I recently had the chance to sit down with Sophie Usasz, Managing Director of Finance of The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), at Sage Intacct Advantage 2018 in Nashville.
SIFMA is a United States industry trade group representing securities firms, banks, and asset management companies. The combined businesses of SIFMA’s bank, broker-dealer, and asset management members represent 75% of the U.S. broker-dealer sector by revenue and 50% of the asset management sector by assets under management.
During our conversation, Sophie shared with me about why SIFMA decided to make the switch off Microsoft Dynamics, some of the other systems that they integrated with Sage Intacct, and how the solution empowers SIFMA’s CFO with the critical information he needs to drive their business.
Andrew Sevillia: Sophie, just to start, can you share a little bit about SIFMA, your previous financial management solution, and what led your organization to Sage Intacct?
Sophie Usasz: Absolutely, Andrew! With offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., SIFMA was formed in 2006 from the merger of the Bond Market Association and the Securities Industry Association. Today, we are the leading trade association for investment bankers, broker dealers, asset managers. The SIFMA Finance team also provide assistance to our sister organization, AFME, in the UK and EU so we were looking for something flexible given the various geographical locations.
Before Sage Intacct, SIFMA had been using Microsoft SL since 2011, but we found the system to be incredibly clunky – members of the finance team would often joke that they needed a part-time IT degree just to use it.
However, it was on our SQL server and we felt stuck. Additionally, with Microsoft Dynamics, we had homegrown systems that could only be updated once a month was closed, so we had a long lag before people would be able to receive information. Due to the clunky system, sometimes this meant a three-week close; waiting that long for data is simply inefficient.
The inability to have remote access was also very challenging as more and more people are working remotely and traveling. Before Sage Intacct, we would have to build a virtual machine so that our team could remotely log onto our SQL database to get access to our accounting system. Probably five times out of ten it would work…the other five times it wouldn't. With the time difference between the US and the UK, they would have to wait until after lunch before we got online to fix it.
In 2016, we began evaluating ways to improve the system and found that we had to do a total upgrade of our SQL server which would have taken us six months and an enormous amount of resources. We knew there were much better solutions available on the market and were determined to find a better fit.
Andrew: Thank you for walking me through that. Sophie, when you and your team realized that it was time to make a switch, what kind of criteria did you have for a replacement solution? What was important to SIFMA?
Sophie: That’s a great question, Andrew, because we had a long list. When we were looking at a new system, we wanted to install something cloud-based. We did look at NetSuite, but we found that it wasn't as flexible as what Sage Intacct had to offer. Additionally, SIFMA believes it’s really important to partner with an organization that knows the not-for-profit space that way Sage Intacct does. It's been incredibly helpful for us, not only to know that Sage Intacct has that deep knowledge of our space, but that they're also working to improve the things that our industry needs.
Andrew: Fantastic! I’m really glad to hear that Sage Intacct was able to meet not just your technology needs, but that the missions of both our organizations were aligned. Prior to going live, you worked with a Sage Intacct partner, correct?
Sophie: Yes, and what a great experience! We worked with Sage Intacct partner Wipfli and they have been fantastic throughout the entire process. They're very responsive. I never ever got the feeling that we were being sold; It's more like you're building a genuine relationship that you can move forward with them. Speaking with other clients of theirs, I've always heard the same thing. We did reference checks and they all came back glowing. It was a very easy decision and the relationship has just flourished. Wipfli has helped us do a complete financial transformation in the last year.
There are a number of other systems that we integrate with Sage Intacct as well: Concur for employee expenses; we have the Connector tool for that. We use Stampli for automating AP which has been transformational for us, and then we use Vena for our financial reporting.
Andrew: That’s great to hear that those integrations have been so successful. Now that SIFMA is live on Sage Intacct, can you talk a little bit about how it has changed your team and how you operate?
Sophie: Definitely! First, the product is incredibly easy to use, it’s well-priced, and it seems like Sage Intacct is continuously investing in R&D and improving.
The time save for me, personally, by implementing Sage Intacct means that I can really focus on leading the team, versus being in the weeds day-to-day. Now I wake up and there will be journal entries in my inbox for me from the UK to approve with all of the back-up there, no more paper and outsourced scanning. It's really transformed how we operate.
Sage Intacct has freed up a lot of our team's time. In particular, our AP clerk has made his role 50% more efficient just from being able to process that much faster. We're using that time to look into how to better build dashboards and expand our real-time reporting.
Previously, reporting could be a big issue for us, because we're technically in the not-for-profit space. We have a tight budget and have to adhere to that, so when we get requests from our CFO to provide something, it would sometimes take us a week depending on what the request is.
Now we're building him dashboards as soon as we get those requests so he has them in real time. That's been an amazing experience for us, because he can take that information to the executive community and to the board, to make decisions faster and help improve our business. Sage Intacct is making us more transparent for the end users and not just the accounting team.
Andrew: The level of benefits you just described are incredible. It sounds like Sage Intacct has been truly transformative for your organization. Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Sophie.