Adra Match: Balancing act - Martin Thunman

Any financial professional that has to deal with month-end bookkeeping will be familiar with the stress involved in manual account reconciliation. Adra Match is on a mission to change all this with its cloud-based automation solution to the month-end close process. CEO Martin Thunman discusses how companies can free employees from mundane accounting and make the most of their
knowledge workers.

The business and finance world was thrown into shock in September 2014, with the news that a household name retailer had overstated forecast profits by £250 million - a colossal accounting blunder. And as the regulatory watchdog comes down hard on the company for misstating its profits, it's increasingly important to find new ways to ensure no mistakes can be made.

In the areas of month-end close, transaction reconciliation and receivables processing, there are cloud-based technology solutions that can free accounting departments from their dependence on error-prone manual spreadsheets. And according to Martin Thunman of Adra Match, its suite of products known as BALANCER, ACCOUNTS and RECEIVABLES are as close as you can get to error-free automation.

"We believe that you'll never have a 100% tight system, because it's tough; you would have so many layers of control - operationally and technologically - but account reconciliation automation would definitely limit the risk significantly," he says.

By the book

Because Adra Match technology time-stamps records extensively, there's no way of going back and changing figures, and accounts can be cross-referenced. Companies that still manually match invoices are increasing their risk of making mistakes, as well as expending resources that could be spent doing other, more important things.

Having spent the past three years as CEO of Adra Match, Thunman says the company is driven by the idea that technology can make people's lives better, improve working environments and free financial professionals from mundane admin.

"It's all about creating customer value by automating with the help of IT solutions," he says. "That's what I like about technology - it gives innovative people the ability to be better than the next person at addressing these types of issues."

Thunman says that, while it's a slow process, Adra Match is working hard to show potential customers that accounting and the month-end close process doesn't have to be so arduous.

"One customer told me that every month she physically signs off 600 sheets of trial balances - that is not the modern way of working," he says. "I think the industry as a whole needs to come together and say 'look, this is the 21st century here, shouldn't we take this last piece and also automate that?'."

Thunman says that Adra Match wants employees to trust their company's numbers again, citing a survey conducted before launching the new BALANCER product.

"We asked the questions as to whether or not they trusted numbers reported, and the blended number was that 35% trusted the reported numbers," he says. "It's a very low number and we looked into who the people were - it turned out management had much higher trust in the numbers than the staff."

Head in the cloud

So what specifically does Adra Match offer as the solution? Instead of manual account reconciliation every month, it takes data online into cloud-based software, providing three key products covering the balance-sheet reconciliation process, automating transactions and handling of payments received.

Companies that choose to shape up their accounting processes are often driven by external pressure, he continues - often an IPO or something similar on the horizon - and Adra Match helps gets them up to scratch.

Toyota Financial Services (TFS), a owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation that provides vehicle sales financing to approximately 5.4 million customers in more than 30 countries and regions, including Japan, is a satisfied Adra Match customer.

Adra Match's flagship products, BALANCER and ACCOUNTS have helped TFS streamline and digitise the monthly financial-close process, allowing it to replace cumbersome spreadsheets and error-prone manual tasks with a full real-time overview of the entire balance sheet reconciliation process.

"With Balancer, our monthly financial reconciliation and closing routines are improved and well defined. We avoid using binders to archive as the system archives everything electronically. It also simplifies our working routines thanks to the approval workflow process," explains Robert Erkers, finance manager, TFS.

The company is now able to gain control of the entire month-end close process through enhanced visibility and with increased speed and accuracy.

The transaction matching of its balance accounts is currently executed in Adra Match ACCOUNTS, which will be uploaded directly into BALANCER for all the balance sheet account reconciliation. "I am very tired of Excel as a professional tool in established processes. It is good for ad-hoc solutions but useless in processes," says Erkers.

"Many people who want to change their processes struggle to do so without proper tools. So if you have a good tool, you can standardise the process. And that is a huge benefit of the new technology," says Thunman.

He argues that the general trend is that accounting departments are under pressure to close their books faster, and to do it with significantly fewer resources.

"But, at the same time, there is the need to keep their knowledge workers happy," he adds. "And this is a game changer - we can't afford to treat our staff as merely employees, they need to be treated as knowledge workers that are unique and can go anywhere else if they aren't happy.

"And if you have a high staff turnover, the whole process will be shaken. You need stable processes, tools and technology."

A good match

Part of Adra Match's success is this closeness to the needs and feelings of clients, and the reason the software works so well is because products are developed around customer needs, shaping it to fit the circumstances of different companies.

"When we started selling our flagship ACCOUNTS product, we had a customer work with it and start to stretch what it could do, and it came back to us with more and more requirements for workflow - document upload, for example - and the list never stopped," Thunman says.

"What we found is that customers are innovating around our core product and driving requirements of more unique things to help them. By working very closely with the customers, we believe we can build better solutions for them."

The company frequently carries out opinion surveys of the employees of companies who they provide technology solutions for, and has found that after the implementation of their products, they are noticeably better off.

"People are less stressed, but with tighter deadlines," he says. "Because they have tighter processes that help them be efficient."

Adra Match really wants to make people's lives better, to free financial employees from mundane tasks and treat them as knowledge workers with more to contribute. Thunman believes that not enough consideration is given to the stresses that accountants and auditors go through.

"There are few professionals who work so hard to deadlines as finance people," Thunman says. "I think finance people and accounting staff should get higher recognition around that fact."

Adra Match CEO Martin Thunman.
An overview of Adra Match’s BALANCER.