In profile: Craig McKell

AdvanceTrack catches up with its new APAC General Manager Craig McKell. Craig’s tech and accounting experience will hold him in good stead to drive AdvanceTrack forward in both Australia and the wider Asia Pacific region.


Current role and responsibilities

I’m driving marketing and sales for AdvanceTrack in Australia and New Zealand, as general manager Asia-Pacific.

What is your background?

It’s fair to describe my career as split into two. Firstly, I worked as a chartered accountant in Australia within professional services and consulting firms. I started as a trainee at Price Waterhouse (before it became PricewaterhouseCoopers and later PwC) and eventually became a partner at EY.

And then second part of my career: in the early 2000s, like a lot of people, I got headhunted into an ‘e-business’ start-up. Following a second stint at PwC, I found myself driving sales for this organisation, living on airplanes and in airport lounges, flying around Asia selling telco technology to the tier 1 organisations.

The transition came into effect because at PwC I had spent time in its risk management (GRMS – Global Risk Management Solutions) and e-business divisions, giving presentations and educating clients on e-business (remember that??!). A company called Teradyne was funding an internal start-up and they asked me to join to head up their new Australian business. It was all very exciting, but I found myself leaving an accounting world of numbers, rigour and process for a sales world where there was absolutely none of that. And in that absence, came the idea for what is now RevenueTEK.

I started RevenueTEK in 2005 as a consulting offering inside EY’s Strategic Growth Markets business. When I left in 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis, the firm was kind enough to allow me to take the IP that I had created with me. Essentially RevenueTEK is an organisation that applies mathematics and process optimisation disciplines to business sales pipelines – combining my two areas of expertise and quite frankly, passion.

How did you get the role?

A friend of mine, Ian Briggs (a recruiter), contacted me out of the blue and said: “I think I have someone you should talk to.” That someone was Vipul Sheth, CEO and founder of AdvanceTrack. Ian was right.

In August 2023 I heard Vipul give a talk about his belief in the trusted adviser status of accounting practitioners, and the immense value they provide – when they want to. It really resonated with me. We then chatted and just clicked. Those who know Vipul know that he has a very engaging style – full of integrity, humility, and honesty. While I wasn’t looking for a “job” per se, I was interested in getting involved in something compelling and making a difference. I could almost immediately feel Vipul and I could work well together.

I have a pretty good network here in Australia and 35+ years of experience across professional accounting and technology. It’s already proving to be an interesting challenge for me because it turns out there’s a lot more to outsourcing accountants than meets the eye… as the entire global accounting profession is beginning to realise.

Tell us more about Australian accountants and the software industry?

Australians are big embracers of technology. We’ve always been enthusiastic early-adopters. Accountants, while naturally and professionally conservative, aren’t dismissive of new things, providing someone else has done something and proved it works. Many of them have tried offshoring – but generally those experiences have been poor. So naturally, as a cohort, they’re sceptical now, even though they accept the need to do it.

Few here in Australia have explored outsourcing (versus offshoring). There are two main reasons for that. Firstly, because very few of the “providers” here have the capability to take on outsourcing. They’re recruiters really; they source people in India or the Philippines (or elsewhere) and they ‘employ’ them on the accounting firm’s behalf. But basically, they’re recruiters. By nature and definition that whole model is very transactional. It also depends for its viability on the opportunity to arbitrage the salary differentials between countries. For any number of reasons, it’s a world away from outsourcing.

So, unlike places like the UK, Australian firms’ experiences have most come courtesy of recruiters effectively acting as the outsourcing arbiter – however, recruiters are transactional and won’t support the practices through the consultative and integrative aspects of utilising ‘dislocated’ staff.

A lot of firms struggle to run their own HR processes effectively. Parachuting in offshored staff won’t help if that’s the case – and while it’s an elephant in most rooms, it’s nonetheless the truth. Handing a HR mess off to an offshore recruiter may find you people, but it’ll end up making the underlying problem worse rather than better.

Practices have looked to the major accountancy tech platforms to provide answers. But they’re selling transactional accounting engines, not people management solutions.

I’d certainly challenge the practices and ask: Do you want to be a reseller of tech, or a client-driven adviser? With the waves of compliance that clients and firms face, outsourcing – if used effectively – can be a boon, as seen by AdvanceTrack’s UK practice partners.

What do you expect it to entail? How have the first months gone?

It’s been good. The first few months have been a learning experience, and now we’re into the new year we can push on. I feel like I’m in a good place; I’m working with an organisation with integrity, and they offer a genuine, well-thought-out solution to the acute shortage of accountants. A problem, incidentally, which isn’t going away any time soon.

What does success in your role, and for AdvanceTrack, look like?

AdvanceTrack is actually an accounting firm itself. What we’re offering that sets us apart from just about every other provider in the market is an extension of an accounting firm. It’s like bolting on another firm, just one that’s in India rather than Australia or New Zealand or wherever. I think that’s a big reason for why it has been so successful in the UK in recent years. Vipul invested in technology and process – to make sure that it works and scales, alongside great people with good technical and communication skills… as I said, like a great accounting firm. I’ll consider myself a success if I help make AdvanceTrack the outsourcer of choice for top firms in ANZ. If we continue to grow, we’ll earn the reputation that AdvanceTrack has earnt in the UK and Ireland. When you do good things, good things then follow!

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NSW 2000, Australia

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