Finance manager Mari-Liis Kikas: Working with presents interesting challenges and offers constant professional development

The business model is built around its contributors. It gives finance specialists the autonomy to work for as freelancers whilst being part of a bigger team and a community of specialists from their own field on a day-to-day basis. They can join the client team as accountants, finance managers or even auditors.’s accounting service doesn’t start and end with reflecting the past, but offers clients the chance to look to the future, too: it shows them ways of making their financial data work for them so they can make forward-looking decisions based on actual data. This view is created for every accounting service client by their finance manager.

The hero of today’s story is our finance manager Mari-Liis Kikas. Every finance manager working for has their own portfolio of clients that vary in terms of their size and business focus. They are there to help both their clients and the accountant deal with complex financial and accounting-related matters. Mari-Liis has been with us for over a year now, so we wanted to ask her how she’s found it.

What’s your professional background?

I’ve been working in finance for more than 10 years, and following a pretty specific trajectory in my career. The places I’ve worked I’ve chosen based on experience I still wanted to gain, so as to give me more skills and knowledge to work with as a specialist. I knew quite early on that I wanted to become a finance manager at some point, and the most logical route towards that in my mind was to start out by mastering the basics of accounting. So that’s what I did, in two international companies, Orkla and EY. From there I moved on to two years of M&A and due diligence at PwC, during which I was involved in some really big transactions by Estonian standards that gave me a lot of valuable experience. After that I joined Eesti Energia, where I was responsible for the control side of things in Elektrilevi and Enefit Connect, and then for the last few years before I joined I was a finance manager in a credit institution and a property development firm.

What made you decide to give up a fixed salary and start out on your own?

The flexibility and independence it offered, as well as the chance to make something of myself. I’ve a mindset that’s very much “the sky’s the limit”, and I wanted to fully tap my potential. I’ve always thought the best results are achieved when you try a little bit harder than required, whatever it is you’re doing. That’s why when I was working for others I often felt I wanted to give more, but you don’t always get the opportunity to do that.

I get my enthusiasm for work and my entrepreneurial spirit from my family, who all work in finance as well. I’ve always said that work should be able to be done flexibly, and that in doing it on your own you can create the kind of business environment that best suits you. After all, work makes up such a big part of our everyday lives that you’ll only end up regretting it if you never bother to try and create the best opportunities and conditions for yourself if you can’t find them elsewhere.

So what led you to

I’d known was a thing since my time at PwC, where both Liis (the CEO – Ed.) and I spent some of our formative years. I like to keep myself up to date on how interesting companies that do things a bit differently are going, and definitely falls into that category. When I decided to go out on my own, it seemed like a perfect fit. I introduced myself to them, explained to them what I’m capable of and what my vision of things is, and that’s how we joined forces.

What does the role of finance manager in involve?

It’s a constantly evolving role, which is what I love about it. That’s true of financial management as a whole, too. It’s always developing. At first my role was largely tucked away in accounting and involved working very closely with our accountants, checking their work and advising clients on complex issues whenever they needed it. But since then we’ve entered a phase where every client team has its own finance manager, who’s very much client-facing but who also contributes to effective management in the business and financial processes view and to smart decisions in the management of the company. That takes in all sorts of things, from developing financial reporting and planning cash flows to pricing, investor reporting and raising capital. At the moment we’re also focussing on ensuring that all of our clients have a clear understanding of business and financial processes and the links between them, and we’re finding ways of automating them and making them more effective. Where that’s concerned, one of the things we’re focussing on is automated financial management, for which we’re finding suitable solutions for our clients. All of that’s really exciting. Accounting and financial management go hand in hand, and the synergy between them generates an enormous amount of value when it comes to the company’s performance.

What is it about being a finance manager that you like, and what kind of challenges have you faced?

There are definitely more things that attract me to the role than there are challenges that put me off it, otherwise I wouldn’t do it! There’s the constant growth it offers – that’s something you can be sure of when partnering with It opens up all kinds of opportunities to work with clients with very different profiles. Plus the company itself, like the field of finance as a whole, is in this amazing phase of development that means you get the chance to be at the forefront of positive change. The flexibility it offers is one of the best things about it for me as well, in terms of both the workload and where I do my work. That’s becoming more and more important these days across the board. I get to decide for myself how much work I do and when I do it.

