The Author of the Month Interview #2 – October Issue – Lance Rubin
Welcome to our second edition of our Author of the Month Interviews.
Eloquens sets up these interviews so that you can meet your favorites authors, get to know them, their life and their business expertise.
For the October edition, the Eloquens team is glad to introduce Lance Rubin, CEO/founder of ModelCitizn, CFO of Banjo, and an expert in financial services.
Or read the full transcript!
[Tim] Hello everyone and welcome to the 2nd edition in our series of Eloquens Author of the month series! So let me introduce myself properly, I am Tim Demoures and I’m the MD of Eloquens, and I work with a team of young professionals in helping authors drive their visibility, grow their revenue, and also share their knowledge around the world in an easy way.
[Francesca] And I am Francesca Morelli, and I work as part of the international business development team here at Eloquens. I am also the author and category manager. So the aim of these interviews is really to make our user base aware of our authors, get them to share their experiences and knowledge with us so that they can get some idea of what they do and learn from their experiences and professional backgrounds. So we’ve really created these interviews around the theme of sharing, which is really what Eloquens is all about! So…
[Tim] So today I’d like to introduce you to Eloquens author Lance Rubin, the CEO and founder of ModelCitizn a great website and also CFO of Banjo, and an expert in financial services. So Lance, thank-you for taking the time to speak to us and welcome!
[Lance] Sure! Thank you Francesca and Tim, it’s great to be on.
[Francesca] Perfect! So can you tell us more about your career path and your studies Lance?
[Lance] Sure! I started a Bachelor of Honours of Accounting Science at the University of South Africa, and subsequently qualified as a Chartered Accountant whilst I was working at PWC. I then worked 20 years across 3 cities; Johannesburg, Sydney and Melbourne. Awfully large organisations, PwC, Investec Bank, National Australia Bank, before becoming a business owner and- for want of a better word- a portfolio careerist. So I’m currently a virtual CFO for a fintech lender called Banjo, I contract to the KPMG financial modeling team, and I have a portfolio of a dozen clients through my business Model Citizn.
[Tim] Yes, absolutely, great site. And what exactly do you do at Model Citizn? Can you tell us a little bit more about this profession of yours?
[Lance] Yeah so, I mean basically, we help clients make relevant, informed and purposeful decisions with insight, and the way we do that is by building financial models. A lot of that is relating to startups, who are really not sure. You know, they have an idea, is the idea worth the amount of blood, sweat and tears they put in? Is it viable? Are investors going to buy it? So startups get a financial model, they also need a financial model to go and pitch for equity so, startups are probably where I get most of my clients from, also I have transactions where I deal large, whether its infrastructure or social benefit bonds for large corporates and governments. Again financial modeling has typically been in a larger end of M&A and Corporate Finance, and then I have that in between small to medium enterprises which when I understand their costs and their cash flow a bit better and so I work with them as well. So, ModelCitizn actually works across the entire spectrum of different businesses, and our ideal client is actually a client that has a complex problem- a complex financial problem- that they want to solve, and they’re just not sure how to actually solve that.
[Francesca] Perfect, so you obviously help them out and obviously to be an entrepreneur, generally you’re a passionate person? So would you like to tell us what you’re passionate about in your professional life and in your personal life even?
[Lance] Yea I don’t know how personal you want to get, it can be a little bit more than just financial modeling so, up until recently I was also a martial arts instructor, so I was pretty much doing that for about 10 years. I represented South Africa and Australia at the World Championships, firstly in St Petersburg in Russia, then Argentina so I guess that was a really big part of my personal life, the martial arts.
[Francesca] Yea a financial specialist you don’t want to mess with!
[Lance] Yea well I guess I don’t like to put that out too often, especially if I haven’t been paid so I might bring it up then but otherwise I tend to keep it under wraps. I want them to think I’m focused at solving their problems, which I am, and I guess that leads onto my next point which is that unfortunately because I’m taking on so much with the start of my new business, I’ve had to kind of re-adjust my personal life, particularly the martial arts side of things, and so I have actually closed down the school and really my goal is to get back into martial arts in some shape or form, whilst at the moment I’m putting most of my time is spent with family and friends and the business. I have a wife, I have 2 beautiful kids, a little boy and a girl. My son is 7 and a half, my daughter is 6, so yea they’re great, they’re handful, I love them dearly and my wife as well, so there’s lots going on in my personal life but I guess it’s always a challenge when you’re an entrepreneur juggling all the many hats that we wear.
[Tim] Of course. And what are the different exciting projects you have at the moment? Can you tell us a little bit more about that? On a professional basis?
[Lance] I guess one that we’re working on at the moment is an IPO for a UK company, I probably can’t go into too much detail but, we’re basically working with a major accounting firm, assisting their client to build a financial model; multi-entity, multi-currency consolidation, for listing in the UK, so that’s quite exciting. There’s a range of other strategic projects that I’m working on, some of which is actually related to technology as well, assisting various startups in whether it’s the fintech or legal tech, or marketing tech, so I guess each of those independently are quite exciting, working on large transactions with KPMG has also been good, so it’s not just the startup land which can be quite challenging but also working with much larger clients like Telstra and government.
