Today I am speaking with Daniel Tramontana. Daniel joined BGL in 1997. During this time, Daniel has been part of the accountant’s journey in transitioning from DOS to Windows and now cloud technology. Daniel is passionate about leadership and loves working with accountants and assisting them in growing their business through technology. Daniel loves family, the occasional selfie and life. Carpe Diem!
BGL Corporate Solutions has been partnering with accountants since 1983. Our focus is to empower SMSF and corporate compliance professionals with innovative cloud solutions and superior service. Driven by Integrity, Passion, Collaboration, Perseverance and Diversity we have established and continue to maintain the market leading position in the Company Compliance and SMSF software space. Today BGL has a client base of 7000+ accounting firms around the world.
A typical day for a General Manager of a Melbourne based software development company
- A typical day for a General Manager of a Melbourne based software development company
- The early days of BGL Corporate Solutions
- The longevity of the BGL Corporate Solutions team – passion, focus, courage
- An overview of the corporate compliance solution CAS 360
- An overview of the SMSF Simple Fund 360
- Talking recharging with Daniel Tramontana
Heather: Thank you, Daniel, so much for being with me here today. Can you, first of all, you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?
Daniel: Hello Heather, thank you so much for the opportunity to be able to join you. Yep, just by way of background, my name’s Daniel Tramontana, I’m General Manager of BGL Corporate Solutions, and my journey with BGL has been an interesting one. I joined the organisation in 1997, I came out of Uni having done a computer science and an accounting degree, and I’ve been in public practice working with my dad’s firm for a little while. Then I went into an IT company and then I was reading through The Age newspaper, and I saw a job post, which was probably no bigger than a ten cent piece, for a support consultant for BGL. And I applied, got the position and I started off working on the help desk, predominately helping our CAS 360 clients with their corporate compliance work.
Daniel: Then after that, we released Simple Funds, which is our SMSF based product and I started becoming the principal support person for that particular product because we started getting traction very quickly and given my accounting background, I was able to move across quite easily and quite comfortably.
Heather: Excellent. I love that you did a computer science and accounting degree. That’s sort of a nice combination there.
Daniel: Yeah, it was. And to be able to be in a position where I could work in an industry or for an organisation where I could combine both was a true blessing. It was really good, and it’s worked out far better than I could ever have imagined.
Heather: I’m seeing a lot more people call themselves accounting technologists, which is sort of an evolving flavour I guess in the accounting world, which sounds like you were there in the early days.
Daniel: Yes, most definitely. And I believe going back and looking now in hindsight; it was a very wise choice.
Heather: So what does a typical day look like for you, Daniel?
A typical day for a General Manager of a Melbourne based software development company
Daniel: Okay, so the beauty about what I do is that no two days are the same. So my days can range from going out to see clients to participating in particular conferences or particular engagements. A lot of my time though is now spent within the organisation and is spent basically driving strategy, driving visions, supporting a lot of the people that I work with who are the product managers, the sales and marketing team, the support people, HR. So now I’m more hands-on and more involved in the day to day running of the business and the day to day operations. So it’s a fantastic role. I absolutely love it.
The early days of BGL Corporate Solutions
Heather: Excellent. It does sound like a sensational role. So for people listening in, can you explain what BGL Corporate Solutions does?
Daniel: Okay, so BGL Corporate Solutions basically are a software provider to the accounting space and moving more into the financial planning space and then also looking at providing things like software for public companies, unlisted companies and stuff because our software caters across those different segments of the market. But BGL Corporate Solutions was set up in 1983 and we started off as an IT or consulting firm and Ron Lesh who later on joined the organisation, very much changed its focus and changed the strategy of the organisation from IT consulting and he moved it to software development, which is where CAS 360 was released or CAS 360 was birthed in the late 80’s.
Daniel: So Ron is a Chartered Accountant, and Ron was working in the industry as a Chartered Accountant, and what he was basically doing while working in an accounting firm, he saw that there was a need to be able to do or to better manage and/or do the company compliance work. So what he did is he did a programming course, and from the programming course, one of the projects that came out of it was CAS 360 for DOS. Now CAS 360 for DOS was the initial program that we released as I said in the late 80’s, early 90’s. And basically, it was introduced into a couple of accounting firms to handle the day to day compliance work of companies.
Daniel: Because the software proved to be a great success, Ron made a decision to move out of the Chartered Accounting space and in the accounting arena and focus predominately then on software development and developing compliance based services because he saw that as the way of the future.
Heather: That was certainly very visionary of him, wasn’t it?
Daniel: Yes, most definitely and the thing is that I suppose that he was maybe even ahead of his time, at the time, and it was probably the best move that he had made because I know that he’s enjoyed it so much, but it’s probably gone above, and beyond anything he could ever expect.
Heather: And I imagine, if you’re talking about DOS for the people who are listening in, if you’re talking back in the days of DOS, you’re actually using it without the mouse and just a keyboard, is that right?
Daniel: Correct, keyboard, tab, shift, all those types of things. And I’ll never forget when I went into BGL, and the first product I was actually introduced to was CAS 360 DOS, it was very much along the lines of what have I gone back into or got myself into. But at the same time, we had released CAS for Windows, which was the Windows-based version of the product and obviously that then took on all the properties and the functionalities of a Windows-based system.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. It is amazing just to think, wow. One of your feature developments would have been the introduction of a mouse.
The longevity of the BGL Corporate Solutions team – passion, focus, courage
Heather: So since I’ve come to meet the team at BGL Corporate, what’s been incredible to me is the length of time that everyone’s been at the firm. You’ve been there for 20 years, which is an incredibly long time. But everyone seems to join and stay there for a very long period of time. So why is this happening? What are the secrets behind it? How are you building this amazing team at BGL Corporate that don’t want to leave?
