Jacqui Freeman, Tertia Barrett and Christy Roux (CQS): growing through close relationships

From left to right on the picture: Alex van Groningen (CFO SA), Jacqui Freeman (CQS Technology Holdings), Melle Eijckelhoff (CFO SA), Tertia Barrett (CQS Technology Holdings), Christy Roux (CQS Technology Holdings).

“Microsoft Excel is our biggest competitor!” With a healthy amount of respectful disbelief both Jacqui Freeman and Tertia Barrett of CQS Technology Holdings shake their heads at the fact that even in 2013 there are still plenty of financial professionals in JSE-listed companies that compile their financial statements in a simple spreadsheet. “We like numbers, we are accountants at heart,” Barrett says. Their initial goal though “is to make people move away from Excel to CaseWare so they can dramatically decrease the time they spend calculating and checking numbers and spend more time interpreting them.”

There is something heart-warming about a company that can’t contain their enthusiasm and passion. Of course Freeman (marketing consultant) and Barrett (head of sales and marketing) are trying to sell a product to CFOs and their staff, but the energy of the two women is infectious – no wonder CQS is selling a lot of the popular financial software CaseWare and its many add-ons. The firm is the market leader in South Africa and is rapidly expanding into the rest of the continent.

Together with recently-recruited marketing team member Christy Roux, Freeman and Barrett welcomed CFO South Africa in their office in Johannesburg in March 2013. “We have just built this business centre,” explains Freeman. “Nine new board rooms, but it is still not enough and our divisions have to book them a year in advance.”

The CQS team welcome the new networking opportunities in the finance sector that CFO SA-founders Alex van Groningen and Melle Eijckelhoff are rolling out in South Africa. “We have always grown our markets through close relationships,” Freeman says. “I think we can all benefit from more information exchange between CFOs and financial professionals and as CQS we definitely want to be part of that. I like the fact that CFO South Africa is growing a community of CFOs for the benefit of everybody.”

Established in the early nineties, CQS provides a full range of professional services and solutions to nearly 4,000 customers spanning audit, risk management and corporate performance management. “Our product managers have a very close relationship with financial professionals in many sectors like telecoms, construction and the public sector,” Barrett says. “We strictly speak to financial professionals. The add-on products that we put in the market, originate from their feedback.”

CQS employs about 200 developers, trainers and managers. Its core product is CaseWare, a nifty piece of auditing software that combines 12,000 accounts in its mapping database and can work with information from any accounting system, in any language. It can also use data from various accounting systems at the same time, Barrett explains. “As an example: a large corporate could consist of variety of companies i.e. freight, manufacturing, showrooms, stores and a head office. These divisions work with different account systems, full of different descriptions. CaseWare imports from all these systems and consolidates the information for auditing purposes.”

One of the main benefits of using the products and services of CQS is its adaptability. “It is all about compliance,” says Freeman. “The government will publish a new standard. We have some amazing guys who then take those standards, implement them in our software and make the businesses IFRS compliant”, providing great relief for accountants that are under a lot of presure. “We've even had a potential client cry in a presentation. She couldn't believe the power of the solution and said she was going to resign until we showed her our product.” That is the exception though; mostly we get impressed ans surprised nods and the occasional standing ovation.

According to Freeman and Barrett CQS really makes a difference with its add-ons and templates with CaseWare as the ‘engine’. These include a monthly managing reporting tool and templates for smaller scale businesses, pension funds and the public sector. And there’s something for the decision makers too, says Barrett: “As accountants, we like numbers. But in exco they want to see those numbers in pictures that show trends. We've now developed a dashboard that gives the CEO insight. We launched the first version of it last year and with the feedback we have gone back to the drawing board to improve the tool” The future for CQS’s software, Freeman says, lies in the cloud. “Different versions of our software can already be synched with data in the cloud. It’s the next frontier.”

 

If you would like to share your ideas with the CFO community, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to arrange an interview. Please contact Jurriën Morsch on [email protected].