CLAUDE ROBIN : “We have revolutionized the market of expertise-accounting online “

on July 11, 2017 – Jean-Paul VIART – News – Interview

Through ECL Direct, Claude Robin now offers to SMES and VSES management fully cloud-based accounting. This internet strategy is coupled with a dedicated application, Fizen, facilitating widely with the lives of non-accountants.

Posters of Paris : You’re co-founder of ECL Direct, the first firm of chartered accountant at a distance. Can you trace this creation ?

Claude Robin : We have established ECL Direct in 2008. But the activity has actually started the following year. At the time, the idea was very innovative. We have revolutionized the market of expertise-accounting online, by creating this service with three innovations. The first was related to the manner of capturing information of our customers, with our strategy 100 % the internet. The second was to create a sales force that can deal with all of the leads coming in by phone and transform them into customers. The third innovation was to make our delivery of service to distance, from our plateaus of Saint-Herblain, near Nantes.

A. P. : What is your main target ?

C. R. : At the time of creation, this idea corresponded to the new behavior of entrepreneurs. Today, our target is the TPE of zero to two employees, mostly service providers, consultants, small traders, artisans… The behavior of TPES is close to the BtoC. Now, when the head of a small enterprise has a problem, it will naturally seek the solution on the internet. Having a visibility online allows us to be well-referenced, and offer our expertise.

We then innovated very important as well in terms of technology as in terms of services. We propose at least one innovation per year. For example, quite concretely, we are launching the beginning of July a new offering, ” Live Expert “, thanks to which customers can, for 99 euros including all taxes, use a service of questions-responses – via the phone – for three months, capped at two hours of exchanges with our experts, on topics relating to accounting, taxation, social protection officer. Live Expert will thus be the first step to access to expertise-accounting for entrepreneurs. This type of service is today unique on the market of expertise-accounting.

A.-P. : through these services, what is your main goal ?

C. R. : At ECL Direct, we want to simplify the lives of “administrative and accounting” of our customers. The daily is easier when you don’t need to move and you can call his counselor on a daily basis. We offer all expertise services-accountant – accounting, payroll, legal, and affordable, with the desire to satisfy our customers. This satisfaction comes by one advisor, and a commitment to ” 24 hours “, self-support of the customer’s question to the answer.

We are conducting fairly regular customer satisfaction surveys. Today, more than 85% of our clients are ready to recommend ECL Direct. It is this satisfaction which is our goal no. 1.

A. P. : You have also created the application Fizen…

C. R. : To simplify the lives of our customers, we had to create tools in technology. In 2010, it was realised that for a TPE, there was no service simple and appropriate, aimed at non-accountants. It is with this in mind we have developed ” Fizen “. This application is connected permanently to the banks customers in order to provide the daily flow bank aggregate, available on their personal space. The peculiarity of this application is that it classifies as revenue and expenses by category, to 70 % in an automatic way, which allows the business manager to have its indicators direct, to follow the result of it, to consult his dashboard, his budget… We have the deputy of the modules quotes and billing. It can also treat expense account via his smartphone. With Fizen, and thus he can control his TPE of simple way, saving a lot of time.

Today, 70 % of the 3,200 customers of ECL Direct are equipped in Fizen. We collect the data of the application to perform the year-end position, the bundle of tax and regulatory reporting.

A.-P. : Fizen is an application that you offer also to the accountants ?

C. R. : Yes, of course. Fizen can be marketed by our sisters and our brothers who are commissioned. We note that it is an element that is very differentiating. When our clients do not make this choice, it is that they are in a willingness to delegate entirely the management of their accounts. In this delegation model, rather than speaking of bookkeeping, we sell monthly prepaid plans, Start, Classic, or Premium, depending on the accounting services offered. If these packages are not consumed, the balance is carried over to the following month.

We have for principle not to pay what the customer consumes. We have therefore applied a number of concepts of marketing for the “general public” to the universe of the company. Each new client sign a contract in good and due form, together with the general terms and conditions. This contract is yearly renewed by tacit agreement.

