Finance Indaba 2016: Transparent aims to help firms recover funds


“We will be talking about how businesses can recover working capital, not only from eliminating double- and over-payments, but also from improving efficiencies and using our payment analysis reports,” says Carolina van der Ark from Transparent, a gold partner at the Finance Indaba Africa 2016 on 13 and 14 October 2016 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. In the coming weeks and months, we will be chatting to all the Indaba partners, asking them why they are joining the event and what their most important message for finance professionals is.

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Now country manager for South Africa, Carolina has a long history in finance, working as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch in her native Amsterdam and going on to fill roles in private and credit card banking.

Transparent is an accounts payable audit company that aims to recover working capital through various methods. When its data mining efforts uncover double- and over-payments and other irregularities, it sends proof to the supplier in question, asking for a refund. The firm works on a “no recover, no pay” model and also provides valuable reports on efficiencies and duplications as an additional no-cost service. Transparent’s headquarters and shared services centre is in Amsterdam and it has offices in the UK, USA, Mexico, India and South Africa.

Why will you be present at the Finance Indaba?
“We’ve known Alex van Groningen for the past 15 years and have been working with the group in the Netherlands. Through the CFO South Africa platform, we like to meet CFOs and other finance executives to explain exactly what we do, without immediately selling our services. The Indaba offers an excellent opportunity to network. We have got a lot of clients from CFO events in the past.”

What will you be talking about?
“We will be talking about how businesses can recover working capital, not only from eliminating double- and over-payments, but also from improving efficiencies and using our payment analysis reports. For instance, as an example, let’s assume that one of our clients, British American Tobacco’s procurement department has agreed to pay IBM within 60 days, but is not sure whether its divisions in each country in which it operates are doing so. We provided free of charge reports on each division to assist them. These reports are also a valuable indicator of the integrity of suppliers. These errors are not all attributable to accounts payable departments. We’ve found that in as many as 60% of cases, the mistake is on the supplier side. We aim to find out where in the process things can be changed and streamlined.”

You’ve been in South Africa for four years now. How have you found the business climate?
“South African firms have been very open to making use of our services. We face challenges primarily in terms of bureaucracy – it took us a year to get a VAT number. We are used to it now, and have our BEE and compliance certificates. Personally, I love the weather here. It is a lot better than in Europe. The outdoor lifestyle is wonderful!”

What are Transparent’s goals for 2016?
“We have a turnover target, of course, but our overall goal is to become the major player and go-to brand for accounts payable analysis. There are other companies doing something somewhat similar, specialising in VAT or utility analysis, but what we offer is unique. We’re also looking to expand to Kenya to offer our services in East Africa and make it easier to work in other African countries.”

How has the economic downturn affected your business?
“Basically, it is a good time for us, because people need money and are open to us coming in and helping them free up cash.”

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