The world’s first digital accountant was born in South Africa and is about to jump the water to the UK and US.
The company is called Osidon and was founded just over two and a half years ago by serial entrepreneur Hennie Ferreira and his wife, Melissa. Hennie and Melissa ran a successful digital marketing company before they had an unfortunate run-in with an accountant and that started them off in the accounting business.
The business is attracting roughly three new clients a day and this year is likely to grow 300%.
Where are the new clients coming from? “About half our clients are dissatisfied with their existing accountants – often because they got hit with penalties because they missed submitting VAT or tax returns on time – and the other half are non-compliant companies that want to get compliant,” says Hennie.
Osidon initially focused on small and medium-sized businesses, but has now started attracting much larger enterprises with turnover running into several million rands a month.
Much has been written about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its likely impact on the accounting profession. Osidon is living proof of those predictions. Hennie says roughly 60% of the accounting functionality has been automated, but is rapidly increasing using machine learning capabilities to automate repetitive or routine functions.
“AI should be welcomed by accountants because it gives them more time to offer value-added services to their clients, and this is what we are focusing on,” says Melissa.
Hennie says he used to be a financial advisor and then got registered as a tax advisor. “I studied part-time through the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and Melissa studied through the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). I taught myself software coding so that I could automate as much of the accounting function as possible. The system we have developed now does machine learning so that we can automate more functions.”
Osidon’s basic package starts at R1,400 a month, ranging up to about R3,000 a month depending on the level of service required. This is about half to a third of what is traditionally charged by accountants.
Osidon uses Xero accounting software, and is building integration software for payment systems such as SimplePay and PaySpace. It takes just two or three days to import data from other accounting systems. Clients are then automatically prompted to submit VAT and tax returns, as well as numerous other compliance-related obligations (such as submitting financial returns to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, or CIPC).
Another advantage of tying up with Osidon is its growing network of partners: The National Employers Association of SA (NEASA), which offers advice and 24-hour support on regulatory and labour issues for employers, and Sasfin, which offers a special tax account which allows Osidon clients to set aside funds for tax and earn interest on this money. Another benefit is the ability for developing businesses to tap into a network of investors. “Several million rands have been invested in client companies as a result of our introductions,” says Hennie. Those looking for investor funds are assisted in putting together a business plan detailing the kind of information investors typically require.
Osidon has formed a partnership with the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) to represent clients at official levels and offer them Continuous Professional Development through the SA Accounting Academy, and specialised tax advice through its association with the SA Institute of Tax Practitioners (Sait).
“Saiba is a great fit for us because it is innovative and entrepreneurial,” says Melissa. “It has developed a number of specialist licences for accountants, such as licences in business rescue, immigration or operating as an accounting officer for schools. Saiba is forward-looking and is shaking up the accounting profession, and we want to work with people like that.”
Clients will soon be able to purchase insurance and pension products through the company’s association with Brolink and broking firm SFP.
Another benefit is Osidon Live, a bi-weekly live stream interview of relevance to business owners that currently reaches 100,000 entrepreneurs.
The company is growing at a blistering pace in SA, and is now about to be launched in the US and UK. Says Hennie: “What we have done is a world first, so it’s important for us to capitalise on this and get established overseas. We have worked for several years to build our level of service and our networks to where they are now. There is no doubt that what we have created is the future of accounting.”
Check out the website at www.osidon.com or contact Hennie Ferreira at firstname.lastname@example.org.