Daniel: Okay, so I went down, and I had a look at a little bit of the data around the employees, and we’re just over a hundred and fifteen employees and what’s phenomenal is that of the 115 employees, almost 20 of us have been with BGL eight years plus. So there’s myself who next year’s been here 21 years, Matt who’s going to be 19 years next year, I’ve got the Warren’s who’s 11 years, so we’ve been able to keep a really good core of people for a long, long time.
Daniel: And you asked the question what is it that keeps you guys here or what is it that’s unique about you, the thing that’s unique about us and I believe is really our strength, is centred around a couple of things, Heather. The main one is passion. We love what we do, we believe in what we do, we believe in where we’re going, and we believe in each other to get us to where we need to go. And that very much underlies a lot of our working and a lot of our operations. We have a great, great team environment where we genuinely support, celebrate, cheer each other on, and we’re each other’s biggest supporters. But we’re driven by passion.
Daniel: And the other thing that I think really does drive us is the focus. We know what we’re good at. We stick to what we’re good at, we stay focused on what we’re good at. Although distractions may come, we always go back to our focus. And our focus is that what we are strong at is providing software into the SMSF and the company compliance space, and that’s what we focus on.
Daniel: The other thing that I suppose would be the third point would be courage. Is that We have the guts to put ourselves out there, to take risks, to try things and they don’t always work, but we’ve got this great ability and a great level of resilience which has developed over time, to just keep picking ourselves back up and keep going forward. Which is I believe, those three things are probably our biggest strengths as an organisation.
Heather: So it’s passion, focus and courage.
Heather: And you’ve really niching into quite a sort of a unique space, though I’m not sure how many people are working in that space, it is a very narrow and niche space for you to be operating in.
Daniel: Yeah, absolutely and like in Australia, there’s just on or just under 600,000 self-managed super funds. Between our cloud-based product and our desktop-based product, we hold around 70% of the market, 60 to 70% are our estimates. And of the company compliance space, we have around about 700,000 companies on our system, and that’s between our desktop version and also our cloud-based version. And we’re adding to this very much so on a daily basis, and it continues to grow.
Heather: Yes, absolutely. So what you’ve told me and we discussed around you moving from DOS and we’re now sitting in a cloud-based solution, so many businesses out there have actually quite unsuccessfully transitioned along that technological journey of the solution that they’re providing, so how did BGL Corporate manage to take something from DOS to Windows to the Cloud, and do it successfully?
Daniel: Okay, so moving from DOS to Windows, that was a big step initially, and I’ll never forget when we came out with CAS for Windows, we came out with an upgrade routine which would move all the clients DOS starter to CAS for Windows and we’re able to basically put in place a pretty straightforward migration path, which enabled the transition to be simple. Now with Simple Fund, which came out in 1997, we started that off in a windows based environment, so that did not have to go through the pain of going through a DOS birth so to speak, to then get to Windows, right?
Daniel: 2014 we released Simple Fund 360. Now Simple Fund 360, we developed the product from scratch, so we didn’t try to take the Simple Fund to try to manipulate things or try to do anything with the existing product. What we did is we got our best people from the products to then lead the Simple Fund 360 team. And what we did is we literally had to turn our back on everything that we knew, everything that we had done, and we had to start again. And that involved … ’cause like, it just a basic thing, in the past we used to do everything in Delphi, our programming language. Then we’ve had to move to Java, we’ve had to learn AWS, we’ve had to learn developing for the Cloud, software as a service, we’ve had to develop and learn about scalability, and all this type of stuff.
Daniel: So effectively, we had to almost turn our back to everything that we knew and start again. And that was the only way that we could make a successful transition because we’d seen in the past, other firms or organisations that have tried to make a hybrid type solution or migration and part software or part Cloud, and part desktop. It just did not work, and it did not fit the purposes or the needs of the market. So we basically started from scratch, Heather, and we said, okay, we’re all in, we know there’s going to be a fair bit of pain to get to this point, there’s going to be a lot of investment and a lot of cost, and very much to Ron’s credit, who drives the vision of the organisation, he put everything behind, Simple Fund 360 and behind (I suppose) all the investment required to get it to where it is today.
Daniel: And it started off rough, it started off hard, because as you would know in speaking to many other providers in our space, the initial steps are very hard. Because it’s a change not only for the clients, it’s also a big change for us. And many a time you release software maybe a little bit too early, which was what we did in our case, and the expectations of the clients versus what you’re able to put into the software for release, are not always in sync.
Heather: So when you say released too early, you mean it wasn’t really ready for the market, is that what you’re saying?
Daniel: Yeah, look, it would serve the purpose that it was intended for, but it didn’t have the features that the clients wanted, because they kept comparing it to the desktop-based products. Which had everything in it and 20 years of development? So what was expected, was really everything in the desktop products within Simple Fund 360. With Simple Fund 360 only being in the planning and the making for two to three years.
Daniel: So there was a bit of an expectation gap which in the end, we’ve had to work through and manage. And now because as I said before, our focus, passion, and our courage, I can say that we’re starting to get the numbers that are really, really pleasing now, which is fantastic and a credit to the whole team.
Heather: So the people who are working on that, what’s interesting about it, is that they must have, and what you’re saying is, they’re working in a business that they are constantly having to learn new technology, new programming languages, and sort of embrace and build in lifelong learning for them to take the solution from sort of classic to modern and this Cloud solution.
