How MyFinance Online embraced the cloud to achieve a 1300% growth in clients

Jannie Schutte, Managing Director of forward-thinking South African firm MyFinance Online, spoke to us about how working with Receipt Bank has transformed his organisation’s success. 

In the five years since they started using Xero and Receipt Bank, MyFinance Online has well and truly taken off. Their client list has grown from ten to 150, they’ve transformed the services they offer, and they’ve built up a loyal customer base all over South Africa.

We spoke to Jannie Schutte about his experiences working with us and what’s in store for the profession more generally going forward. 

Early pioneers

Back in 2008, Jannie had an idea: what if he could set up an online-based accounting practice? The early MyFinance Online mainly dealt with one-off solutions like company and VAT registration, but it quickly became immensely popular.

“I was amazed at how successful this was, and at the time there were only two or three other websites like it. However, to make it a more sustainable firm, we needed more clients to who we supply bookkeeping, accounting and tax services on an ongoing basis 

“It was very difficult going down that path to retaining monthly recurring business. Given that we’re based in Bloemfontein – a much smaller city and not really an economic hub of South Africa – most of our clients from further afield (like Johannesburg or Cape Town) would have to send us all their documents in the post. By the time we’d received them, processed everything, and sent back our recommendations, so much time had passed that the business had already moved on.”

In 2014, Jannie came across a Xero and Receipt Bank webinar on cloud-based accounting. Recognising that this was where the future lay, he quickly jumped on board. 

The death of distance 

After this webinar, Jannie did some more research on Xero and Receipt Bank before signing up to everything on offer. He recognised that not only would the cloud replace arduous manual processes, but it would also be able to connect MyFinance-Online with businesses all over South Africa.

“To be honest with you, we’ve pretty much grown exponentially – especially with regards to our monthly clients. Nowadays we probably spend about 80% of our time on large monthly clients and only 20% on once-off services and tasks. This has had a tremendous impact on our bottom line, and we’ve been able to expand to a team of five full-time professionally qualified accountants.

“I’d say that in the last five years or so I’ve really seen the death of distance. It doesn’t matter where we’re based, we can still attract clients from all over South Africa. Technology has enabled us to be far more accessible than ever before, and I’m even considering going fully remote in a few years’ time. It’ll take a shift in mindset, but it’s very possible.”

Time is money

We’ve all heard this old adage before – mainly because it’s so true. Since adopting Receipt Bank and Xero’s software, MyFinance Online has been able to save a huge amount of time on menial tasks.

“We’ve basically said goodbye to filing – once a document is on the cloud, it’s stored there forever. Rather than spending a week to capture documents, we take 40-50 photos in the space of about 20 minutes. Even the process of uploading these documents only takes a further five to ten minutes, so it’s all done and dusted incredibly quickly. This means that we can keep our fees very reasonable – especially in comparison to practices that charge by the hour.

“Back in the days of having to post everything to and from clients, there were times where our P&L statements were so out of date that they were practically useless. Now, if we get the documents onto the cloud by the 31st, we can turn around a P&L in two or three days. It’s made such a huge difference in how we operate.”

AI breathing life into accountancy

Understandably, there are many accountants who fear what the rise of AI means for their profession. Jannie is of the opposite opinion: he sees AI as reinvigorating and reinventing an accountant’s role.

“There are still lots of manual processes that take up the brunt of an accountant’s time. If AI can streamline these processes, I’m all for it. The fun part of the job isn’t crunching the numbers; it’s working out key insights from this data. Accountants should see themselves as business advisors, because at the end of the day, a business’s numbers tell its story. You measure everything else in life, so why wouldn’t you want to measure your business?

“With AI and cloud-based accounting, us accountants can focus more time on providing clients with actionable insights that’ll help their business. People will always want that human element, someone they can actually sit down with over a coffee and discuss their problems, or their plans for the future. 

“Accounting nowadays is about being more extroverted than we may have been in the past and building those genuine, lasting relationships with clients. It’s hard to have that much job satisfaction when your days are packed with manually processing reams of data. 

Now that our time is spent analysing and connecting this data to larger business insights, I’d honestly say that accounting is a more enjoyable profession than it ever has been before.

Punching above their weight

Jannie explained that being situated in Bloemfontein, (when compared to Johannesburg or Cape Town), there has always been this perception that you can’t service businesses outside of the city. By adopting cloud-based solutions, MyFinance is beginning to shrug off this perception.

“Receipt Bank has actually been a big selling point for us. Prospective clients are always incredibly impressed when we explain our cloud-based processes, and the role that our tech stack plays. It’s helped us be able to compete with larger firms – just because they’re bigger, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re better. The level of service we provide is staggering; each of our accountants can comfortably handle 40 clients.

“There’s one client that we have, a large engineering firm, who came to us about a year ago. They were doing everything manually at the time, so we immediately put all their documents and processing on the cloud. We’ve become their heroes – we now process around 1,000 documents per month for them, and they’ve even started referring their clients to us! As a small company, to be able to impress a large organisation like that is a great achievement for us.”

“I can truly say that if we hadn’t taken that decision to embrace the cloud back in 2014, there’s no way we’d be where we are today.”

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