How Atwea College went from being 6 months in arrears, to having 98% of expenses reconciled each day.
With Glen Pearson, Finance Manager at Atwea College
With Glen Pearson, Finance Manager at Atwea College
NFP — Education
Atwea college is a not-for-profit education provider, a registered training organisation that specialises in disadvantaged adults and the long term unemployed. They employ over 200 staff, which range from full-time and casual employees to tutors, trainers and volunteers.
Difficulty getting funds to where they were needed
Sharing cash passports and debit cards made expense tracking difficult
Inefficient expense reporting process
Unable to get the financial reporting data they needed
Finance processes were not scaling as the business grew
Atwea College used Weel to transform their spend management process, introducing better visibility and transparency over all expenditure and helping reinforce the company spending policy.
Atwea college is executing on an important vision; providing quality and accessible learning opportunities to the disadvantaged and long-term unemployed. As a fast growing organisation with over 200 staff making over 600 transactions each week, the pain of an inefficient expense management process was growing for Finance Manager, Glen Pearson.
“We had about 25 cash passports, and 5 debit cards that were being shared between our team,” says Glen. “Chasing people up for receipts and trying to get the information needed for reconciliation was taking days each month.”
Atwea had a high friction expense reporting process that relied on physical receipts being handed to the head office, even if that meant one of their team driving hours to get it there. As a result, complying with challenging and time-consuming finance requirements was often a low priority for the staff, who were busy focussing on their day to day work which they are highly passionate about.
Combined with practices like card sharing, putting together an accurate and up to date picture of their financial data was difficult.
Lastly, with staff spread from Tuncurry down to Lake Macquarie, getting funds to where they were needed using physical cards had become another challenging pain point.
“At one point, one of our tutors needed to purchase items for one of their cooking class courses, and didn’t have the funds to make the purchase,” recalls Glen. “At six o’clock at night one of our executive team had to drive two hours to the Woolworths to pay for the groceries so the course could be delivered, which we knew was just unacceptable in 2023.”
Having heard about Weel through an industry colleague, Glen knew that this was the solution that would solve their expense management challenges.
“The ability for our team to take a photo of their receipt, then have the character recognition software automatically fill out the expense report with the right cost centres was a total game changer,” says Glen. “The speed at which we were able to get the data we needed was impressive, taking us from being about 6 months in arrears in regards to our reconciliation and invoices, to having 98% of all expenses reconciled within less than a day.”
Atwea have set up Weel to reflect their internal spending policies, with some cardholders spread across multiple budgets and subscription cards, while others only having access to one budget. With some spending limits set across entire teams and budgets, and others set up against individuals, Glen has total peace of mind over policy compliance.
“Weel has also been highly advantageous from a cash flow perspective, I can hold a lot less cash with the Weel corporate card then a normal card” Says Glen. “The cards pull money from a central pool of funds, and only when it goes below a certain level will it trigger our automated direct debit from the general account.”
Importantly for Glen, the time taken to manage reconciliation from an admin perspective, has also drastically reduced.
“We’re down to a 15 minute validation check of cost-centring all the transactions, another 15 mins just doing a pass-over to ensure that the transactions are coded post-end of month,” says Glen. “Once we’ve done the validation check, we are done for the month and we are reconciled.”
Switching from a process that offered little visibility over transactions, Weel has not only been able to offer the team unprecedented spending insights, but also provided a framework to further improve their spending policy.
“We identified that with our previous cash passports, we had no visibility over the transactions of the executive team,” says Glen. “The approval capability that Weel offered actually drove some interesting conversations about this, and ultimately led to a new policy that ensured there’s always a line of sight, one step up, that is approving every transaction.
From a visibility and transparency point of view, as well as from a governance perspective, we have been able to build these systems off the back of the functionality that Weel provides.”
Beyond operational efficiency and cost saving results, Glen also notes that there was an unexpected benefit for company culture following their implementation of Weel.
“The cultural ramifications and cultural benefits have been significant since bringing on Weel,” says Glen. “Not only has it provided staff with a sense of empowerment and pride that they are entrusted with these cards, but also from a technology perspective, they’re using tools that many other organisations don’t have — and they’re able to pick it up so easily.”
And for the future of Atwea College, the only way is up as the team are set to continue expanding their operations for the better.
“The ability to automate these processes will ensure that we can keep the shared services costs down, while continuing to expand our schools and campus numbers,” says Glen. “From a finance perspective, we’ve been able to significantly scale operations with Weel with our existing headcount. So we’re in a good place now to grow quite significantly, and efficiently.