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50 Leading Companies of the Year 2022

Manuel Schiappa Pietra, FreeBalance CEO and President: “Social responsibility is at the heart of everything that we do. Our focus is on delivering good governance through robust government-specific technology and advisory services that drive sustainable and equitable growth”

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Public Financial Management (PFM) is basically the set of rules, systems, processes, and laws used by sovereign nations to allocate funds and mobilize revenue, undertake public spending, audit results and account for funds. Having strong PFM in place helps governments to run a state effectively. Key for every government’s success is its ability to tax fairly and spend the collected tax responsibly. A good PFM system is crucial for macro-economic stability, democratic governance, poverty reduction, and effective use of resources. Ineffective PFM, on the other hand, can hinder the growth of an economy through increased corruption which leads to social injustices.

Globally, there are multiple companies delivering excellent PFM solutions to governments, but FreeBalance stands out from the rest. With a track record of almost 40 years, implementations in over 25 countries and the world’s first global Government Resource Planning (GRP) system, no one has as much PFM reform experience as FreeBalance.

FreeBalance is a purpose-led business committed to enabling PFM reform that matters. The company believes that governments are at the nexus of providing improved citizen quality of life and solving global “wicked problems.” Which is why they work only with governments and focus on improving citizen wellbeing through their GRP solutions, training and advisory services.

The company was founded to help Canadian government organizations to better manage public finance through budget management and controls. The ability of the company’s software to provide real-time budget information, particularly with regard to funds available in the budget to spend, what’s known as the “free balance”. Taking their name from this success, the company  extended globally.

In conversation with Manuel Schiappa Pietra, CEO and President of FreeBalance

FreeBalance develops and implements smart government PFM systems that combat corruption by enhancing transparency, promoting good governance and implementing sound fiscal management. Our team built the only PFM solution designed exclusively by government, for government.

Smart and Balanced Prosperity is a holistic government approach including:

  • Good Governance through improved planning, transparency, accountability, and fiscal discipline using evidence to improve government effectiveness
  • Sustainable Growth by aligning policy, planning, execution and performance to sustainable citizen growth goals and physical infrastructure priorities
  • Citizen Wellbeing by aligning policy, planning, execution and performance results to citizen social goals and social infrastructure
  • Government Digital Transformation through innovative use of smart governance digital technologies

The FreeBalance Accountability Suite™ is Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) GRP software covering the entire PFM budgeting cycle. Our PFM advisory, implementation, and sustainability services assist governments in sequence governance reform. The government-specific design of the Suite, adapted through 38 years of global government experience, supports low-code and no-code configuration to minimize code customization. This government configuration design supports future public sector reform or progressive activation unlike alternatives.

Q. How do you optimize and update your application regularly? How do you gather insights from clients or their consumers directly?

FreeBalance uses a customer-centric business model to gain insights directly from governments. We are always part of the implementation governance structure, enabling us to put customer-needed customization directly into the FreeBalance Accountability Suite™ to help other governments. We also leverage direct in-country knowledge, including local staff, to better understand government contexts and improve products. The FreeBalance International Steering Committee, consisting of representatives from customers, sets our product roadmap. We are also tightly integrated within the global PFM community and participating in local and global events.

Q. Could you describe your typical management style and the type of employee that works well with you?

FreeBalance has a unique “glocal” approach. We believe in diversity and in hiring locally. Every project includes hiring local professionals who stay with the company to support customers. We have small core global employees that mentor our in-country employees. Talented employees who are able to learn on the job while achieving certification through the FreeBalance Internal Academy are highly valued and rise to more responsible positions. Product development, implementation, and support are integrated, which means that we look for people who are effective in cross-functional teams.

FreeBalance has a flat management structure with direct communications between employees and executives. Our monthly global newsletter, periodic news flashes, and blog enhance this communication. In particular, employees are made aware of global customer implementation and support status, product development, new employees, and employee milestones.

Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful CEO?

  1. Ability to leverage information/evidence and staff insights to make quick decisions, particularly leveraging diverse views from diverse backgrounds
  2. Ability to communicate empathetically with customers, staff members, and partners and being able to adapt one’s communication approach to the audience’s style
  3. Ability to empower staff to make important decisions so that oversight becomes “management by exception”

“All businesses have an opportunity and an obligation to make a difference in the world. Our actions matter and our success should be measured by the impact that we have in the countries and communities where we do business.”

Meet the leader behind the success of FreeBalance

Manuel Schiappa Pietra is the CEO and President of FreeBalance. Manuel is a global executive and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of management experience in companies based in the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, and Latin America. He has a proven track record in managing companies, from “startups” to well-established private and public organizations. He has consistently demonstrated an ability to build and lead successful teams and businesses in the international arena. As President and CEO of FreeBalance, Manuel leads global growth strategies focused on advancing the company’s objectives and promoting revenue, profitability and growth. Manuel has transformed the firm into a customer-centric and socially responsible company increasing its footprint to 25 countries worldwide. He is responsible for ensuring that FreeBalance fulfills the mission to help governments across the world leverage robust financial management technology to improve citizen wellbeing. Manuel has held executive positions on the boards of several international companies and actively participated in the venture capital space. He has participated in several successful IPO’s in North America, Europe and South Africa.