It all started when Alex and Wilson met at the University of Technology in Sydney. Both were young, hungry, and in pursuit of a global experience that they could bring back to Hong Kong. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree of Business, with majors in Accounting and Finance, both Alex and Wilson each started their careers at one of the reputable Big Fours – Ernst & Young and KPMG respectively.
Like most who embark on a career in accounting and finance, Alex and Wilson went on to spend the prime years of their career holding senior finance positions of the world’s largest banks. It was 20 years later that they decided they would explore what might be the next big thing after having reached the top of the corporate ladder. Entrepreneurship, they thought. What could be more fulfilling than helping fellow entrepreneurs and small businesses realise their dreams?
This marked the birth of FastLane. It didn’t take long for Alex to notice a huge gap in the market. While there were plenty of accounting and advisory services helping the big boys, not many had set out (or were reasonably priced) to serve smaller businesses, which formed the real backbone of the Hong Kong economy.
More than just preparing financial statements
It was also clear from the outset that smaller businesses had very different needs, and in many cases had not even gotten the basics right. Alex was well-versed in accounting, corporate advisory and investments, but thought his skill set and competency could be better applied in strategic advisory. “We want to do more for our clients than just preparing financial statements for year-end statutory reporting!” he laughed.
It was at this point that Alex and Wilson discovered Xero. Through this they discovered the possibility of building a multi-disciplinary professional and advisory firm. FastLane typically helps clients enter financial data via Xero as part of their day-to-day accounting outsourcing support. Alex then interprets and analyses the data and delivers the learnings and insights back to the client for action.
One platform to address complex client needs
FastLane’s clients come from all industries. He attributes that to Xero’s integration with 700+ business apps. Small businesses today are on the constant lookout for newer solutions that will help automate existing, manual processes. “Clients love it that we are able to recommend quality business apps that will help increase efficiency in their businesses,” says Alex.
Building his practice, team, and services around Xero has also allowed Alex to broaden the suite of services that FastLane offers. Fast forward 5 years, today’s FastLane offers a comprehensive suite of services. They range from accounting, audit and assurance, taxation, company formation and corporate services, human resources and payroll outsourcing and CFO advisory services. These services are all led by experts in that particular field. This has also opened up newer horizons for Alex who’s recently become an early-stage investor in the areas of FinTech, eCommerce, AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). Eventually these investments led him to setting up a venture capital arm for FastLane Group.
Being a Xero partner has also allowed Alex to connect with the global Xero community. This has meant he’s been able to collaborate and provide clients with consistent service across borders.
Embracing the opportunity in technology
We asked Alex, “Is artificial intelligence (AI) a friend or a foe?”
To which, he responded, “What will be replaced will be. The question is how can we as accountants embrace this as an opportunity?” For FastLane, this is moving up the value chain and spending more time on high-value services and not bulky manual work. Instead of shying away from technology, Alex seeks to understand the concept of AI and learn how to transfer its efficiency benefits back to his clients. “Clients don’t always know what they need – your job as a an advisor is to show them.”
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This article was first published in Xero and is reproduced with permission. Original article can be found at https://www.xero.com/blog/2017/11/corporate-cfo-cloud-accounting-firm-fast-track-meet-alex-fastlane-group/