Interview with Theuns Holtshousen, Business Leader, CaseWare Africa

What innovative software does your company offer to African countries?

CaseWare is the global leader in auditing and financial reporting software, which is used in over 130 countries worldwide. We have over 16,000 users across Africa, consisting of audit and accounting firms, government entities, municipalities as well as large blue chip companies.

CaseWare software enables corporates, audit and accounting firms the ability to drive business strategy. Businesses require financial solutions that provide detailed real time analysis of financial information and forecasts that can be integrated with any accounting software and can easily produce compliant statutory financial statements as well as a complete management pack. And while certainly there are a few of these on the market, when considering various options businesses should be looking at a platform that can provide:

– First and foremost a set of compliant annual financial statements that are automated across industries.

– A monthly management report pack including an income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement compared against budget for the month, quarter and year as well as prior year, which is ideal. This is important if you want to get a real view of how your business is growing and make strategic decisions based on accurate data.

– 12-month trend analysis reports that will not only give you a holistic view of your profits and losses over a period, but also will give you additional insights like sale or expense trends and how these trends are affecting your profit. This will allow you to plan better for the coming year.

What are the benefits for African companies and governments after implementation?

Aside from offering technology tools for automated financial statement compilation, CaseWare aims to assist in the development of the African continent by providing software that comes with built-in localised compliance to avoid tampering of data, but which is more important it serves as a one stop shop.

Financial transparency is the key factor for investors, as they require as much financial information and insights as possible, so it is vital to use international standards (IFRS) before investing, which is why accurate financial reporting has become critical. For any business, profitability is important, and when it comes to processes and procedures businesses need to find new ways to improve efficiency that is rooted in process automation. The same can be said when it comes to the financial statements and reporting preparation. If it hasn’t been already done, then businesses should consider automation of these critical financial processes not only to raise efficiency, but in order to reach accuracy, completeness and compliance with the relevant standards and legislative requirements. By doing so you will ensure your peace of mind. Automating financial reporting processes reduces potential risks and makes all processes easier as there are also an audit trail to follow and built in validations.

Despite the fact that compliance is only applicable to the annual financial statements, monthly management reports run on the same data through the automated systems and therefore allow more accurate reporting and more informed decision making on a monthly basis through the benefit of the dissemination of the single data set for different outcomes.

It happens frequently with organisations that their monthly financial reports don’t tie in with the annual financial reporting, hence it does not provide a true reflection of the business. It also allows financial statements to be done more frequently, although these are only required once a year, it enables organisations to have a real view of their business health and this information is constantly updated and readily available so organisations are able to respond much quicker to business growth opportunities and to make smarter business decisions at any given time.

The manual adoption and implementation of compliance is a difficult process. Therefore it requires software that serves as an enabler to help companies to go through this adoption process.

The reality is that many businesses are hindered by manual processes and their complexities, therefore they require the functionality and embedded in this software solutions intellectual power to be better, faster and to produce high quality information to the internal and external consumers. These solutions do provide them efficient capabilities, but also ensure that they are automatically up-to-date with the latest legislation and standards.

Can you give an example of successful implementation of your software in African countries?

Currently we have 80% market share in South Africa, where our head office operates. And in the rest of Africa we work with English speaking territories and supply our software to corporate companies, which want to compile their own financial statements, and to audit and accounting firms, which are looking for the ways to increase efficiency and streamline their practices including the quality of their financial disclosures.

If you take a look at the African continent, other than the big four accounting firms, there are 30 network firms and CaseWare is used by more than 80% of them. What we are striving to achieve is to target the small and medium practices (SMPs) and to develop partnership with them and to help them realise their growth potential.

In Zambia, one of the 6th largest advisory firms is Moores Rowland Zambia, which provides clients with a variety of services including compliance and financial reporting — where accuracy and professional service is the key. Thanks to this sentiment Moores Rowland Zambia has turned to CaseWare Africa in 2010 and the results speak for themselves.

