Multinational conglomerates, mom-and-pops, sole traders — businesses of all sizes across all industries must manage the books. More often than not, accounting and bookkeeping are seen as necessary evils that can take valuable time away from more strategic initiatives within the enterprise.
The FinTech community has taken notice. In recent years, a slew of new technologies have emerged to tackle the burden of bookkeeping for corporates, vowing to automate number-crunching and analysis via software. At the same time, this deluge of technology has ushered in a wave of anxiety and debate over whether robots will replace the need for human accountants and bookkeepers.
For others, automation opens doors for human accountants to take on an expanded, more strategic role for their business clients.
That's the mindset of Waseem Daher, co-founder and CEO at bookkeeping solutions provider Pilot. Today (April 17), Pilot announced its newest offering, Pilot Tax, to simplify tax preparation for corporate users. While technology is an instrumental component of the solution, Daher told PYMNTS in a recent interview how understanding the importance of human talent has shaped Pilot's own offerings — and the bookkeeping space at large.
Automation And Advice
For any company, there is a significant amount of back-office work that must occur that doesn't have anything to do with why an entrepreneur started that business in the first place.
"They're necessary evils associated with getting a company up-and-running, but not strategic or value-adding," Daher explained, adding that the rise in automation technology has enabled the bookkeeping industry to remove a significant portion of that burden associated with manual data entry, number-crunching and so forth.
Here's the problem, he noted: Companies have challenges that can't always be solved with more technology.
"I don't think business owners are really looking for more accounting or bookkeeping software," said Daher. "What they're looking for is an end-to-end solution. One of the things that is missing [in this industry] is end-to-end ownership of the problem."
What's missing from the business FinTech space, he added, is human talent. Pilot's approach to the market is to pair corporate customers with not only automated technologies, but individualized bookkeepers who know the industry and the business, offering value-added advisory services that don't always come with automated, number-crunching solutions. Investing in human talent means more reliable, consistent and accurate work, said Daher, as well as deeper insights into company finances for customers.
Business owners won't necessarily have an easy time letting go of the reins, however. For the combination of technology and human talent to be effective, there must be a solid foundation of trust between the business customer and the solutions provider. There must also be a balance between letting a bookkeeper handle the bookkeeping and allowing the business owner to be part of the financial management process.
According to Daher, human bookkeepers can operate in harmony with a business owner's need to still be hands-on when it comes to managing business finances.
"I don't think working with a bookkeeper is at odds with having good insight into your financial situation," he said. "On the contrary: What a bookkeeper will be able to do is provide high-quality books every month, which are really important to the process of determining 'what is the health of my business? Where am I spending money? Where can I be saving money?'"
As Pilot broadens its offerings to address businesses' back-office processes, the company has rolled out its Pilot Tax solution. Daher said the tool similarly approaches tax preparation on a foundation of technology coupled with human professionals.
"Tax is quite painful and annoying for small businesses around the world, certainly in the U.S.," he noted. "Tax preparation is an annoying, painful, scary thing — you want the help of an expert."
Investors are backing Pilot's strategy of mixing humans with technology, too, as Pilot is also announcing today a $40 million Series B investment round led by Index Ventures. In addition, Pilot saw participation from payments processing company Stripe, a firm Daher described as a business that similarly took a friction-filled process and made it "pleasant, accessible and well-designed" — the same goal Pilot has for the bookkeeping space.
"We're taking an industry that is fragmented, painful, inaccurate and largely a hassle for business owners to deal with," he said. "The person is an essential part of this process. It's what allows a small business owner to be at ease knowing there is a smart, talented, capable person on the other end."