How Makosi is disrupting accounting and audit professions

It’s on track to become one of the largest employers of SA accountants.
Accountants who want to advance their careers do better if they have some international experience under their belts. Image: Shutterstock

Makosi is the brainchild of South African chartered accountant (CA) Darren Isaacs, who conceived the idea of providing a home for fellow accountants eager to accelerate their careers while on a motorcycle trip across Africa in the early 2000s.

“Back then I was a freshly articled CA. I know what it’s like to go through the years of toil to become a CA. It’s a tough journey and then once you qualify, there is a tendency to hit a career ceiling quite quickly. Travelling on a bike opened my eyes to a bigger world out there …”

Soon after completing his motorcycle trip, Isaacs was on a plane to New York. Before him lay the uncertainties and excitement of life in a new country.

“I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do, but I had no idea whether it would succeed or not.”

Makosi was born in 2006 and today employs more than 1 500 accountants in 12 countries.

It partners with accounting firms around the world to deliver high-quality workforce solutions of variable duration, including audit, assurance, and advisory services.

That’s some serious accounting muscle, but to hear Isaacs talk, Makosi is just getting started. It is on the hunt for the best accounting talent in South Africa, with a compelling proposition: the ability to work with international clients, either virtually or on temporary assignment, and break down that career ceiling so many CAs experience.

“Makosi is not about encouraging the brain drain or emigration or anything like that,” says Isaacs. “But we recognise that accountants who want to advance their careers do better if they have some international experience under their belts. That’s what we provide. We’re bringing the future of work to SA and [the] accounting profession.”

The No 1 problem facing accounting firms today

Sourcing and retaining talent is the number one issue facing audit and accounting firms today, says Isaacs. “The great resignation, where professionals quit their jobs, usually as part of a process of reprioritising their life goals, has meant even more opportunity for South African audit and accounting professionals than ever before. It will impact the way they chart the course of their career and assess job opportunities going forward.”

Makosi is disrupting the accounting and audit market by offering an alternative professional career path for accountants, giving them room to grow, and making auditing a sought-after career once again.

Rather than competing with the large accounting firms, Isaacs sees Makosi’s service as complementary.

“One of the top firms used 250 of our people, because there’s staff attrition before the busy season, and sometimes firms win contracts and grow and are not sufficiently scaled for this additional work load,” says Isaacs.

“Audit and accounting firms are starting to recognise the changes happening in the profession and that they need to change the way they operate. They need to look at creative solutions, such as on-demand talent, backed by a nimble and variable workforce. As a provider of on-demand talent, we can assist them to navigate the category we helped to create.”

The great resignation

The great resignation has materially reshaped the accounting and audit professions, with fewer professionals willing to pursue conventional careers in professional service firms or even as corporate employees. This is where Makosi expects to scoop up quality talent and put them to work in ways that suit the lifestyle priorities of South African accountants.

It’s not just CAs that Makosi is hiring – it is also on the lookout for management and cost accountants, and those with a strong background in IT.

The company recognises that many accountants cherish the prospect of working abroad to pad the CV and gain critical international experience.

“We currently service 12 different countries, and pre-Covid we used to offer six-month engagements abroad before reposting staff to SA. There are still lingering mobility issues as a result of Covid, but as travel opens up, we see incredible opportunities for hybrid, nomadic delivery of work and that is really exciting for the journey as a CA,” says Isaacs.

The accountant of the future

The days of accountants doing the grunt work of posting figures to ledgers are coming to an end. Software and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate these processes are plentiful and readily available. Accountants will have to earn their fees by helping clients interpret the figures and gain insights into the real drivers of business profits and costs.

The need for audit services will never disappear, but it will become more automated.

There has for example been a good deal of debate about the use of blockchain technology to validate transactions in real time, which would make audit opinions more precise and trustworthy.

“We see a lot more audits than any of our clients will see, and that gives us insights into businesses across a spectrum of industries and how to improve efficiencies,” adds Isaacs.

“We see thousands of audits, and that allows us to start focusing more on automation and technology. We have a tech team of 35 people – some in the Philippines, some of them in Cape Town – working on ways to improve the efficiency and speed of our services using technology.”

The accounting teams of the future will have to include a liberal sprinkling of digital workers. Already Makosi is looking at new revenue streams – from tech solutions to line items like accounts receivable, cash in hand and asset management.

“Accounting firms are people businesses. We believe that by offering a compelling employee experience – one with impact, purpose, meaning and sustainability – we can solve some of the systemic resource issues facing the industry.

“We are also in the process of becoming a certified training office, so we can take on articled clerks and grow some of the best accountants in the world,” says Isaacs.

Brought to you by Makosi.

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