According to Ravi Sankar, Partner at Moores Rowland Ndola, all financial statement compilations were previously done manually — a tedious and difficult task. More than that, their audits were done in Excel. Having moved over to CaseWare, it has not only ensured that they have an automated process for drafting financial statements, which saves time and effort, but it also guarantees IFRS compliance and ensures reports are done professionally and in an acceptable standard format. CaseWare Africa is used across Moores Rowland Zambia’s 3 offices, specifically focused on delivering IFRS compliance and a streamlined audit process. According to Moores Rowland, the software ensured control over and integrity of financial reporting and audit while enabling accurate and up-to-date compliance.

What are the challenges your company faced in Africa?

In Africa the reality is that many businesses are still crippled by manual processes and growing compliance demand.  This process is often prone to inaccuracies and, as such, deemed as non-compliance.

Therefore, it is important for financial managers, auditors and accountants to utilise technology that is intuitive, efficient and compliant to the ever-changing legislations and standards. This in turn will invariably boost investor confidence and attract cross-border financial transactions, which are the basis of economic growth.

The business landscape is changing, and those that are ready to meet challenges, those that have the potential to innovate and use opportunity will head on. And certainly in the financial reporting software development sector it is no different. The challenges and opportunities for financial compilers have never been greater as structures, processes, client expectations and technology developments continue to drive change and transformation. And while these influencing factors can very easily become threats — they should be seen as opportunities for businesses to evolve from traditional models of doing business.

With this in mind, businesses will need to start working smarter not harder. The bigger businesses certainly have access to the resources that empower them to work smarter — but the question is how can the smaller businesses do this as many don’t have enough capabilities and resources for growth and development to remain competitive. Here we are looking for early adopters that will ultimately become technology ambassadors and influence their direct environment by skills transferring to the local financial communities and educating them.

What African countries are the most interesting investment targets for your company?

Currently there is the focus on Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa as these are the growth and investment hubs for investors that are looking for opportunities to come to Africa and therefore the financial reporting and accuracy are essential. This is the key for foreign investors as they rely on financial information to make assessments and decision whether to invest or not, and good reporting and reliable information are as important to a country as sound infrastructure and good communications. These focus areas are showing exponential growth in the technology terms, but we also find that Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Mauritius are driving the same way at the high speed. The drive for excellence cannot be underestimated in any of these pockets of growth.

CaseWare is used globally in over 130 countries and in Africa, CaseWare currently operates in all English speaking countries that comply with IFRS and IPSAS.

What are the prospects for the development of CaseWare on the African continent?

The idea is to increase the market share, create partnerships, provide support for local customers and consequently influence the industry through cementing relationships with key stakeholders.

Believing in an innovative spirit, the aim is to take services to the cloud — we see that the African market is strongly underestimated as far as it concerns adoption of compliance. We believe that there are a lot of early digital adopters and they are becoming technology ambassadors on the continent. We endeavour to facilitate compliance adoption on the African continent.

How can information and production technologies affect African economies and change people’s thinking in 5-10 years, for example?

We are entering into the customer era, where they are demanding specialists, a higher standard of advice and collaboration and one stop shop for all their financial reporting software needs. For these reasons, financial reporting software has changed the industry completely over the years, which will continue to evolve and adapt to legislation demands, reporting standards and practices. Though with this evolution, businesses (audit and accounting firms and financial compilers in corporates) need to understand what software is available for them and while software ensures that they will not only meet the above-mentioned requirements, it also adheres to Regulators that impose stricter reviews on financial reporting.

Change is the only constant element businesses will need to care, and technology is the development cornerstone. The aim is to understand the customer’s perspective while still adhering to regulations. We are currently seeing that the early adopters, whom have taken the leap to embrace new technology, are reaping the benefits. As technology becomes more intuitive, the cloud strategy addresses even more pain points and becomes an enabler for better client/customer collaboration — changing the way firms and businesses operate, collaborate and share information, becoming a connected hybrid of capabilities, giving them a competitive edge.

CaseWare Africa


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