In the News
Voice of the CFO: Rebuilding Legacy Systems to Scale Cross-Border Payments
Mark Himelfarb is the chief financial officer of Accolite Digital, a generalist digital transformation services provider, and has been with the firm for 15 months.
When he started, his marching orders were to standardize disparate systems across lines of business and international operation borders to establish a digital foundation that could help the company scale for growth.
“It’s a very fast-paced, growing company, and we wanted essentially to prepare for the future and be able to enhance our foundation, our systems and our reporting,” he said, “and think of ourselves as more of a $500 million to $1 billion type of company and set up the infrastructure to be able to support that.”
When he came aboard, Himelfarb found a variety of financial systems in place in the U.S., Canada, India and Britain. Accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) were decentralized in these disparate systems, making it difficult at best to gain firmwide financial views and insights. The systems were also designed for smaller sales volumes and didn’t have the scalability the company needed to support international growth
He spent his first four months assessing the situation and found legacy systems wanting in several ways.
“One of the challenges was the systems really weren’t built for the kind of technology organization we are,” he said. “Second is you didn’t have the ability to bring the data together in a cohesive way. Third, you had different accounting practices in different jurisdictions.”
The firm decided to adopt three best-in-breed solutions for project management, customer relationship management and human resources to essentially create a global enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform. All three of those systems now talk to each other, and each one becomes the system of record in its respective domain — the single source of truth.
Now, the company is expanding into Latin America, and the global ERP is making a seamless integration natural.
The firm has a relatively large number of clients globally, so currency volatility is one of Himelfarb’s challenges as CFO. Again, the global ERP is the management tool of choice.
“Having a global ERP allowed us to be able to manage the currencies,” he said. “Yet at the same time, what we do is we have an underlying functional currency, which is kind of a fixed rate that we have across the regions to keep our reporting on a like-for-like basis.”
Multiple Industries, Payment Models
As a digital transformation provider, Accolite’s solutions help clients gain market share, optimize processes and reengineer existing systems. It has substantial business in six verticals, including financial services and logistics, and projects are structured on a case-by-case basis.
“We do definitely get requests to for longer payment terms, but you know, we’re also in a business where its fully people driven,” he said. “The product is the intellectual property or the people. We must pay our people, so we try to keep it as tight as possible, but also align ourselves to the market.”
A Familiar Foe: Wage Inflation
The vast majority of the company’s employees are in India. There, core operations were bedeviled by wage inflation well before the current bout in the U.S.
The company’s strategies to address the staffing issue revolve around culture — maintaining a collaborative, transparent environment while providing generous benefit packages, including healthcare and extensive training programs.
“It’s a very competitive area. Virtually every year the wage inflation in India means that if you don’t maintain pace, you’re going to lose people,” he said. “Demand is so high, and supply is just way below that.”
About the Author
Mark Himelfarb, Chief Financial Officer at Accolite Digital.
This article was originally published in PYMENTS.
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