Daniel: Yes, so what we did, in that case, is we basically went and got a whole new group of developers. Funnily enough only a couple of the original desktop product teams have actually still moved across to the cloud-based system, and we’re going through a process now of training them and educating them and sending them to the right courses to then move across to the cloud-based products, but it’s some time away because those clients are still holding on to the desktop products. We respect that though, and as we’ve said to our clients many a time, we’re not going to pull the pin on those any time soon.
Daniel: But what we’ve had to do with the cloud-based products is very much go out and recruit the best people that we could possibly get with the right skill set, because it’s not only … it wasn’t only about the change, but we also had to be part of the change process and the whole education process. And I know for myself personally, and I can speak on behalf of many of the other senior guys, we’ve had to have a whole new way of thinking, a whole new way of doing business, a whole new way of talking about technology and implementing technology that we just were not used to.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. Look, it’s moving so fast, and I think really hard for a relatively small business to actually be embracing and learning about this technology and evolving, ’cause it’s actually happening so fast. I was just talking to a friend today, we were talking about (she’s consulting into government), and how they are, they’re just simply not embracing lifelong learning, and they’re not prepared to embrace any of this new technology that’s currently available to them. They won’t even use Skype or Mail Chimp or just sort of these basic things that they could access. They prefer to use tools that were available to them in the 90’s.
Daniel: Well look, the thing with us, Heather, is that if we didn’t change and/or move at the time that we did, and adopt this new technology, and adopt the new way of doing things, we wouldn’t be here today. Our conversation would be very much different, we’d be more in a position of defending the business and trying to protect our business, rather than having the confidence and the means to be able to grow the business and grow our impact within the industry.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And defending a business is not a good marketing strategy either.
Daniel: No, it’s very hard because basically, you’re going against the grain whereas everyone’s talking about change and you’re basically saying, no, don’t change, stay with what you’ve got. And we couldn’t afford to be in that position. As I said before, our conversation would be very different today if we hadn’t made a move when we had made a move.
Heather: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Now can I give you an opportunity to explain to our listeners, what the two solutions that BGL Corporate has? You have touched on them, but one of them is an SMSF solution, Simple Fund 360, and one of them is the company compliance solution, which is CAS 360. Can I give you an opportunity to explain what both of those solutions does, say for an accounting practice for people listening in? And I’ll also highlight, some of our listeners are global, so these solutions won’t necessarily be relevant to them, but I’m sure they’ll find it insightful to know what they are or can do.
An overview of the corporate compliance solution CAS 360
Daniel: Yeah, look, I’ll start off with CAS 360 our corporate compliance product. CAS 360 has been developed to be able to help accountants do their corporate compliance work. Now what I mean by that is that we have a regulatory body called ASIC and ASIC basically has a number of reporting and regulatory or compliance requirements that are needed when it comes to the maintenance and the running of a company. CAS 360 tries to automate and make the process of maintaining the register and complying with ASIC as simple as possible.
Daniel: So how do we do that? Well, what we do is that we basically created an electronic company register and that electronic company register and the way that we’ve designed the CAS 360, is that we allow the compliance part to basically be managed very easily. And I would just focus on three main areas, and I will just talk about those very briefly.
Daniel: One of the main areas that the accountants use the CAS product for and a very important function or part of an accountant’s business is actually in the preparation of the annual company review. Now, this is a process that an accountant has to go through on a yearly basis. And what they need to do is they need to get the ASIC annual review statement, they then grab that statement, they then send that through to their clients for the payment of the invoice, which is a yearly fee which is incurred for every company in Australia.
Daniel: What we’ve done with CAS 360 is that we’ve developed a system where instead of the accountant having to wait for anything to come through the mail or if they have to log into the ASIC portal to pick anything up, we will automatically go and check to see if there are any annual company statements available for the accountant’s clients, we will automatically retrieve the annual company statement, we will automatically run a comparison between what’s on the CAS 360 database and what’s on ASIC’s database, and if all of that matches, we can automatically deliver the annual company statement, the resolutions, the invoices, directly to the client without having to print out one bit of paper or one document.
Daniel: And we’ve set it up with DocuSign so that we can actually tag that on to the end of it, and effectively we can not only retrieve, but we can also deliver the annual company statement and all the supporting documentation electronically within literally minutes.
Daniel: The other main thing that the clients that use CAS 360 for is to do things like ASIC changes, like changes of directors, and changes of members, while doing things like dividend statements, unitholder certificates, unitholder minutes, all this type of stuff. So because we’ve designed CAS 360 to be able to also handle trusts, what we do is that with any of the changes that get processed, we automatically keep track of the changes, we automatically pre-fill all the documents, pre-fill all the forms, all the compliance requirements, and we deliver to the client, or we have the ability to deliver to the client, or the members and/or the directors of the company, a document which basically includes all the forms, all the supporting documentations, minutes, resolutions, etc. for them to be able to then sign, and then the accountant or the user is then able to lodge those directly from within the software.
Daniel: The other thing that we also do is in the space of managing ASIC debt and what we do here is that we go and check every single day to see if there are any outstanding monies due to ASIC for any of the user’s clients, and we automatically push through notifications. Through the clever design of CAS 360 and the really clever reminder system that’s built into the system and tracking system, whereas in the past, many users would be depending on multiple diaries or things like Excel spreadsheets to be able to manage the whole compliance function, we are now able to combine all features and all the management and maintenance requirements, all within CAS 360.
