As one of South Africa’s leading specialist investment managers, STANLIB offers a large range of funds to the market—more than 90 of them. Each of these funds needs to produce annual financial statements each year to be able to report back to the market and to fulfil stringent regulatory requirements. The statements for all the funds have to be produced in the three months between the company’s December year end and the end of March. Meeting these requirements was formerly a long and cumbersome process using largely manual processes and spreadsheets. This massive project devoured time for large numbers of people – coordinating workflows was very tricky.
Mill Makanda, Deputy Head of Operations at STANLIB, adds that the former, largely manual processes were not just time consuming—they also opened the door for inaccuracies. An additional challenge was version control, especially given the rush to get everything completed by the due date.
The solution was to move to a software-based solution that would automate the process as much as possible, and also make coordinating teams and versions of the documents easier. Having worked with Caseware previously, Mr Makanda made sure it was one of the software programmes his team investigated. He was glad when STANLIB decided to choose Caseware as a service provider.
In place at STANLIB since 2017, Caseware has proved its mettle. Caseware consultants worked with STANLIB’s team to create a custom template that was prepopulated for each fund. Whereas it had previously taken full three months to generate all those financial statements, now they are largely completed by the end of January, leaving February and March for reviews and sign-off. The fact that proper quality reviews can take place in a more measured way is a huge benefit, Mr Makanda says.
He particularly highlights several features that underpin Caseware’s effectiveness and usability. One is the way it is designed with control checks on drafts, which make it much easier to spot errors early on—it is much harder to correct errors when the process is advanced because each change has to be implemented across multiple documents.
STANLIB took the decision to buy a cloud licence, and this is crucial to unlocking all the benefits, Mr Makanda argues. The fact that all information and working documents are held in a central repository means that collaboration is greatly enhanced, and version control is effortless. The central repository also makes it easy to access past financials, something that can be extremely useful in the event of a financial audit. The cloud-based solution also meant that, when COVID-19 lockdowns hit, STANLIB was well placed to shift to working from home more or less seamlessly.
Support from Caseware has also been exemplary—the fact that the same individual who created the custom template still works on the account has created significant continuity. Aside from routine support, he undertakes training on new features and any upgrades every year well before the filing season starts. “Overall, it’s been a great experience, Caseware adds a lot of value, and the cloud option has really made all the difference to our reporting mechanisms,” Mr Makanda concludes.
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