Powered by Spotlight: Martin Aitchison and Zenaida Bharucha from Stepping Stone

Singapore-headquartered accounting firm Stepping Stone is a digital-first practice. They partner with clients’ internal teams to implement software like Xero and Spotlight Reporting, so all client data is easily available and up-to-date—automating the entire finance process and enabling real-time analysis on financial reporting and forecasting for the first time.

“I took on a client who wanted me to work with spreadsheets,” says Martin Aitchison, Director. “We make a point of explaining the benefits of using Spotlight and Xero, instead of Excel. I wouldn’t ever go back to spreadsheets, to be honest.”

All the Stepping Stone team are experts in the software they use, but make a point of upskilling and training their clients as well as their own staff.

“The challenge is to deliver and implement technology-based solutions,” says Portfolio CFO Zenaida Bharucha. “We’ve been training CFOs, or entire finance teams, to use these platforms – Spotlight being a key part. When the report templates are all set up, they just have to verify the numbers, update the action plan, update the executive summaries. That’s a huge saving for them in terms of time spent – freeing them up to add value in other areas.”

The Digital Journey

Stepping Stone was originally founded to service global small businesses looking to enter or expand into Asia. After their first office in Singapore, they broadened their reach into Dubai,  Hong Kong, the Philippines and Ireland.

What makes Stepping Stone unique is their emphasis on partnering with every client to implement a true “digital transformation” in their businesses.  SMEs don’t always have the ability to implement technology themselves, Zenaida says, and this is where Stepping Stone can really make a difference. 

By helping every client move onto Xero and Spotlight Reporting – together with other complementary technology as needed – all parties can be confident that they’re dealing with accurate, up-to-date data. Best of all, nobody relies on static, error-prone spreadsheets.

“Once we were trained and certified, Spotlight Reporting opened up a whole new world for us,” says Zenaida. “The more clients we work with, the more we feel we can’t go back to the dark days of Excel. And our clients are starting to think like that as well.”

This is especially important for the multi-entity businesses Zenaida deals with. Using Excel took time and a huge manual effort to consolidate, to the point where it wasn’t feasible. Spotlight Reporting automates the process for multi-currency and multi-entity groups, ensuring data is accurate and free from human error. 

“I have a client with 18 entities and a holding company,” says Zenaida. “Their legacy reporting was based in in Excel which was a time-consuming manual exercise for their CFO. Now that we’ve properly set up Spotlight it’s so straightforward.”

The Value of Spotlight

As a digital-first firm, technology is a natural part of Stepping Stone’s advisory pitch. They’re able to demonstrate the value of their advisory services through the software they bring in, making it easy to impress prospective clients. Spotlight Reporting offers consolidations, reporting and forecasting in multiple currencies, making it a perfect fit for businesses looking to expand into different regions.

“I’ve had three Spotlight calls in the last two weeks, and we signed up all three of those clients,” says Zenaida. “In my 15 months working at Stepping Stone and working with Spotlight, we’ve managed to secure over 90% of those sales pitches. We find that our clients want the Spotlight setup, as well as software training for their inhouse teams.”

"I use Spotlight Forecasting with all my CFO clients. It’s a tool I really recommend to people.”

Martin often uses Spotlight Forecasting for one-off funding projects for clients looking to grow their businesses. They’re often so impressed with the level of insight he can offer that they then retain Stepping Stone for other accounting and advisory services. 

“I’ve taken on a couple of new clients as virtual CFO for that very reason,” says Martin. “The Spotlight Forecasting tool has been invaluable for me.”

The reports he creates are professional enough to be submitted to banks and investors, and save him the time and effort of trying to produce something similar in Excel – which anyway often isn’t possible. Reports can combine historical and future numbers in one place, which is vital when applying to investors or lenders – Martin uses the analogy of driving a car to illustrate his point: 

“You don’t constantly look in the rearview mirror,” he says, “you have to look at what’s happening tomorrow as well. I use Spotlight Forecasting with all my CFO clients. It’s a tool I really recommend to people.”

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