As for challenges, one of the biggest ones for me personally is time management, which to my mind is the key to being an entrepreneur and independently offering your services. Accurately assessing the time you have available to you is important for both your clients and your partners. It’s important for you as well, of course, since when you work for yourself it’s easy to start feeling like all you’re doing is working and there’s nothing else in life. By planning things properly you can keep that in check, and that’s a scenario in which everyone wins.

What’s your client portfolio like, and what do you typically deal with from one day to the next?

I’ve got more than 60 clients in my portfolio at the moment, which comes to about 100 hours a month. In numbers that seems like a lot, but my clients are very different in terms of their size and how complex they are. Some of them are small and only need dealing with once a quarter or every six months. Others need monthly attention, or whenever issues crop up. But I also have some much bigger and more exciting clients I have to do things for on an almost daily basis. I’ve got about five of them. My clients come from all sorts of backgrounds: SaaS firms, trade, real estate, IT services, forestry, medical wholesalers, holding companies, you name it. They’re all quite different, but the things I typically deal with on a day-to-day basis in accounting are much the same: advising clients on how to record complex transactions, how to compile financial analyses (including cash flow plans) or doing it for them myself, putting together cost-benefit and pricing analyses and such. A lot of what I do is about streamlining and automating business and financial processes and developing financial and investor reporting, too.

You’ve been with for over a year now. What does working with the company give you?

It’s been a year of massive professional development for me, dealing with so many interesting clients from different fields and with different business models and levels of complexity. It’s been an exciting and challenging experience, and a successful one, too. Working as a service provider in your own right does drag you out of your comfort zone, because at first you worry about where you’ll find clients and whether they’ll be happy with what you do for them. But everything with has gone so smoothly that it already seems so utterly elementary to me that a good financial service should include all the things we offer in our partnership: evaluation and streamlining of business and financial processes, harmonised quality standards, control mechanisms for source data. If you’re providing a financial management service independently, it can be difficult to offer that degree of value. On top of that, is definitely one of the leading lights in its field and is genuinely interested in advancing it, which is really important to me. Development has to be an ongoing thing.

There are plusses and minuses in every job. What have been the best things about your role in, and what’s been more of a headache?

There’s nothing better than seeing the work you do create actual value for a client. For instance, if we streamline a client’s business and financial processes and that leads to us providing them with automated financial reporting, including for the management of their cash flows, and as a result you see them making smarter decisions that are reflected in growing profits, that’s when you really enjoy your job! I also love that in working with I’ve gotten to develop its services and help boost the level of quality on the market overall. I’ve always enjoyed working with other specialists in my field, because the value you derive from it is so much the greater. There’s that saying that if you want to go fast then go alone, but if you want to go far then go together, and it’s completely true. The only headaches I’ve experienced have mostly been to do with work planning and quality control, because sometimes you just have to give the accountants feedback on their work. The quality requirements in are really high, and we always aim to offer the best service we can. Once or twice that’s led to tricky situations when dealing with clients, but luckily of the sort that we’ve been able to resolve entirely reasonably. Every problem has a solution!

What kind of person is suited to the role of finance manager in

Definitely someone who has experience in the field, who’s self-sufficient, who’s good at planning their time and who’s solution-oriented. Dealing with clients is an important part of working in a service business as well – you often have to put yourself in their shoes to understand what it is they actually need and come up with the right solution for them. The role of finance manager won’t be for you if you’re the sort of person, in your work, who needs someone telling you what to do all the time. Likewise if you’re more of a lone wolf, because working with others is a key component of a service business.

What would your advice be to anyone weighing up whether to join as a finance manager?

Give it a go! You’ve got nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work out, then at least you’ll have learnt it isn’t the right fit for you as a form of work, and possibly even that it isn’t the right field. But if it does work out, then all sorts of opportunities will open up in terms of the work you do and who you do it with and the value you create in the financial sphere. is really leading the way in its field, and always moving forward. It’s important to the company to promote both itself and the field every chance it gets.