staff member is leaving an organisation. Typically, this is someone who has been with the company for years, knows how everything works, is able to do all the off-system reconciliations, but is now moving on and no one else knows how the processes work.
4. Have access to a team with the right skills
Today’s finance function needs access to a wide range of skills; obviously accountants, tax specialists and payroll experts, but also, data analysts. Systems can provide data, but people need to bring ideas as to how to use that data. It is this team who can deliver the financial insight and management information to support strategic decision making.
Decision making, judgements and value add business partnering will always be retained in-house. But by working with a service provider, whose team includes all of these specialists, you can receive the right data and high-quality management information to help make more-informed business decisions.
5. And finally – work out how to do all of this whilst still controlling costs
Understand the true cost of your finance function, consider if it is delivering all the things we have talked about and, if not, look into the options to do something about this; the benefits for your business could be significant.
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To contact Tina Gill here are the details:
EY Absolute Partner
T: +44 (0)7796 268 292