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Early in June 2020 as lockdown progressed to semi-lockup in most countries around the world. Scott Cundill interviewed Howard Rybko about the upcoming post-COVID phase of financial close and balance sheet integrity software.

CFO’s there's rumour going around that some of you are still doing your G.L. recons using Excel.

Scott: [00:00:00] 

CFO’s there is a vicious rumour going around that some of you are still doing your G.L. recons using Excel. 

Here to talk to us about alternatives and far more efficient ways of doing those recons at the end of each month is Howard Rybko. 

Howard, thank you so much for joining me on 

Tell us about Excel and how some of the most important financial decisions are still made using this powerful but some would say not ideal tool. 

Howard: [00:00:42] 

EXCEL is so deeply buried in organisations all over the world that use it for everything, especially for financial work. Sadly, research has shown nine out of ten Excel spreadsheets have errors and a lot of them are undetected errors. 

Some of those errors lead to serious consequences and serious financial consequences. Unfortunately, in this country, many organisations use Excel as a month-end close management tool. And then they take those figures and they present them to the board and then the board presents those figures to investors in the banks and the banks lend them money and then everything looks fine for a while until we have another Steinhof problem on a smaller scale. 

Scott: [00:01:37]

So it is a bit concerning. As you say, nine out of 10. I mean, that's huge error. I mean, look, what is the first step that you go about fixing this? I mean, first of all, you know, you mentioned in your article, which is which is outstanding.

CFO is doing G.L. recons still using Excel? Did you talk about the fact that around half of companies and big companies still use Excel? Like you say, it's embedded into their systems. Is it that they so used to it? Is it what they know? Or is it the lack of anything better that is keeping them on the same playing field? 

Howard: [00:02:15] 

I think the majority of CFO’s know there are errors in their sheets. But they don't have the time, energy and sometimes even the courage to go and look for them. 

And then it all comes down to trust. So, they think they trust their numbers, they even pretend they trust the numbers, but they know deep down, late at night, that they can't. 

And when they say, well, let's fix it, they go and look for month-end close software that does general ledger reconciliation's and manages all the processes. To find that all those systems are dollar based and based on user licensing and on massive implementation costs. 

One of our customers, for example, took a four and a half million Rand a year bill for month-end reconciliation and financial close software down to well below half a million Rand. Simply by coming to us and going local. 

Scott: [00:03:27] 

So I think this is quite interesting for me. And before we go on, I don't want to interrupt your flow, but in terms of this concept of buying local and being able to do this in Rands, versus trying to do the conversion in dollars? 

It’s quite scary because there’s another issue that can creep in, as you mentioned in your article, it must take a huge amount of time to just continuously check and recheck and then go back and actually fix these problems. 

Howard: [00:03:59] 

Scott, in actual fact, sometimes they don't go and can fix the problems.

Because time just keeps going. Another customer of ours had a standard process of reconciliation for the group when two of the group companies will always 60 days behind. So how do you present consolidated numbers to your board or your bankers or your investors when some of those numbers come in? You're running at least two to three months behind in reality. And you need a system that's manageable, that's affordable, and that's easy to use to fix that. 

Scott: [00:04:41] 

So Howard, I’m no CFO, but being a business owner myself, I can say, quite frankly, that being 60 days behind is bad., I mean, let's put this into perspective, if you're a 60 days behind, you're almost looking at, almost not quite obviously, pre COVID figures, The world is a different place in 60 days. And I can tell you that 60 days from now, it's going to be another different place. Surely this must be keeping CFOs awake at night. 

Howard: [00:05:17] 

It should be. But often that that the problems are so big that they just flow with them. We went to see a prospective customer in the good old days, when you had face-to-face meetings and he was in an office with boxes. This expensive CFO office with carpets this thick and he's got boxes upon boxes piled on these days around him, of stuff that he needs to attend to. And his staff. And he's just given up. So that's the problem; It's a human problem. 

Scott: [00:05:51] 

Yeah, I understand. It's work overload and you can't you can't get to it. Wow, so you can’t obviously can't fix this problem overnight. Unless you tell me we can, in which case. Wow. But let's just assume for a second you can't fix it overnight, but you can fix it incrementally. 

Where do you start. What is that first incremental change that you would need to implement to start that process of automation? 

Howard: [00:06:19] 

You need GreenLine. That's where you start. If you take the average company where we implement, GreenLine, if it takes one month. 

It takes some courage and some conviction and one month. And you can take away the paper systems. 

And thinking about problems of the paper systems, it's just occurred to me, you know, the last two months, a lot of these companies have been relying on couriers to deliver these boxes with their financial supporting documents. For all their numbers to come back via courier. So, what happens now is you've got to have a whole lot of companies in this country that haven't even received their last two months. They haven't received the boxes. So it's going to be even worse. 

If you took the GreenLine route , what its does is it to allows an organisation to collect their supporting documents and numbers. It allows staff to do the Reconciliation's and then Checkers to check the reconciliations. They select their own workloads and they start on their own. And you can allow them quickly to pick up the tasks they need. 

They can almost learn how to use this by themselves. And we've had experience at once, users get it, they love it because they don't have to go and look and fiddle around for things. The stuff's in front of them. They can take existing data that comes out of supporting documents and attach it. It's a really easy process. 

Scott: [00:07:56]

How would you? You have a very interesting pedigree to allow you to sort of come to terms with these issues. I mean, should I say Dr. Rybko, with a medical degree? 

But you're obviously you have experience in the medical accounting side and now, of course, the software side. So, you know how to pull things apart, diagnose them. You understand the accounting side. But you also get software. Just tell us a little bit about GreenLine. And just what made you decide to make, something to build and help these companies get rid of these boxes that are piled around them. 

Howard: [00:08:34] 

Scott, I've been busy with software since nineteen eighty-four. I started with software for the CSIR in 1984-85, when I just came out of medical school and I've been so in love with building software since then.

We were initially involved in financial accounting from the medical side, in private and in clinics. And over the time I've been stuck with software. 

And now your question is what got us into GreenLine? 

What got us into GreenLine is the same thing that gets software people into business. It's people with pain. I got a call from the CFO of a relatively small company that employs about 60,000 people. And he said to me, Howard, you have to help me get out of this mess. And I understood almost nothing about the month-end process. And over the period of the next year, we spent time and built a system around the requirements. And that's really how you build software, you incrementally move close and closer to what the user wants. And eventually. You end up with something that looks more or less like what they dreamed of. And that's where you get GreenLine. 

Scott: [00:10:02] 

It's a great story. So you've effectively surrounded yourself with those boxes in the position of CFO instead. What is it that you're doing? Shadowed them. Watch them put the processes in place and over the course of the year, came up with Greenline. It's amazing because you understand the South African market. 

And I think that is what is unique about what you're offering. And obviously, you're passionate and understanding of software. How would where can people get hold of you? And where can CFO take the first step to getting in touch? 

Howard: [00:10:33] 

Synchrony is based in Sandton, South Africa. We have a Web site called All our contact details are there. We've got a dedicated sales guy who will come and help you understand your problem, talk to you about it and present a solution. Also, I'm available any time.

Scott: [00:10:55] That's where you can find Howard Rybko. Dr. Rybko, thank you. Thank you for joining me on Scott 

Howard: [00:11:09] 

It’s a pleasure, Scott. Thank you.

About the author

GreenLine Editor

Accountant, auditor, financial close ninja.