Daniel: And the beauty of it is that we actually push data through to the accountants, instead of the accountant or the user having to go and pick up data or wait for data, or wait for information, we proactively pull that through from ASIC and are continually pushing information to the user so that they don’t miss any of the compliance requirements. So that’s CAS 360 in a very, very quick nutshell.
Heather: Can I ask you a quick question while we’re still on CAS 360 then, before you move to the other one?
Heather: You are obviously dealing a huge amount with ASIC, which is, for people listening in, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, is that correct?
Daniel: Correct, yep.
Heather: How do you find dealing with them?
Daniel: Look, we’ve got good relationships within ASIC. Their systems are not as reliable as we would like them to be and nor are they set up for organisations like us that would like to deal with them via software as a service. Because they’re still running very old systems and old technology. But in so far as the relationships we have with them internally, they’re good. But in so far as the technology, the technology that we have adopted and implemented versus what they are currently using, are very far apart. So there are challenges in the technologies talking to each other and/or the technologies doing what they need to be doing to ensure that the compliance function can be managed seamlessly.
Heather: Do they … are you aware if they have a roadmap for improving their technology?
Daniel: Look, I know that there are things in place that they want to improve and/or do. The hard part is actually getting timelines out of them and commitments out of ASIC. So we believe that they do have the best intentions, but when is it going to happen? I really can’t answer that. We would love it to be sooner rather than later, because it’s such an important database and it’s such an important function, especially for our accounting clients, that it’d be great to have them working a lot better and a lot closer to each other.
Daniel: It was actually interesting this morning, I had a client come in to have a chat with me. And basically, they were saying that even with what we’ve developed with our products in the past, the two most profitable areas of an accounting firm are actually in the company compliance and in the SMSF space. I thought you’d find that very interesting.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So taking it from talking about CAS 360,
An overview of the SMSF Simple Fund 360
Heather: can you explain to our listeners what the SMSF solution Simple Fund 360 does?
Daniel: Yep, so SMSF stands for self-managed superannuation fund and what we’ve done is we’ve been in this space since ’97, and as I mentioned before, we’ve moved from desktop to Cloud. Now with SMSF’s every single year, there are things that they need to do like prepare a set of financials, they need to pay the tax return, they need to get the fund audited and then obviously at the end they lodge the tax return. Now traditionally that would be a very manual process, which was very much dependent upon the trustees providing the information to the accountant or to the administrator to then go through, process the data, and then, in the end, produce a set of financial reports.
Daniel: And the thing that was hard about that is that many times, you could speak to many accountants and administrators who would have gone through this. They would have depended on the client at the end of the year to bring in the shoebox, they’d work through it, then they’d have to engage with the client to pick information up, pick up missing pieces of data, and you’d find that accountants would rack up a lot of work in progress and write-offs that a lot of it was because they just couldn’t get their hands on the data.
Daniel: So what we’ve done here is that with Simple Fund 360, we’ve created this, designed this in a very intelligent way where similar to CAS 360, what we do is instead of the accountant depending on their trustees to provide them with the source documents, we are able to provide a lot of the data and automatically import that directly into Simple Fund 360. So we have the BGL bank data service for example, which provides bank data into Simple Fund 360 for around 13 or 14 of the major banks across Australia. We’re able to bring in data from CSV imports, we’re able to bring in data from different types of raps and other types of platforms, and effectively it’s pushed from the external providers into Simple Fund 360.
Daniel: Now as it comes through, through the intelligent use of rules and the way that we’ve designed the system, we’re able to create rules, we’re able to process a lot of the data because the intelligence around what we’ve wrapped around the transaction processing piece, is that we’ve been able to take the pain point away from the accountant, where they need to go through transaction, by transaction, by transaction to record everything, because we can create rules, we can apply rules, a system remembers rules, and then effectively you move to a zero touch environment.
Daniel: Alongside that, we also introduced our data services which includes a direct link to the registry, so we have a link with Link Market Services and Computershare. We’re able to bring in registry data on a quarterly basis. We’re doing that at this point where we’re comparing values or unit holdings within Simple Fund 360 versus what’s on the registry. We’ve also developed our own contract note service which is able to bring in all the buys and sells from in excess of 110 or 115 brokers across Australia. So you imagine, you’ve bank data coming through, I’ve got registry data coming through, I’ve got contract note data going through, and we’re able to auto process bank data, we’re able to auto process the buys and sells, so a lot of the time that the accountant would traditionally spend in doing the compliance work and gathering data, we’ve solved that piece of the puzzle because we’ve been able to automate the collection of it and the processing of it.
Daniel: So then we add on a couple of other really nice feeds which is the ASX, and the UT data feeds which allows all the investments to be revalued on a daily basis so that-
Heather: What was that second feed?
Daniel: The unlisted unit trust data feeds.
Daniel: Sorry. We’re able to bring that in and then we’re able to update and revalue the trustee’s portfolios within the Self Managed Super Fund on a daily basis. That then allows us to then work out estimated member balances on a daily basis. We then integrate with people like actuary providers, and we’ve got organisations like Act2, Accurion, Heffron, Haines, and we’re continuing to add to this, where we can automatically have the certificates, the actuary automatically generated processed and a pension fund, for example, set up very easily within the software.
Daniel: But the beauty about this is that it’s all done real time. And we know that with the complex changes coming through from an SMSF perspective especially, is that what we’re able to do is that we’re able to not only process a lot of this data, we’re able to go through a system of like, just really good reporting and up to date reporting. But we’re also able to do things like pick up compliance breaches or issues in compliance and give the accountant or the administrator the ability to be able to deal with compliance related matters as they happen.
