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50 Most Admired Companies of the Year 2020

An Interview with Manuel Schiappa Pietra, FreeBalance President and CEO: ‘Our mission is to help governments across the world leverage robust financial management technology to drive sustainable growth’

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“FreeBalance is a purpose-led organization dedicated to improving citizen wellbeing around the world.”

As global complexity deepens so too do the demands on governments to meet the funding and service delivery requirements of an ever more sophisticated citizenry. Good governance, transparency and accountability are critical today and yet even governments of the world’s most advanced economies battle with digital transformation and public financial management.

As a solutions provider focused on government FreeBalance understands better than most just how complex this new world is for Ministries of Finance. The company’s Public Financial Management (PFM) solutions, advisory services, and training deliver realistic and impactful public sector reforms that enhance transparency, improve effectiveness, restore trust, and create innovation breakthrough opportunities. FreeBalance believes strongly in fiscal transparency and accountability and its products help bring the power of open government to citizens and decision-makers around the world.

With a 35-year track record of success and operations in 25+ countries, FreeBalance has unparalleled experience in public finance reform and is a specialized Business-to-Government (B2G) firm.

The company was incorporated in 1984 and is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada.

Manuel Schiappa Pietra, FreeBalance President and CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

How did FreeBalance come into existence?

Back in the 90s, the Government of Canada engaged Ottawa-based Linktek to create a set of software products designed to improve fiscal controls and eliminate overspending. The government was able to see the amount available for spending, using commitment accounting functions, in real-time. The calculation of budget less commitments and actuals is known as the “free balance”.

Linktek became so well known for “free balance” in real time that it rebranded as “FreeBalance”. Today FreeBalance is a global company working to bring about positive change in the world. Our story is one of diversity, inclusiveness, kindness, and respect. For more than 30 years we’ve worked to build a company to be proud of and a team that is committed to making a difference in the world.

How do you make FreeBalance stand out from the competition?

FreeBalance is unique in many ways, but perhaps the most important differentiators are:

Customer Centricity

Customer centricity is not just a buzz word for us. Our customers truly are at the core of everything we do. From our very first engagement our focus is on developing the solutions that are most relevant and that would be most effective for that specific country’s context. Best practices are not one size fits all solutions and, in our experience, don’t work. So, we take the time to thoroughly understand the issues and solve the problems. This ethos continues through both the implementation and support phases of all projects and even directs our business model which is built around driving down total cost of ownership. We believe that GRP systems should enable current and future PFM and transparency reform without being cost prohibitive.

Government Specialization

The FreeBalance team built the only smart management solution powered by, and built exclusively for, government. We co-create our systems together with our clients. We believe that our customers are the best people to decide what our product development roadmap should look like and so many years ago we set up the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC) which brings together customers to focus on relevant new technology and ideas for improving the management of public finances.

Global Reach

We are citizens of the world. With operations in 25+ countries and over 30 different nationalities in the team we work with the full range of governments from some of the world’s most fragile states to emerging economies to the G7. We pride ourselves on our diversity and are deeply committed to building local talent in the countries in which we operate.

High Configurability

There no code customization required for the FreeBalance Accountability Suite compared to traditional commercial off the shelf applications. Our government focus has enabled the creation of software that is massively configured. Business rules, processes, workflow, additional fields, help, and terminology are all adaptable without any coding. This means no scripting, call outs or code customization to support these features.

Fair and Financially Sustainable Pricing

Our pricing for turnkey Government Resource Planning (GRP) implementations tend to be lower than alternatives because of our customer-centric business model that limits long-term costs, post-modern software that adapts easier and faster to change, and because we use agile methods designed to acceleration implementations.

Manuel Schiappa Pietra: A Trusted Leader

Manuel Schiappa Pietra is a global executive and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of successful management experience in companies based in the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa and Latin America. He has a proven track record in building and running companies, from start-ups 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 provides direct oversight to the FreeBalance corporate and regional operations teams to ensure customer-centricity, quality, service, and optimal use of resources. Manuel is responsible for ensuring that FreeBalance fulfils its mission to help governments across the world leverage robust government financial management technology to accelerate country growth.

Manuel is a recipient of the ‘Next Generation Executive of the Year Award’ sponsored by the ‘Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation’ (OCRI) and in 2009 he led the company to win the prestigious ‘Canada Export Achievement Award’. FreeBalance was also recently named as one of the ten most renowned brands to watch in 2020 by Leaders Globe.

Manuel is also the Chairman of the WOHASU Foundation as well as Chairman of the H-20 Government Summit, the invitation-only ‘Government Meeting of the World Happiness Summit®’. Manuel spearheads the efforts to explore public policy innovation and wellbeing economics through a new perspective.

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.

“FreeBalance believes strongly in fiscal transparency and accountability. Our products help bring the power of open government to citizens and decision-makers around the world.”