Eric van Marle, Vice President Transparent: South African CFOs are the drivers of great change
“You don’t want to know how many CFOs and banks we have helped with matchmaking,” says Eric van Marle. A networker at heart, Transparent’s Vice President likes to bring together business people who can help each other forward – something that aligns neatly with CFO South Africa’s approach. Van Marle is excited about Transparent’s presence in the South African market and he is not planning to curb his enthusiasm. “This market is very hot at the moment. South Africa has clearly made great leaps in economic development and everyone’s focussing on keeping that trend going. That’s where we can help.”
The company specializes in accounts payable analyses, leaving no stone unturned in its search for deviations while working on a contingency basis. It does not only make money for companies by finding wrong and double payments; it also uses the outcome of the investigations to provide extensive, tailor-made recommendations for improving the accounts payable process. “We have opened an office in South Africa last year and in about 6 or 7 months we acquired several clients, among them Standard Bank, Nedbank and Hollard Insurance. That is a very good start, because normally it can take up to 18 months to get a client on board,” says Van Marle.
Although not all African countries “are ready yet” for cost saving alternatives using the Transparent method, South Africa definitely is, Van Marle argues. “If you are looking at the finance sector, South Africa is ahead when it comes to legislation, compliance and processes.” “There is a distinctive contrast in the mindsets driving CFOs financial decisions in the West and in South Africa.” He continues, “South Africans are more open-minded due the financial conditions of their recent economic history. There is a yearning for growth and an eagerness to learn, which is very distinctive to South African CFOs.”
In The Netherlands, where Transparent started out, many big firms – including airline KLM and beer brewer Heineken – make use of the services of Transparent. “At the moment 60 percent of our revenue still comes from the Benelux, but we are also active in the United States, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Nordics, UK and Eastern Europe. We are now present on four continents as we also moved into the Middle/Far East and Mexico.
One thing we have changed at Transparent is that the data miner has stricter rules in selecting their clients based on their financial volume. It doesn’t matter if the finances are governed by a modern system like SAP or Oracle, or if everything is done in Excel or even on paper – although the latter is more time (and money) consuming. “We always find something,” explains Van Marle. Transparent’s analysts are working from The Netherlands and India, the latter doing the more strenuous manual comparing of figures. “You get money back for free and you can optimize your systems based on our findings. We have a beautiful online portal, where clients can follow what we have found and where we are still looking.”
After a career in hospitality, finance and IT, Van Marle had decided to start working as a marketing consultant until Transparent came knocking at his door. “I had an immediate click with the owner and it’s an exciting company to work for.” No wonder that he is enjoying himself, because the company currently sees 60 percent revenue growth per year and has grown its staff contingent from 60 to 100 in the last 2 years. “There are more and more clients with cash issues, so they welcome us with open arms. And we of course also welcome them.”
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