How outsourcing to a virtual CFO function boosted Keystone Trust’s efficiency, transparency, and decision-making ability.


Keystone Trust has been assisting young people with financial and circumstantial need to study at tertiary level towards a career in the property and construction sector for more than 25 years.

As the Trust started to develop and grow, a more fulsome, robust financial structure was required.

That’s where SMYD entered the picture. Initially helping Keystone Trust to get their financial accounting systems up to scratch and online in XERO, rather than relying on outdated paper based accounting systems.

Now SMYD has also taken on a virtual CFO role to support the Trust at a financial management and board governance level. This ensures those in the Trust have the full financial picture to aid sound financial decision making.

“Whenever a Charitable Trust has to make a financial decision, it’s imperative that everything is really well managed,” says Amanda Stanes, General Manager at Keystone Trust.

“What Jason and Conrad from SMYD have done is to support us to develop the financial frameworks and accounting infrastructure so that we can ensure our young people – our students – can be fully supported throughout their study.

“SMYD’s oversight means we can ensure we’ve got the income to support our students. We’ve got that three year sight line into our future, because of the processes they helped us to put in place.

“They also provide regular updates on the profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow positions.

“So we’ve got a lot more checks and balances in place than we used to have, which is good,” she adds.

Transparency is vital

For charitable trusts, it’s important to have reliable accounting systems and clear processes so that sponsorship and grant money can be easily tracked and accounted for.

This makes it much easier for charitable trusts to stay focused on their mission, doing the work that will make an impact, rather than struggling to juggle the financial responsibilities that come with running a not-for-profit.

That’s why SMYD loves to help not-for-profits to bring their accounting systems up to scratch and provide wrap-around virtual CFO services.

“There’s a lot of stakeholders that look at a not-for-profit. It’s a far different and far broader range of stakeholders than those looking at a for-profit company,” says Amanda.

“For example, sponsors or potential sponsors, have every right to come to me and ask what percentage of our income has been used to support the students, and whether we can justify it.

“I need to be able to get the answer quickly and easily. And most importantly, have full confidence in the answer too.

“It’s important for our sponsors to see and feel that we’re not spending all our money on admin or other stuff that doesn’t end up contributing directly to our students.

“The frameworks and systems we have in place now help us to show a direct line of sight between their sponsorship fund and a student. That’s definitely key.

“Additionally, our audit processes no longer feel like we’re chasing our tails like we did when we had a paper based system.

“Now, it’s all online. It’s so much simpler and cheaper, which is even better still, because our auditors don’t have to charge us as much money, which is good for the Trust.”

Virtual CFO supports increases confidence at Board level

Part of SMYD’s virtual CFO support includes attending Keystone Trust’s board meetings via Zoom.

“To have the support of someone like Jason, for me as the GM is just invaluable. 

“He and I meet a couple of days prior to a board meeting and we discuss our strategy and the key points we believe are important for the Board to understand. His skill set is the numbers, mine is the story behind the numbers so we make a good partnership.

“Because he video calls into our meetings, he can have all the budgets and everything there electronically, so he can immediately advise how certain decisions will have an impact on cash flow.

“Being able to have that immediate response at a board meeting gives our Board the confidence that we’re on to it. That we’re thinking about forward planning and the implications.

“Jason knows what board members are looking for. He knows that boards are typically risk averse and that we need to show that it’s safe for them to make decisions.

Efficiency reduces workload and stress

One of the key benefits Amanda highlighted is how much more efficient it has been to partner with SMYD as the Trust’s virtual CFO rather than trying to keep on top of their financial needs alone.

“We needed a new bookkeeper and Jason had the contacts to help us find the right person,” explains Amanda.

“It’s absolutely more efficient for Jason to reach out through his network and do the shortlisting before I got involved and managed the final interviews.

“He keeps up-to-date with all the information on XERO and the sector’s financial compliance needs and so forth. That means we don’t have to go out and do the research to figure out what’s changed because he will keep us advised with what’s happening in accounting practice.

“It means I’m not losing sleep over it!

“Jason has just completely changed the way that we are able to operate.

“He’s not your stereotypical accountant, there’s no cardigan. The way he runs his company, the people that he employs, and his commitment to Keystone – he’s really quite unique.”

Keen to find out if SMYD’s virtual CFO position is right for your charitable trust or not for profit? Let’s hop on a call and we can explain exactly how we’ll help you to stride towards its mission with financial confidence.