Comparis: Digitilization without drama
As Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Comparis, Vivian Mohr also acts as a thought leader on technology issues. When the introduction of a new expense processing software dragged on, he changed providers. The specialists from Yokoy proved to be equal to Comparis’ high demands. In less than four weeks, they brought their software into productive use. What challenges will the finance department face next? How will future software innovations change the role of CFOs? Vivian Mohr is well prepared to answer such questions.
What makes the job of a Chief Finance Officer (CFO) interesting? What excites you about this job?
Vivian Mohr: As CFO of Comparis, I am not only responsible for finance, but also, for example, for human resources and business development. What I find exciting about this job is that you can look into all areas of the company, and make an impact in many places. I see myself as a generalist with certain specialties, I’m interested in a lot of things. Instead of finance, I prefer to talk about value: I see myself as the value-oriented conscience of the organization.
What sets Comparis apart?
We are, quite simply, “the” comparison portal in Switzerland. Everyone knows our services for comparing health insurance premiums, but we now cover many other areas as well, such as insurance, real estate, consumer loans, mortgages, cars and so on.
Accountants are sometimes seen as petty penny-pinchers. Do you have to be conservative in this function?
No. However, regulatory requirements force a static, backward-looking and risk-oriented basic attitude in accounting. To be audit-proof, the finance tech stack must be aligned with a single source of truth. This limits the basic flexibility in accounting, but here, too, you can think in terms of modules and interfaces. For example, I can shrink our monolithic old ERP system in the upstream systems and supplement it with optimized additional modules. This is what we did when we chose the Yokoy expense solution. It’s important to me to look into the future, to consider opportunities, and not just risks and compliance requirements.
How will future technological advances change the role of CFOs?
In twenty or thirty years, artificial intelligence may have reached the point where it can independently do what many experts are still doing today. We are talking about algorithmic finance. However, instead of dreaming about what might be possible in 2050, I’d like to take a look at what’s in store for us in the next few years. I can’t replace all finance employees with techies. My job as CFO is to work with people, most of whom have traditional accounting training, to develop a finance organization, to make it fit for the future.
You have recently been using expense processing software productively. How were expenses handled at Comparis in the past?
About half of Comparis’ employees, that’s about 100 people, find themselves in the situation where they have to submit expense reports. Until recently, we used methods from the 1980s. The figures were entered into a spreadsheet, and the receipts were pasted onto paper. These sheets were then signed by the employee and his or her supervisor. In the accounting department, the numbers were taken from the Excel spreadsheets and posted, and the paper was scanned. Sometimes individual slips of paper or signatures might be missing, in which case you had to chase them down. All of this was time-consuming and tedious.
You then opted for the Yokoy expense solution: Why?
We wanted to get away from Excel and from paper. We were looking for a solution that was easy to use. It was also important to us that this solution works well with our ERP system. These were our needs: Digitization, ease of use and flexibility. Initially, however, we chose a product from a competitor of Yokoy, because it was more cost-efficient and because we were assured that the ERP integration would be faster.
So why did you switch providers?
Comparis is an agile tech company. We value having flexibility in our processes and systems, so that we can adapt quickly to changing conditions. The competitor’s system was well integrated with our ERP, but during implementation planning, it became clear that it was not flexible enough to map our processes, contrary to the assurances we had been given. Therefore, many workarounds would have been necessary. This would have increased complexity and made implementation difficult. When this became clear, we pulled the plug. With Yokoy, the implementation took three and a half weeks. There were no special loops. The cooperation was very professional, the team was very competent and the exchange was direct, almost as if we were sitting in the same office. When there were problems, they were quickly resolved. I experienced this process drama-free, and above all, on time and on budget.
And how is the Yokoy software proving itself in everyday use?
We like the intuitive use. Whether in a web browser or as a mobile app, it’s very easy to use, which saves time and makes it efficient. The connection to the ERP also works smoothly and provides real-time data for credit card transactions. Sticking receipts is definitely over at Comparis now.
What advice do you have for other CFOs who are looking for innovative software solutions?
As a CFO, you have to weigh risks carefully. With young companies, there are sometimes concerns: can they really deliver what they promised? Based on my experience with Yokoy, I can recommend taking risks with courage. By meeting our very strict requirements, it was impressive to see the professionalism and efficiency this young company has. We are thrilled – thank you!