Daniel: And just, this is a beautiful example, Heather, because I smile every time I talk about it, right? We’ve set up our Google analytics which basically draws from our big data, right? So the whole talk about big data, we’ve actually put that into place, right?
Daniel: So what we’re able to do is, for example, if I had 150 Self Managed Super Funds that I was looking after, and I wanted to find out which of my clients for example, as of today’s date hadn’t met their minimum pension payments, it’s literally selecting the year, selecting the criteria of minimum pension not met, and literally the system within less than a couple of seconds will give you a complete listing of all your clients who hadn’t met their minimum pension payments, available for you to then go through and review, and then engage with the client to ensure that that compliance piece has been dealt with.
Daniel: And this is the power of Super Fund 360, because it puts the accountant on the front foot and instead of them having to focus on the day to day data entry and all this other stuff, they can actually focus on the value-add services and focus on providing real value and real engagement with their clients.
Daniel: So I spoke about the data coming through, I spoke a little bit about the rules, I spoke a little bit about the analytical insights, but what we’re really excited about now, Heather, is what we’re doing in the AI space. And this would be something that with time we’re going to be able to show you more of and we’re looking at releasing that in 2018, where we’re able to now, because of the volumes of data that we’ve got, we’re able to analyse a lot of the data, we’re able to predict a lot of the data, with certain levels of confidence and we’re going to be able to auto process data without having to actually do anything other than confirming that what the system has been able to determine with the data, is, in fact, true and/or not.
Daniel: So we’re actually going to be looking at moving to a zero touch processing environment, and we’re very, very, very excited about that because we know, yeah, look, we’ve made some great progress and you will hear more about that in the future, but that’s what’s really separating us from any of the other players in the market, is the technology piece. Because our technology is so far ahead and advanced of anybody else, and the level of automation that goes into that also, just really puts it a step ahead.
Heather: So can I backtrack and ask you … you’re pulling in bank data. Are you pulling in bank feeds the same way as Xero pulls in their bank feeds either through Yodlee or through a direct relationship with the bank?
Daniel: No we’re doing everything direct, right? So we’ve got a part of our business has been set up purely to manage the whole bank data process and then to have that data delivered directly into the products. That’s completely designed and managed by us.
Heather: So with my knowledge being fitting in the Xero space, some of the bank feeds will not work with zero whether they’re not available, they’re very specialised etc … Are you able to get all bank feeds working within a solution?
Daniel: Okay, so for those that we can’t get a direct feed from, what we do is that we provide a very easy to use CSV portal so if clients can get access to their client we can do that. But we’ve also got a relationship with people like Jet Convert where we’re able to just get the bank statements scanned which then creates a pretty much, yeah, a CSV file, then we can automatically bring that in also. And our CSV importer is very good and very clever, and then once you’ve got the data through, all the stuff that I was talking about before, the rules and the matching and all that type of stuff, you can automatically apply that to that data that’s imported. So we don’t mind where it comes from. Once it’s in there, you get the full benefits of the whole, of the system automatically.
Heather: And so what you’re saying is, once all of that data is in, your … Is it automatically reconciling? It’s zero touch, so all the rules are correct and there’s no need to actually do a reconciliation. It’s all happening naturally?
Daniel: Yes, and the best way to talk about this is my fund, right? So I obviously processed my fund within Simple Fund 360. And at the end of 30 June 2017, I had three transactions to process. And they were just transactions by which the actual reference number, or I believe it was the reference number actually changed, and the system didn’t know what to do with it. And I also had a small tax refund that the system didn’t know what to do with. Right?
Daniel: So the system basically processed the entire lot for me, and I was able to just have the accounts completed and available to my auditor not too long after the end of the financial year because the beauty of having things automated is that you’re continually up to date and you’re always up to … That actually took me longer to get the source document scanned and pushed out than anything else.
Heather: Scanning does take a long time, doesn’t it?
Daniel: Yes it does. And I don’t enjoy it.
Heather: So what do you think and what’s your personal opinion, or BGL’s corporate, personal opinion on an accounting practise managing their funds through Simple Fund … managing their client’s funds through Simple Fund 360, but then giving their client, the end users, people like you and me, access to it so they can visually see on a day to day basis what’s happening in their fund?
Daniel: Look, this is … I think you’ll find this interesting. In the account … in the clients that I’ve dealt with in the past, not many of them are confident in actually going to that step and actually engaging with their clients on that level. It’s actually quite interesting, right? Because I would have thought that given that abilities there and facilities there for them to be able to directly report to their trustees on a daily basis, that they would all take that on. But no, the accountants are an interesting group because what they’ll do is, they’ve taken on Simple Fund 360, they then make sure that they’re fully comfortable with it and that they’re happy with what it does, and that they’re happy with the functionality of it, and the accuracy of it, and the whole compliance piece, and then they start introducing it to their trustees after they’re comfortable with it, right?
Daniel: But the way I look at it is that I believe it’s something that maybe they should look at and/or consider embracing sooner rather than later. Because the reality of it is, is that I know people through my generation and those coming up before us and/or after us, they want access to information. And the thing is, that they want to be able to have that information at hand in an easy to understand format. And one of the beautiful things about Simple Fund 360 is that clients or trustees can go in and through the clever design of our graphs, they can very easily pick up the information they need on a daily basis.
Heather: Yeah, yeah.
