Zest AI is one of many fast-growing software companies that we’re proud to have in Sage’s customer ecosystem. Pioneering artificial intelligence in credit, the company’s SaaS offering enables lenders to swiftly build, adopt, and operate powerful, compliant credit models. By bringing machine learning to credit underwriting, the service advances a worthy mission of making fair and transparent credit available to everyone.
We recently had the opportunity to connect with two of Zest AI’s finance gurus—Walter Luceno and Brandon George, both directors of accounting who have navigated the organization’s pivot from high-volume consumer lending to a subscription business model built on large, complex contracts. They explained how their migration from QuickBooks to Sage Intacct fueled a finance modernization and eased their transition to ASC 606.
In our new customer story, Zest AI highlights key results over the past few years, such as:
- Shortened the monthly close by 33%
- Cut annual accounting contracting costs by 60%
- Adopted ASC 606 practices and scaled accounting as revenues doubled
- Gained effortless visibility to support due diligence for $15M capital raise
Previously, trying to manage eleven entities on QuickBooks created massive headaches when it came time for consolidations. George remembers, “Bouncing between all those entities during the monthly close was a constant time-waster. Anytime we needed to look up a transaction, we had to remember what subsidiary it was in and had no way to look at a combined view. That was a big reason we decided to upgrade.”
“We had smart engineers in IT who had heavily customized QuickBooks for us, sort of jerry-rigging multi-entity consolidations, but it required a lot of maintenance that eventually wasn’t worth the effort,” added Luceno. “Once we started pivoting from homogenous consumer transactions to complex business-to-business sales, we knew a 606 implementation was on the horizon and that QuickBooks and Excel just weren’t going to cut it anymore.”
Pivoting financial management alongside the business
While transitioning its business model, Zest AI brought on a new CFO who saw the value in automating financial processes and robust reporting. All of this contributed to a maturation of the business’ mindset, and a desire to get away from manual bookkeeping that hindered visibility into performance. “Once we decided to make a change, we narrowed it down pretty quickly to Sage Intacct and Oracle NetSuite,” said George. “We liked that Sage Intacct had a more sociable and personal approach, based on customer reviews we read and our own conversations with the team. Our preference was to do an in-house implementation, and so the solid reputation of Sage’s professional services and the ease of integrations was a big factor in our final decision.”
Following deployment, Sage Intacct quickly improved several workflows at Zest AI, slashing the monthly close by one-third and cutting the chart of accounts in half. The finance team was able to reduce its reliance on external consultants for data entry and the monthly close review, dropping that expense by 60%. “When you have a more organized system, you become more organized,” noted Luceno. “Now that we have properly coded financial data feeding directly from our expense management, AP, and payroll tools into Sage Intacct, we can reconcile and accrue for transactions and input journal entries in minutes.”
Luceno also pointed out that, “Migrating to Sage Intacct created a domino effect for our business. The automation we have makes our data more reliable, which prompted a natural evolution—as we provide more accurate numbers to management more quickly, they value them more and take action accordingly.”
Streamlining contracts for ASC 606 compliance
One of the biggest improvements Zest AI achieved with its implementation was compliance with ASC 606 requirements. This was no easy task, given the business’ high dollar contracts, spanning software licenses, hosting, professional services, and customization. George shared, “Because our move to Sage Intacct coincided so closely with our 606 adoption, we actually learned a lot about how to properly work under 606 from the contract module trainings that we attended. As we configured Sage Intacct Contracts, it helped me get a good handle on best practices for things like multiple element arrangements and proportional allocation of revenue. Sage Intacct not only facilitated the work, but honestly taught us how to do it.”
Now, Sage Intacct gives the team clear visibility into how standalone selling prices and certain ways of bundling contract elements influences revenue timing, so they collaborate more closely with sales leadership. “Whenever we ask ourselves, ‘can the system handle this?’ the answer has been yes 100% of the time, which is great because our sales team is constantly thinking outside the box in their negotiations with customers,” said George. “And as the company evolves, Sage Intacct gives me peace of mind that we can support contracts in multiple currencies, something that would have been a major mess to handle in Excel. Being comfortable with not only fast growth, but global growth is a big plus.”
Sage Intacct’s revenue by contract forecasting shows each customer’s monthly revenue and key contract milestones—such as when professional services revenue should come in—alongside actuals. In addition, the system helps Zest AI better track invoicing schedules, timing, and payment status, so they get their invoices out to customers in a more timely manner.
Shifting leadership mindsets through greater financial visibility
With Sage Intacct’s flexible reporting and dimensions, the finance team can quickly view overall spending, travel and entertainment expenses, cash flow forecasts, or other ad hoc reports as needed—cutting 2-4 hours they previously spent on ad hoc reporting requests down to under an hour. Luceno noted that, “Recently, we closed a $15 million round of funding, and during the due diligence process, we were able to hop on calls with the auditor and answer their questions live or deliver analysis the next day, which was a night and day time saver compared to pulling data from QuickBooks.”
“With so many different entities, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack on QuickBooks if we wanted to view something like our top ten expenses by employee on a real-time basis,” added George. “Now, I can run consolidated reports at a whim on Sage Intacct, which is a giant time-saver on a very regular basis.” The company’s FP&A team also takes advantage of Sage Intacct’s ability to slice and dice financials by departments, vendors, and more. They pull data directly out of the system into their analysis tool to inform budget forecasts.
Readying for the future with mature financial processes
George and Luceno look forward to evolving their use of the system, particularly through the rollout of dashboards and digital board book metrics like ARR. They also plan to integrate Sage Intacct with Salesforce CRM and leverage Sage Intacct’s capabilities to set up automated amortization schedules for prepaids and depreciation schedules for fixed assets.
“The thing I like best is the freedom Sage Intacct has given us,” concluded George. “Even though we’re not utilizing all of the system’s functionality yet, it has opened all these new possibilities in reporting, automation, and dashboards. We’re debating which ones to prioritize, not trying to figure out whether we can do any of them. Ultimately we can do anything we want to.”
For more about the impressive business value the Zest AI team realized with Sage Intacct’s contracts management and reporting capabilities, read our customer story.
Zest AI - Case Study
Rapid-growth AI pioneer closes a $15m round of funding off the back of Sage software streamlining financial management and providing visibility.