Many successful businesses are set up because they are trying to solve a problem. The founding directors of BankLink believed that one of the most time-consuming processes undertaken by accountants was the "re-keying" of their small business clients' bank statements into the practice's own computer system.
Malcolm MacDonald, Derek Jones and Steve Agnew thought if this data was already recorded by the computer systems of financial institutions, it would be possible to transfer the data directly to the accountants' computer systems.
Mt Eden-based BankLink, as part of the Media Transfer Services (MTS) company, was set up in 1986, and the founders remain the three main shareholders, with MacDonald and Jones still active in the business as joint managing directors.
Secure data from almost 200,000 New Zealand bank accounts is managed by BankLink, representing 130,000 businesses. The company processes accounting records for about 30 per cent of New Zealand small businesses. "BankLink cuts down on manual data entry and bookkeeping errors - enabling accountants to spend more time analysing their clients' accounts and providing valuable business advice," says Richard Reese, GM of New Zealand operations.
The company now offers the widest range of data sources in Australasia, including banks, credit card, home loan and rural accounts. The New Zealand farming sector has been very active in the past year, he says.
In the early 90s, BankLink started its Australian business, which is now six times the size of the New Zealand operation. BankLink's services are now used by more than 1300 accounting practices around New Zealand and almost 5000 globally. It automates and streamlines the accounting process for more than 4500 accounting practices and 250,000 small business clients across New Zealand, Australia and Britain. The New Zealand company provides accounting practices with client transaction data from more than 100 financial institutions.
In Australia, where 70 per cent of the firm's revenue comes from, serving 3500 accountancy practices, the business has seen growth of around 15 per cent over the past year. In the coming months, the company will launch a new range of solutions that use both desktop and cloud technologies.
BankLink, with a sub $50 million turnover, will continue to be based in Auckland as this is where the three shareholders are based, says Reese.
"If we were more corporate or publicly owned I could see a drive for us to be based in Sydney," says Reese. "But our owners are proud New Zealanders, so the IP and operational software is developed here."
BankLink has offices in Sydney and Melbourne, with 30 staff in Australia and 135 here.
As well as solutions for accountants and their clients, BankLink provides data directly into MYOB small business solutions. Last week, MYOB and BankLink announced a partnership, which sees BankLink expand the data services it provides to include a broader array of MYOB accounting solutions.
MYOB will recommend BankLink's bank data transaction services to its accountant clients and MYOB will discontinue its competing BankConnect service over the next six months.
Meanwhile, the BankLink management will be focusing on building the British business this year. The London office is lead by the former head of BankLink Australia, Frank Woods.
"The UK is a huge opportunity. If Australia is six times the size of the NZ market, the UK is four times the size of Australia," says Reese.