Daniel: Now, there are two things there. One, it keeps your client engaged, but two, it also in many a time can actually save that phone call to the accountant, for basic questions and basic information, right? So it’s a great little way to engage but it’s also a great way to inform, and it’s also a great way to keep your clients sticky. ‘Cause the more touch points you have, the greater you’re going to be able to keep them in the long term.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that you know, I have a Self Managed Super Fund and it does fit in Simple Fund 360, and it is quite beautiful the interface. And I like … this is not a financial advising plug, but I think that you if you’re planning for retirement, you definitely need to try and get on board and understand what’s happening as much as you can. And just picking it up and keeping in touch with it, so from both the end users perspective and the accounting practises perspective, this is an opportunity to actually communicate with them, perhaps six times a year.
Heather: And I think you’ve mentioned to me, they could have like a workshop and call people in and explain it to them, so that they’re engaged and keeping the communication channels opened.
Daniel: Well, absolutely, and you see that a lot of the larger financial institutions and groups that provide … you know, they talk about engaging with their clients and better reporting to their clients. The beauty of Simple Fund 360 in many cases, the users have actually got that facility and capacity within their systems, but they’re not taking advantage of it. And they don’t realise that by just taking that step, they’re actually being at the forefront of what everybody else is talking about and/or doing, which is quite interesting. And it’s just another great opportunity.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So it seems to me that one of the aspects of implementing these solutions is it gives accounting practices the easy ability to offer additional revenue strength in their business. So do you find that? Do you find accounting practices are starting to offer these services once they know how streamlined and easy it is to embrace into their own practice and offer that to clients?
Daniel: Yeah, absolutely. And like the accountants are coming and now able to move, and I’m seeing this happen more and more, where they come up with mixed monthly billing, right? Because they’re providing this value on a monthly basis and the reality of it is, is that even though you’ve got everything automated and being processed automatically for you, and obviously there is some review to do by the accountant, not everything is fully automated, right? But the beauty of it is, is that you’re delivering this stuff / have the capacity to deliver this information to the trustees on a daily basis.
Daniel: But even greater than that to is the … that I really love about the accountants and the feedback that I’m getting, is just the time savings that they’re able to generate by using these cloud-based technologies, right?
Heather: So what do you estimate the time savings are?
Daniel: Well, I’m going to give my best case, right?
Daniel: And then I’m going to give you my general feedback. So the best case was, and I’m not going to mention names, but they’re a popular firm in Newcastle ,I love the guys …
Heather: I wonder who that could be. I wonder if I’m spending Christmas with them.
Daniel: Well, I’m looking for an invite.
Heather: I just book flights. I’m not spending actually Christmas, Christmas, Boxing Day.
Daniel: Look, they’re great people, and they’re dear friends of ours, and we respect them so much. And the thing is that one of their users, I put a bit of a challenge out there is to how long it would take you to process a Self Managed Super Fund. And I get a message through Twitter about a week later saying, Daniel, I just finished one within 18 minutes.
Daniel: Right? Which is phenomenal. Right?
Heather: Yeah, absolutely.
Daniel: Now, the average that we see is somewhere between around about a 40 to 50% saving in time, and we’ve got to remember though, we’re only in the initial phases of the rollout. As time goes on and we introduce the AI piece, we’re able to predict more, automate more, it’s only going to go down, Heather. It’s only going to reduce even further so I would say quite comfortably around 50%.
Heather: Yeah, yeah, that’s massive. That’s massive if you’re moving from a classic office to sort of a modern solution like this and able to save 50% of the time in processing.
Daniel: Well correct, and even if I just go back to the CAS 360 one right? What would happen is with the annual company review, many of the clients what they’d be doing is that they’d download it from ASIC, they’d then go to Word, set up the resolution, print out the resolution, put in the directors names, members names, whatever it may be, print out the resolution, put it in an envelope, send it to a client, do some follow up calls later on, and the whole process may have taken two to three hours with all the touch spots required.
Daniel: It now is literally in CAS 360 a five-minute process. So in CAS 360, I would say that the time savings would be somewhere around 80 to 85%, quite comfortably.
Heather: Wow, that’s again, phenomenal.
Daniel: Yep, I’m very comfortable stating those facts.
Heather: So 85% with one and 50% with … 85% with CAS 360 and 50% time savings with Simple Fund 360, that’s sensational.
Daniel: Easily, yeah.
Heather: Do you think an accounting practice should set up these two solutions themselves or get a system to do the implementation within their practice, so they can roll that out?
Daniel: Okay. I’ll give you just a couple of scenarios. So if you’re an existing BGL desktop user, either CAS or Simple Fund 360, we have a migration path which allows you to easily convert from the products over to the cloud-based products. We can either assist you with that, or we can educate the clients and then be able to do that themselves. With the CAS ones we generally do that for the clients. With the Simple Fund one, we can do the whole lot for them, or we educate the client, and then they can run through the process themselves, and the feedback that we get is that it’s not a difficult process to do.
Daniel: With CAS also, the clients have the option to automatically download all their data from ASIC if they wanted to start off with a clean database. So there are some options available. So we give clients a choice. We can either get them to do it themselves, or enable them and empower them to do it themselves, we can do it for them, or we can do a mixture of both. Which is … a lot of clients go that way also, where we do some, they do some, so that they get the experience, and hands-on experience, as to how the new systems will work.
Daniel: If you’re using any of the other products out in the market, the likelihood is, and a very strong likelihood is, is that we will have a migration process in place to be able to easily get data in your Self Managed Super Fund and/or companies off pretty much any other software supplier that’s in the market. So the process is quite simple, and one of the things that I’m proud to say is that we’ve actually become very good at it and we’ve learnt from our mistakes, we’ve put in place now a client enablement team, which is purely there to enable the client.
Heather: Yeah, excellent, excellent. So thank you for sharing that. Can I ask you, what tools is BGL Corporate using within the business? What software tools are you using within the business to run the business?
