Interview with VATBox and Axys Consultants

Interview with VATBox and Axys Consultants

Q: Axys Consultants and VATBox: Can you introduce yourself? What is your role in your company?

A: Paul Strippe (AXYS): After gaining 10 years of experience at the Hachette Group, first in IT and later in Finance, I joined the firm Axys Consultants to participate in developing a team that is passionate about providing support and advice to businesses. After dedicating myself specifically to leadership roles in the Finance and IT departments of major corporations, I took over responsibility for the Senior Management of the firm. Today, as we continue to grow with partners Comex and Codir, my ambition is to position the firm as the go-to expert for companies undergoing digital transformation.

Noam Guzman (VATBox): My name is Noam Guzman, the Co-Founder and President of VATBox. VATBox is an automated, enterprise-wide, cloud-based VAT recovery solution that has successfully streamlined the global VAT recovery process, providing businesses with unrivaled visibility, compliance, and data integrity, and ultimately boosting their bottom line.

Q: Axys Consultants and VATBox: Can you introduce VATBox? How is it organized?

A. Paul Strippe (AXYS): Axys Consultants is a management consulting firm, specializing in digital transformation. We assist major corporations, in France and internationally, mainly in the areas of Purchasing, Finance, Digital, Marketing and Commerce. Since we are convinced of the importance of change management and data usage within the company, we also have two cross-functional BUs [Business Units]: Change and Data.

To further support our clients, we decided to launch four specialized subsidiaries in 2017: Axys Odyssey, dedicated to the optimization of employee travel; Neosight, dedicated to the SAP ecosystem; Axys Asia, in Hong Kong, which helps our clients move to Asia; and Axbility Consulting, in July 2018, based in New York, which is dedicated to the transformation of the “Purchasing” sector. Currently, Axys Consultants has more than 200 consultants and a turnover of 25 million euros.

Noam Guzman (VATBox): VATBox was founded in 2013. We are headquartered in the Netherlands and also have a global presence with offices in France, Germany, UK, USA and Israel.

We identified a flaw in T&E VAT recovery where a significant amount of eligible VAT remained unclaimed every year. This includes Foreign VAT, Domestic VAT, Accounts Payable, Inter-Company VAT, Conventions, Shipping and Tooling, basically all areas.  Not only do we offer an automated solution to recover this VAT, but we also work with our clients to ensure the employees, finance teams, tax teams and procurement are all on board and work together.  We want companies to recover their VAT on business expenses and also achieve the best results for their enterprise. More so we want companies to be fully compliant when recovering their VAT.

We serve hundreds of customers in over 40 countries, and employ about 150 people internationally. Organizationally, we structure our staff around Customer Success teams, who are backed by account managers, VAT experts and administrative staff, to ensure we provide our customers with the highest levels of service.

Q. How and why did you launch VATBox? Why specifically did you focus on international VAT recovery?

A. Noam Guzman (VATBox): T&E is the second largest budgetary expense for most companies; therefore recovering VAT on these expenses makes a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. As a customer, I was shocked to discover this type of financial platform didn’t exist. I saw the potential, spoke to other Fortune 500 customers, and understood that they have been accepting the situation for the last 25 years, that inefficient manual VAT recovery is the industry standard.

To me, that made no sense. Today most financial processes are already automated; the VAT reclaim and reporting process should be as well. Why was there no automated platform? Simple. Because VAT recovery is a complicated process. It’s almost impossible for a company’s tax team to keep up with all the formal and informal rules. As a technology entrepreneur, I accepted the challenge.

Q. There are large companies in this sector, how are you different? What is your business model?

A. Noam Guzman (VATBox): Our out-of-the-box solution actually represents a technological breakthrough in the VAT recovery space. Up until now, companies have only been able to view the overall amount of VAT recovered. They have not had the advantage of knowing which expenses/invoices contained VAT that was disqualified, and more importantly, why it was disqualified.

While other providers simply obtain T&E data through an interface with the Travel Expense System, or have an online environment with no visibility into which VAT was not recovered, VATBox’s solution provides comprehensive insights into the entire process of potential VAT recovery, up to the image level of the receipt.  It is only when companies can clearly see where and why they lost VAT that they can improve their recovery efforts.

We offer one unified global VAT process that handles reports, data collection, aggregation, qualification and submissions using a fully automated approach. Every single invoice or receipt – no matter how small – is processed and reconciled to the customer’s total spend. We do it all – extract data automatically from the customer’s systems, ensure data security and reduce any risk of non-compliance.

Q. Axys Consultants and VATBox: How do you manage to convince prospective clients of the value of such an approach? What results do your clients/prospective clients expect? What are the KPIs [Key Performance Indicators]? The goals?

A. Paul Strippe (AXYS): By defining ourselves as a “Performance #Hacktivator,” our approach is to have a more global, more comprehensive, more long-term vision of performance, in order to redefine our client strategy. But what about the future? That’s what we bring to our clients by offering them innovative solutions such as VATBox.

