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  • Writer's pictureZoe Bush

Xero for Groups: The App Advantage

Last week we hosted a three day webinar series, Xero for Groups: The App Advantage. Over six sessions we discussed topics at the forefront of any CFO’s mind if they’re using Xero to grow their multi-entity business. 

At CFO Techstack we are huge advocates for the power and potential of Xero and its ecosystem. For this series we were lucky enough to be joined by a range of forward-thinking in-house finance leaders, accountants and experts and app partner representatives, all sharing their wisdom on how best to set up your group on Xero.

The series in numbers:

🔢    6 webinars

🫂    18 expert panellists

🧑‍💼    1 fantastic host (CFO Techstack’s David Tuck!) 

⏱    4.5 hours

In our Launch Webinar we spoke to Xero’s Managing Director for the UK and Emerging Markets, Alexander von Schirmeister, as well as Annie Hawkins, Xero Account Manager for groups and franchises. They shared the stage with Head of Finance at Outernet Global, Paresh Makwana, who recently led a transition from Sage Intacct to Xero for their 46+ entity group. Watch their conversation here.

We then covered a range of the most highly-requested topics we’ve heard from group CFOs, partnering with best-in-class Xero app partners to bring you the hottest tips and tricks:

  • Month-End Automation with Mayday: In this session we spoke to Caroline Viles, Finance Director at Gaia, where her team manages a growing group, currently across three entities. We were also joined by Graham Shapiro of Myccountant, Xero MVP award winner, and James Scott-Griffin from Mayday. Catch up on the session here.

  • Consolidated Reporting with Joiin: We talked all-things-consolidation with Harriet Hope, VP of Finance at Arbolus, an international four-entity group. Alongside Harriet we had Ryan Pearcy from Scrutton Bland and Joiin’s own Harry Symons. Catch up on the session here.

  • Spend Management with Pleo: Want to hear about how to get control on your spending as your headcount grows? We spoke about implementing a spend management solution with Becky Cawley-Hassall, Finance Director at Saragossa, a three-entity group. We were also joined by Asif Ahmed from Cooper Parry and Chloe Murray from Pleo. Catch up on the session here.

  • Accounts Payable with Lightyear: Thursday kicked off with a session talking through how multi-entity businesses are implementing accounts payable solutions with Hilary Dyson of Bridge Financials and Sam King of Thorne Widgery. We were also joined by Tom Ashman from Lightyear. Catch up on the session here.

  • Foreign Exchange with Airwallex: Our last session focused on how to grow your group internationally, optimising spend in foreign currencies. We heard from Carl White, CFO at GENFLOW, who manages a 5-entity group, from John Toon from Beever and Struthers and from James Scobie from Airwallex. Catch up on the session here.

Short on time? Here are our top takeaways from the series:

1. ‘ER-Peace of Mind’: Groups can successfully scale with Xero plus its ecosystem well into their growth phase, avoiding the need for a costly and complex ERP system. And it's not just about avoiding the move to an ERP and the associated costs, Paresh shared his experience as one of many finance leaders who've upgraded to a more efficient system, with better automation, by utilising Xero and its ecosystem instead of an ERP.

“From using Sage Intacct for a global organisation recently, the consolidations in 1) Xero + 2) Mayday + 3) Syft Analytics/Joiin/Fathom are 50% faster. Plus staff like the interface a lot more. Way more intuitive.” – Tyler Caskey, TheBeanCounters

“I love Xero. I joined Gaia in 2022. My mission is to use Xero for as long as possible." – Caroline Viles, Gaia

2. XeroHQ is available for groups of companies: The amazing Annie is here to help in her role working with Groups and Franchises at Xero. It was great to hear Paresh speak so positively about the support he received from Annie during his migration to Xero. The ability to use XeroHQ as a group of companies was a revelation to many.

"Annie's been a great help with putting in Xero HQ, which has all our entities listed under that HQ area. My concern was that we would have one login per entity and we wouldn't be able to see them in one view, so that helped a lot." – Paresh Makwana, Outernet London

3. Plan ahead to avoid pain: While Xero provides a solid foundation, finance leaders should carefully plan how to structure their chart of accounts and use of tracking categories across entities to maximise reporting capabilities and efficiencies when scaling. Taking time upfront to cleanse data and map out processes pays dividends. 

"Make sure that your Xero is structured. Be creative with your use of the nominal ledger chart of accounts, with the tracking." – Hilary Dyson, Bridge Financials

4. With Xero + apps, you can automate: We found that automation is key to handling multi-entity complexities efficiently, such as intercompany recharges and reconciliations, consolidated reporting and cash flow forecasting. Panellists shared success stories of drastically reducing manual work by using Xero-integrated apps.

"The thing that kind of really sold me on Pleo was the ability for employees to self-reimburse. I didn't want people to have to wait for their expenses." – Becky Cawley-Hassall, Saragossa

5. Stronger together: Tech stacks really shine when you mix and match the right tools. For instance, teaming up Lightyear with Mayday Recharger helps you centralise accounts payable whilst automating the recharges of the relevant costs. And if you pair Pleo with Mayday BRAG (Bank Rec Across the Group), you get top-notch spend control without all the hassle of managing one-sided postings to intercompany codes. It's all about finding what works best for your business needs.

"It's not just thinking about accounts payable or consolidation. It is the greater than the sum of the parts results that you are able to generate by knitting Xero plus its ecosystem solutions together." – David Tuck, Mayday / CFO Techstack

6. International growth brings its own challenges: On multi-currency, Xero's built-in features like live bank feeds, FX revaluation and reporting get you started. But challenges remain around cash visibility, forecasting exposures and moving money between entities in different currencies. Our panellists discussed app partner solutions, as well as tips on how to set up bank accounts remotely in new territories. 

“I think the other side of FX is that quite often, certainly in our experience, what tends to happen is that if you don't have live feed data, you're not really on top of what your exposure is.” – John Toon, Beever and Struthers

7. Learn from the Xero community: Our panellists all agreed that engaging with the Xero-using community, networking with other finance leaders and staying on top of new app partner developments are vital to learn best practices and maintain a best-in-class tech stack over time. So congrats for already doing so by subscribing to CFO Techstack!

"Your newsletter is very helpful! Seeing what other people use is definitely one of the best ways that I have learned to experiment and realise what's suitable for us.” – Caroline Viles, Gaia

A massive thank you from the CFO Techstack team to all of the partners and panellists involved in the series! The response from those attending has been amazing, proving how valuable these kinds of sessions are:

“Your webinars this week have been extremely thought provoking!”

“Good to get more real-world examples of Xero’s capability”

“I was keen to get an overview of whether or not Xero could support our group… now I’m about to reach out”

If you’re excited to learn more about scaling your finance operations with Xero, here at CFO Techstack we’ve got you covered.

As well as this free weekly newsletter, highlighting the tech stacks of finance leaders like you, we’re hosting another webinar series in April that suits the APAC region time zones more than our previous webinars. Our APAC Building an Enterprise-Level System with Xero series kicks off on April 4th – find out more and sign up here.

We’re also holding our first in-person conference, Stacked, in London later this year. Stay tuned for further news on that, coming soon!

In the meantime, thanks again to everyone who engaged in our Xero for Groups series. You can catch up anytime here!


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