Caroline Plumb, founder and CEO of Fluidly, talks to Accounting Insight editor Ian Moss about her life and accounting times.
The here and now….
What are your favourite early career memories, Caroline?
Starting a business aged 21 and pretending we had a switchboard, building the first computers, finding my first customers and growing it! Oh and beckoning over Richard Branson in a restaurant to ask for business advice….
How did you get into this business?
After running my first business for 15 years I was fed up with late payments, forecasting cashflow on spreadsheets and receiving endless offers of finance when all I wanted was better working capital in the form of my debtors paying! I also really missed technology having studied engineering and always loved knowing how things worked, so I spotted an opportunity to use data and AI to predict and optimise cashflow and decided to start another business! (I’m still non-exec in my first, but it’s grown so much it really didn’t need me any more!)
What can accountants and finance professionals learn from you, in a nutshell!?
I’ll be sharing what AI is – demystifying some of the terminology like machine learning or deep learning – and talking about how we can put it to practical use in finance and accounting. Plus hosting a panel with awesome speakers like Heather Townsend, Paul Bulpitt and Steven Kühn on the role of real-time for advisory.
Does the idea of information overload concern you?
There is such a lot of information today but I find it exciting knowing that an answer is out there! You certainly don’t have to know it all or feel overloaded – the skills that matter today are about knowing what you don’t know (and how to find out the answer) and having curiosity to experiment and explore new ideas.
What’s on the horizon for you and the sector?
New capabilities powered by new technology! At Fluidly we like to think we’re building an autopilot for business finances. Autopilots continuously monitor all sensors, plot a course, dynamically optimise and alert to upcoming threats. Importantly, they don’t take away from human pilots – they are always in charge and always required – but they provide new powers and possibilities. I think systems of intelligence like Fluidly will do the same for business finances – starting with getting paid faster and forecasting cashflow.
What are your expectations for Accountex 2018?
Bigger and better than ever before I’m sure! There’s so much happening now, unlocked by new services and more access to data. Exciting times ahead!
Where did you grow up?
Were you any good at maths at school?
I love maths! And I went on to study engineering at university which used a lot of maths in a more pragmatic way.
What’s your favourite film? (you’re allowed more than one)
Impossible to even narrow it down, not least because I’m hopeless at remembering films and their plots. I’m more of a Netflix box set girl!
What’s your favourite book? (you’re allowed more than one)
My favourite business book lately is Play Bigger by Al Ramadan and others. It’s a great book on category creation and disruptive innovation.
What’s your favourite type of music?
Anything I can do ridiculous dancing to late at night with friends.
What’s your ideal day out?
By the sea with my family and kids throwing stones in the water and looking for pretty shells.
What’s your ideal holiday?
Multiple ideal days out (see above!) in a row!
Is money the root of all evil?
As Virginia Woolf said – a woman must have money and a room of her own.
Do you support a football team?
The Claygate Royals U7s
Caroline will be delivering a session on AI at Accountex on Wednesday 23 May at 12noon, and taking part in a real-time advisory panel discussion on Thursday at 3pm.