Noam Guzman (VATBox): Prospects recognize the true difficulties inherent in VAT compliance and recovery, and clearly see the benefits of capturing revenue that would otherwise be left behind. What usually shocks a new customer is that most of the recoverable revenue is hiding in small invoices – the ones most companies don’t even bother with. The sheer number of these invoices makes it impossible for a finance team to handle manually, and therefore it is common for invoices under €50 to be disregarded. Companies are amazed to learn that these small invoices can account for as much as 95% of total invoices, and as much as 60% of total VAT recovery potential. Another area with unexpected results is that of disqualified invoices – approximately 45% of invoices get disqualified – that’s also a lot of money lost.

VATBox’s platform can handle hundreds of thousands of invoices, of any size or complexity, resulting in 5 or 6 times more recovery than delivered by any other competitors in the market. We set those expectations with customers, as we know we can recover more.

Q. Axys Consultants: How can VATBox be integrated with the services Axys offer?

A. Paul Strippe (AXYS): One of our fields of expertise is in assisting companies in their plans for transformation, digitization and innovation. VATBox is a solution that meets an identified need for complex international organizations. As a consulting firm, we must constantly monitor technological developments and offer innovative tools.

Q. Axys Consultants and VATBox: For the Finance, Purchasing or Legal departments of major corporations to work properly, various perspectives, especially cultural aspects, need to be considered. How did you make this happen?

A. Paul Strippe (AXYS): The goal of a consultant is to help an organization by taking into account all of the talented individuals that will contribute to the growth of the company and grow alongside it. The role of a consultant is to release the company’s potential and give it new momentum.

Noam Guzman (VATBox): Our service is of interest to many different departments – including the tax department, purchasing/procurement, the finance and legal teams, as well as travel – simply because it meets their needs. For purchasing, we focus on savings and revenue gains, while travel leads are interested in our ability to educate the traveler according to company policy, and to improve supplier contracts. The tax director will learn how we can streamline the VAT reclaim process and facilitate the easy audit trails necessary to satisfy tax authorities. Finance will benefit from less overhead, process improvements, higher team productivity and quicker, larger reimbursement on expense claims.

Q. VATBox: Which project are you most proud of?

A. I would say our first big win was 5 years ago when we began. The word “automation” didn’t exist when speaking about VAT reclaim. We worked very hard to earn the trust of Fortune 500 companies. As small pilot rollouts or POC engagements turned into larger rollouts across more and more entities, we were gratified that our customers were realizing significant ROI from our efforts. Clearly seeing how much value we brought to them was a game changer for our company and our success.

Another win is how easy we’ve managed to make the onboarding process for our customers. Being cloud-based, VATBox’s solution can be deployed without any additional budget or IT resources. The only requirements are approximately thirty minutes and a few simple steps.

Q. Axys Consultants and VATBox: How do you plan to work together?

A. Paul Strippe (AXYS): Axys Consultants, in its role as a consulting firm, can recommend VATBox to its clients and prospective clients. VATBox, once it has sold its solution, can rely on Axys Consultants as part of the implementation of their solution in contexts where there is a need to rework the processes upstream of the implementation, and also as part of the communication and training plan in parallel with the implementation of the solution.

Noam Guzman (VATBox): We have a common interest in bringing value to our joint customers. VATBox will support Axys Consultants by providing their customers with better tools for VAT recovery, increasing their levels of compliance and efficiency, and delivering more value to their bottom line. It’s a win-win for all.

Q.  VATBox: How go from a logic of innovation to a logic of industrialization?

A. Noam Guzman (VATBox): Our platform simplifies the complex VAT reclaim process across a wide range of industries, from the technology sector to the pharmaceutical and life science industries, or even consulting firms and manufacturers; any company with foreign or domestic VAT-incurred expenses can benefit from our solution. VAT recovery has now become more accessible, unified and compliant. Today every company understands the need for a VAT provider. We listen to our customers’ needs and have created a solution that addresses their pain points.

Q. VATBox: Is there an impact on work patterns? The processes?  

A. Noam Guzman (VATBox): Work processes will not be impacted; on the contrary, the introduced automation will alleviate the workload across all departments. More than that, companies will quickly notice an improvement in the productivity of their employees that results from reducing the administrative burden.  Even better, those employees will acquire knowledge and best practices that will reduce fraud and enhance travel compliance.

Q. Axys Consultants and VATBox: How do you see your future?

A. Paul Strippe (AXYS): We are sure that the growth and development of consulting firms depends on their ability to reinvent themselves. To support our growth, we will be moving offices soon, and we will take advantage of this opportunity to create an open space for our clients and partners: the Axys Consultants Lab. We believe that collaboration is one of the keys to preparing for the future. We are also committed to an issue that our clients are coming across more and more: artificial intelligence. For example, we are analysing its impact on the finance profession with students at Paris Dauphine University. Likewise, we are thinking of sharing our thoughts about the opportunities offered by artificial intelligence with our partners.We are already committed to preparing for our clients’ future performance.

Noam Guzman (VATBox): Automation is the future, and more and more Fortune 500 companies are embracing automation in their day-to-day operations. Once you understand the capacity and the volume that automation can handle especially in terms of invoices, one clearly understands the value of an automated VAT recovery solution. It transforms the entire Finance department. Working with companies like Axys Consultants, our short-term goal is to dominate the European market, and then use the data and technology to expand into other regions as well, including Asia, the Gulf States and Russia, all huge market opportunities. In addition, we are focused on furthering our technology developments to ensure that VATBox can qualify every transaction in every jurisdiction, thereby providing even more value to our customers.

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