Oliver Cooper
Oliver Cooper

Practice Talk: Oliver Cooper from Nimble Accounting

2nd Oct 2018
Editor AccountingWEB
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Each week, AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk series catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week we speak with Oliver Cooper who runs the South African-based firm Nimble Accounting.

When Oliver Cooper spoke with AccountingWEB he was decked in flip flops celebrating South Africa’s first day of spring. Obviously, Cooper’s day-to-day office life serving UK clients differs from his UK-counterparts.  

But then, Cooper’s move to practice is unlike others. After qualifying with Deloitte in London, he decided to move into the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector. Cooper travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and worked there for 14 months as a finance manager.

He made the most of the opportunity the sector provided in terms of travel. Then six years ago he settled in Kenya where he worked in a CFO/FD role again for a non-profit organisation.

But when he struggled to find a UK accountant for his brother and step-father, Cooper brought his NGO finance function expertise into practice. He saw the move as an opportunity to provide that “nitty-gritty” analytical FD/CFO service to smaller companies.

“The idea was to offer this and make use of the lower cost base which we have in South Africa to be able to offer management accounts to small companies that generally doesn't happen," said Cooper. “People don't get management accounts at that size of the company.”

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What is the first thing you do when you start your working day?

I drop off my son at school and then I get into the office and the first thing I do is put the kettle on and make myself a coffee. Then I sit down at my desk and what I try and not do is open my emails for at least a couple of hours. Otherwise, I get completely sucked into those.

Checking emails outside traditional hours have become a common issue for practitioners. Are you guilty of this?

I've had times when it has, and I've had times where I really consciously think to myself "It's 6pm in the evening, there is no reason to check whether I have any emails now".

There is no way I would respond to it at that point. Sometimes when you get an email about something that will cause you a lot of work in the next week all it does is put a downer on your evening. So, no - I force myself not to open up my emails, I turn off the notifications so it doesn't show me that I've got three new emails in my inbox, so I don't look at it.

I imagine South Africa gives you plenty of opportunities to escape the world of tax and accounts.

Before I moved to South Africa, I was in Kenya and one of the things we loved doing was to just travel and see the country. My wife and son often go away for weekends. We'd jump in the car and drive two-four hours outside Johannesburg and see parts of the country we haven't seen before. It's a diverse country so there is plenty we haven't seen.

One thing you can't escape is MTD. What steps has your firm taken to prepare your clients and firm?

We're a new firm so we don't have these legacy clients who use this desktop system that they've been on for the last 10-15 years that's going to be a headache to transfer into the cloud. Because we were set up from day one using only cloud-based systems there's not any migration we need to do, then we're fine. It is a fairly, simple and fluid move to MTD without too much effort.

So, then, how cloud are you?

It's very cloud. We do have a printer which has paper in it but I think we print something once every three days. We're working from South Africa so we never meet our clients, we never get documents from our clients, there are no bags of receipts sitting around our office that we have to process because everything is done on the cloud. I would say it is 100% cloud.

I don't think there is a bookkeeper or accountant out there who wants to spend their days processing invoices. If that can be done by tech like Auto Entry then that allows our time doing more interesting things and leaving the office earlier to do non-work things as well.

Enough of this modern tech, can you remember your first calculator?

It's actually sitting right in front of me or at least the calculator I had when I did my A-Level maths. I don't know how I managed this but it is still in perfect working order and I wouldn't like to use a different calculator because I know it so well. I've been using that for the last 18 years.

Everyone I've ever worked with really doesn't like it because they've tried using it but they have no idea how to make it work. There is no equals button; it says EXC instead.