[Francesca] Yea obviously it’s good to have a bit of a mix there. So our next question is how did you find out about Eloquens?
[Lance] Well actually, I had a bit of a problem. I had built a website, and I had a range of different models that I wanted to kind of share with the world and put out there and I just felt that my website wasn’t going to look good if suddenly dumped an Excel spreadsheet onto it. It’s not so easy to kind of sit down like yea, cause people wouldn’t want to just download a random spreadsheet, without actually looking what’s in it or what does it contain or what’s the purpose, so I found it quiet a challenge and I figured there must be some.. someone must’ve built something to share spreadsheets and content in that space and so, I came across Eloquens, and Tim and I had a conversation really early on, and what made me really think about it was the community aspect. I think a big part of being an entrepreneur, you definitely tap into that broader community. I think that’s one thing I really enjoy about Eloquens is its community and being able to collaborate and share on some of the models that I made and I actually give for free, and it’s really great, I get great support, I get the opportunity to talk to both of you through this podcast or whatever this is so these are opportunities that just wouldn’t come around otherwise.
[Francesca] Oh good, well that’s good to hear. So in that way then would you recommend it to a friend?
[Lance] Oh absolutely! Yea I would recommend it to anyone who is a nerdy modeler like myself but I try to be an entrepreneur at the same time which can be quite challenging.
[Tim] And so of course you’ve now published 5 Best Practices on Eloquens which is great and so can you tell us a little bit more about the Best Practices you published and why are they useful in your opinion for your audience?
[Lance] Yea sure so my 5 Best Practices: there’s a Demo Financial Model, which is built off Xero, so Xero is a Cloud Accounting package and the model is integrated to Xero through an API. For those who don’t know what an API is, is if you ever log into a website, or an app using your Facebook login or your google ID, you’ve effectively using an API, so the model that I have, means that small businesses can build a proper Excel 3-way model that can be customized and also rolled for each period, so I’ve put that up there because rarely small businesses, which are also concerned about cash, can really get some insight as to where their cash is going. Yes there’s other apps out there, but there’s nothing really that’s customized to their specific needs and so Excel is still the best deccessioning and modeling Best Practice out there. The other one I put up is the Property Valuations; I did a lot of Property Valuation Modeling at Investec Bank and there’s very few people who actually understand the fundamentals of how to value a property, so I actually go through the 3 main valuation methods, and explain it using an interactive Best Practice called Modeler, and it’s really understanding the dynamics of cap rates and discount rates and the like. There’s another one on Modeler itself in terms of how you turn a financial model into an interactive visualization surface where you can pretty much take in on a Surface or a Samsung tablet and have a conversation about a model without actually opening your Excel, so this kind of sits on top of Excel but it has a really powerful interface in terms of being able to move assumptions, PowerPoint is static but Modeler makes it dynamic. The next one is a Gantt Chart which is more about operational modeling, and I guess it was built because I had a client that had a need to manage daily tasks, and then I didn’t want to spend a lot of money with MSproject and I wanted to create something really simple to track his tasks, so this was an easier Best Practice to use, everyone knew how to use Excel and understand everyone’s key responsibilities, so I put that up as something which people can think about, not just about financial modeling but it’s actually there’s a broader spectrum of skills that not only I have but also that is out there that is not just about a balance sheet and a P&L and a cash flow but more so how you could understand processes and manage tasks. The last one that I’m mentioning which I believe was one of the first that I uploaded is a Debt Modelling Workbook Training Best Practice.
[Tim] That one’s working very well.
[Lance] The Model Off which is the World Financial Modeling Championships had a past question called the precise debt modeling and so I’ve uploaded that because 1. There’s a question online which people can go and try out and I guess that they can have a look at some of the past questions, and this was one of the solutions. So yea again it’s about sharing and learning.
[Francesca] Perfect! Well Lance it’s clear that you have a wealth of expertise. We thank you so much for talking with us today. Our users obviously benefit from your Best Practices daily, and so we really, really appreciate you talking with us today and sharing some more insight into this knowledge.
[Tim] Perfect! Any last words or anything else you would like to say about yourself or Eloquens or about your future self?
[Lance] No, the only thing to say about Eloquens is that I like what you guys are doing and I think the ability to communicate directly and talk through the various chat services and obviously this is a first for me. I’m using airtime and having conversations live. We tend to stick behind our spreadsheets and our emails but being able to come out from behind the shadows and really make ourselves vulnerable and talk to people out there is a great opportunity. I’ve done a lot of public speaking, so fortunately for me doing this isn’t as scary as what it was in the beginning. I guess if you tried to convince me to do this 12 months ago, I probably would’ve said no but being able to kind of sit and present to people is less about how smart you are but more how friendly you are- how connected you are to people- I think that’s quite powerful in itself.
[Francesca] Yea for sure Lance you can tell that you’ve obviously had a lot of practice with public speaking. So finally, just we hope our viewers have enjoyed our discussion today and please join us next month for our 3rd Author of the Month in our series.