Daniel: Look, we’re using things like SugarCRM, we’re using Confluence, we’re using, in this case, we’re using Skype but we don’t usually use Skype, but we’re using the Google apps-
Heather: Yeah, G Suite, G Suite.
Daniel: Yes, so we use the G Suite, some of the guys like to use Slack, we use GoToMeeting, GoToTraining, so there’s a number of tools. Obviously, most people are using some other thing or some other application to be able to help them day to day, but they’re the main ones that we use.
Heather: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And for you personally, what are the apps, software, or tools that you couldn’t live without?
Daniel: Look, I like the G Suite, I love the G Suite. I really … I do get a lot of benefit out of that, and I do enjoy using that. That’s probably the main one that I couldn’t do without. That would have to be it. The other ones I like, I like to use TweetDeck to manage a lot of the social media stuff. That’s not too bad. And that’s obviously something that we do use on a daily basis, and I do like using Slack too.
Heather: I use Slack but goodness, I don’t understand what’s going on with it sometimes.
Daniel: Don’t worry, I’m the same. I still use a combination of Hangouts and Slack, and I just sit somewhere in between.
Heather: Yes, yeah, we end up with all these different communication channels flowing.
Daniel: Although it’s funny where a lot of reaching out now is actually taking place through Twitter direct messaging.
Heather: Yes, it is happening through Twitter direct messaging. I totally agree. And it’s always odd when someone you’ve practically never spoken to starts messaging you through Twitter and you’re like, oh, goodness, okay. And you have to sort of filter across into that one, yeah.
Daniel: Yeah. And I actually find that you get a quicker response if you go through Twitter direct messaging than if you use any email or LinkedIn, or anything else, I find that with Twitter you actually get the fastest response.
Heather: Now everyone’s going to be dm’ing you on Twitter.
Daniel: Well, I’m happy to answer.
Heather: So what activities is BGL Corporate doing to grow its customer base?
Daniel: Look there are lots of things that we’re doing, right? Look, just in so far as our growth and some of our numbers, right, I think it might be worth just sharing that and just when we started off with our CAS 360 released that in February of this year and we’ve ended up with almost 170,000 companies 10 months later. With Simple Fund 360, we started in March ’14, and at the end of December ’14, we had about 6,000 funds on the system. December ’15 we had just over 14,000, December ’16 we had about 45,000 and today, almost … I’m not going to give the number, but it’s 100,000 plus, plus.
Heather: That’s massive growth.
Daniel: We’ll release that at some time so how have we encouraged our clients to do that and what have we done? Look, there are lots of things. The big part of it has been educating the clients, and informing them, and being close to them, and staying in a good relationship with them, and giving them incentives to be able to move across. But the main thing that we’ve done is developed really good software. That when clients see what was and what is, it’s very much a no-brainer. So I looked at it today, had a meeting with a client today, I literally showed them the first alert in CAS 360, which was all around the annual review, and it was pretty much, no need to go on any more, just come down and give us the presentation and we’ll move across.
Daniel: Okay? So the way that we’ve done this through exceptional software, because we are a trusted brand, the industry does trust us, we’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s just a matter of continuing to do what we do really well, and creating compelling arguments for our clients to move across.
Heather: Now in terms of educating clients, how are you doing that? I know that you run two webinars, I think it’s every other week.
Heather: Are you doing that through email? Are you doing that another way? Are you just … calling them and you’re running these seminars or workshops?
Daniel: Look, we run thousands of webinars and workshops every year. And I think last year we had, Ron gave us the figure the other day and I simply can’t recall it if I’m not wrong it was around 10,000 people that actually attended our educational programs during the last 12 months. Which is significant, right?
Daniel: And the beauty of that is that it just allows us to be at the front of mind with a lot of the clients and the other thing that we’ve also been able to do is, through things like our BGL learning channel, right, what we’ve done in our learning channel is that we’ve added all our training courses to the product, to the channel. So instead of, for example, you might be a client that’s just say out in regional Victoria. To get a person to come down and do a training for the day would require transport, accommodation, plus the course fee. What we’ve done is we’ve bundled it into our learning channel in a very clever way, where you can basically have as many people as you like trained and educated in our products, without having to leave their desks.
Daniel: So through a combination of webinars, we run things like executive briefings, we ran BGL REGTECH last year which we were really excited about that, we had in excess of a thousand attendees at BGL REGTECH. And that was a great, great success for us and we’re looking to do that again this year. But very much, we engage through multiple means all the time.
Heather: Yeah, that’s huge. And I think am I right to say, the BGL learning channel is for partners. So that’s sort of a private area for partners to access.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s very much for our subscribers of the software, yes.
Heather: Okay … to access. And that sort of stuff for accountants etc. they’re continuing professional development, so at least it’s actually relevant, CPD for accountants and bookkeepers, who need that CPD2 for what they actually do.
Heather: So moving across I’m just going to ask you a couple of questions about you, Daniel. So are you currently reading anything or is there a book that you’d recommend to our listeners?
Daniel: What I’m reading at the moment, I have put it down, was the actual autobiography by Michael Phelps.
Daniel: Yeah, I’ve got to get back and pick it up. Again, I’m about three-quarters of the way through. And what I loved about that story is just how raw and how real he is, about his journey.
Heather: Oh, okay.
Daniel: But also I just picked up his competitive spirit. One of the things that I just loved about that book was, like many a time we might end up in situations that are not favourable or don’t work out the way that we want them to, and we’ve got no one else but ourselves to blame for that, whether it be in our preparation, whether it be in our reading, whatever it may be, don’t look for excuses. Take personal responsibility for your outcomes.