A. P. : How many do you employee and what is their profile ?

C. R. : We currently have 125 employees, who work in teams. Our payroll service a dozen of people perform each month 1 500 sheets, payroll, social statements associated with them, and everything that revolves around the lives of the employees of our clients. We also have a legal department of five people, who deals with the legal part of the business. We have a commercial hub of the seven people in charge of finding new clients. Finally we have a hub of expertise-accounting for 70 to 80 people and all the support functions – HR, administrative, management control…

Between 2010 and today, the number is increased from five to 125 employees. We’re still in start-up mode, with a perpetual questioning and a learning curve in our organizations and in the services that we offer to our clients. We are located in Saint-Herblain, in the suburbs of Nantes, and our playground is on the whole of France.

A. P. : How do you welcome new customers ?

C. R. : We have created the pole “start” which, during the first three months, ensure the welcome of our new customers who, I remind you, are up to 70 % of business creators. During this time, clients are supported, cocoonés. We propose a method of work by detailing how they must transmit the accounting of their business, by scans. We also answer their questions – they are very information seekers – and give our first advice. Many come to us to reassure himself.

A. P. : As do you manage the confidentiality of the data that you are sent by your customers ?

C. R. : Our modes of transmission are completely secure. The clients provide us with their elements, not by mail, but on a platform for the exchange of data, in HTTPS mode. The information is encrypted at the start and she arrives at we in sync mode, so that the confidentiality of the transmission of the information is total. From our side, everything we produce – the balance sheets, bundles, etc. – is made available on this platform. The whole system is equivalent to an electronic safe.

A. P. : How do you reconcile your activity from the corporate structure of 125 people with the expert accountant ?

C. R. : My role is more a role of a business leader as a chartered accountant. In spite of all, during the tax period, I worked alongside the accountants of ECL Direct to review a number of files. This allows me to know at the time, all managers of teams, to see how are made the records and, possibly, improvements. Be at the heart of the system allows me to identify improvements we can make to our services. We have a business both of production and of the council. For us, the production is very important, since we are more than 3 000 balance sheets, payroll, télédéclarations… All processes must be optimized to secure the time of the council.

A. P. : Your development requires you to transform periodically your work spaces ?

C. A. : In January 2015, we have invested a lot in our offices. We have to build a building designed for the well-being of our teams, type ” open space “, in which are implanted the “one to one” allowing everyone to isolate for telephone appointments of more than half an hour. For us, it is very important. Of faithful employees make loyal customers…

A. P. : How have you financed the growth of ECL ?

C. A. : In 2011, a premier industry player, Strego – one of the largest firms in French with some 900 staff, came to the capital of the ECL. It has taken this minority interest on the one hand to facilitate our development and, secondly, that we may become in some sort his laboratory R&D. Strego was also captivated by Fizen that it sells elsewhere, too, with its customers.

We did a second fundraiser in April 2016, with the input of two investment funds in the capital Go Capital, a regional fund, and the fund ” Idea “, of the Region Country of the Loire – ; a first in the world of accounting.

Our pattern of growth is consistent with our business plan, with just two years gap.

A. P. : What are your development projects in the coming months ?

C. R. : in The fourth quarter of this year, we are going to propose a new offer, “Direct” Micro “, dedicated to micro-entrepreneurs, a segment where we are not present today.

A.-P. : The arrival of Emmanuel Macron to the presidency of the Republic, is it right for you a hope or a fear ?

C. R. : for us, It is a good thing, especially with the one-year deferral of the deduction at source which was going to pose some problems to our clients and their employees. Moreover, the proposed system is not a true withholding tax, but rather the payment of a deposit.

On the aspect of reduction of social charges), we can see that it is a good thing for most of our customers. The president has also mentioned the raising of the thresholds for micro-entrepreneurs. The output of our offers Direct Micro will be in phase with that decision.

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