Heather: So yeah, so what raw situation was he in?
Daniel: Look, I mean obviously he was a very high profile Olympic swimmer, and then he obviously was very successful, won countless gold medals, and then he battled emotionally for quite a period of time and I also had the honour and the privilege of listening to him at the world business forum in New York in November, and he was very real about it. And it was just very raw, and it was just nice to see people make themselves vulnerable because it just humanises people, and it allows us to … I want to say, it brings us into their circle and realises that, hey, life is going to throw things at you but in the end, it’s going to be okay, so just stick at it.
Heather: Yeah, or seek helpful support.
Daniel: Absolutely, absolutely, you’re not alone, there’s lots of help, there’s lots of resources, lots of things in place to be able to help us in whatever state we find ourselves in.
Heather: Swimming is my favourite sport to watch, and I’ve actually got a volunteer role at the Commonwealth Games at the swimming pool in Southport. So the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Daniel: Absolutely awesome.
Heather: I’m the volunteer tech assistant, so I hope I don’t electrocute anyone.
Daniel: I’m probably the worst swimmer you’d ever come across. So yeah, that’s what I mean at the moment.
Heather: Well maybe he can inspire you to take some swimming lessons.
Daniel: That’d be pretty hard to inspire me to swim. Sorry.
Heather: So my final question for you, how do you recharge? And I guess it’s not going to be swimming, but how do you recharge when you want to forget about work?
Talking recharging with Daniel Tramontana
Daniel: Okay, so I have a number of things that are really important to me. My faith firstly is really important to me, my family is extremely important to me, and I love exercising. I love just going out, hitting, for example, a river somewhere and trying to pull out the odd trout, just spending time away and one of the things that I’ve actually learned to do is actually just spend some time in solitude too, and just on your own, and just going through things and talking about things. But yeah, I love to … like I said, my faith, family, exercising, I love food.
Heather: Faith, family, food and we need a word for exercising that starts with F.
Daniel: Look, I love it…coming from an Italian background and our friends in Newcastle would know this ’cause I personally delivered one to them, I love making salamis and all the cured meats.
Heather: Oh my god.
Daniel: Yeah, I love doing, this year I made olives, and I’ve got my pizza oven, I love making pizzas, it’s all just … being Italian, I love food. Love it.
Heather: That’s sensational, wow.
Daniel: I try not to eat too much of it.
Heather: I didn’t know that real people could make salami. I guess that’s quite ignorant of me.
Daniel: It’s actually a lot easier than what people think.
Heather: Oh is it?
Heather: I don’t think I’m going to venture down that road. I might do olives, maybe not salami. And pizza I can do. So is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners that might be of interest to them?
Daniel: Look, the thing that I’d like to share and I suppose I’d like to, I suppose to end off with is that as an organisation we’ve been around for a long time, and I just like to give credit where absolute credit is due, and that is really with our founder, Ron Lesh, who has been a phenomenal support, a phenomenal mentor, a phenomenal leader. I just love his integrity, I love the way that he’s able to trust people around him, and the thing that I love about him is just, he’s just got this amazing ability to be entrepreneurial, to be creative, and to just keep going.
Daniel: And despite what … the difficulties that we’ve gone through, he’s been able to keep us focused but at the same time empowered, to be able to do what we need to do to be able to achieve the business objectives. So he’s been an amazing support, friend, mentor, anything I could possibly ever ask for, he’s just been tremendous. I know the industry refers to him as the tech giant, but … and in many ways, he’s just a great person all around and a great, great leader. As an organisation under his leadership, we’ve stood the test of time, we’ve gone through some difficult times, and we’ve gone through some really, really good times, and I’m pleased to say that at the moment, that I think that the worst is behind and that we’re now able to look forward with confidence.
Daniel: And at the centre of our confidence is the client. Because we genuinely love our clients. We genuinely love them. And we genuinely want the best for them, and that’s why we exist, to serve our clients. And we do that through our services, and we do that through what I know and believe to be the best quality products, in the SMSF and the company compliance space.
Heather: Absolutely. And I think 2019 is going to be a huge year for Cloud and software as a service and modernising practices, so I think sort of the big issue will be scaling to embrace everything that comes your way.
Daniel: Look, all I’ll say is stay tuned for some of the great, great things that we’ve got coming because we’ve got some really, really cool things and things that we know will change the game again. And we might be seen or foreseen to be a small player when you’re getting software space, but I know that we’ve had a big impact and that impact is very much driven by the people that we have, their creativity, their innovation, and their ability to deliver on the products that in which we serve best in.
Heather: Thank you for that. How can people get in contact with you, Daniel?
Daniel: Many ways.
Heather: Or you or BGL Corporate, how would you like people to contact you?
Daniel: Look through our website … www.bglcorp.com.au is a way to get to us, but that’s probably not as personal as people would like. People can email me anytime. DanielT@BGLCorp.com.au, you can connect with me by LinkedIn, I’m the Daniel Tramontana, you can also connect with me on Twitter, which is @DTramma. There’s multiple means to get through to us, and I genuinely love hearing from clients, and if we can be of help and/or service, that’s why we’re here. To serve the needs of our clients.
Heather: Thank you so much, Daniel, for speaking with me today and sharing such amazing insights about your strengths, your passions, your focus, your courage, and your resilience in this company and all the services that you offer. Really appreciate it and learned so much.
Daniel: Thank you much, Heather, I really appreciate the time taken to put this together. Thank you.