4th November was the day!
On this date, the entire FIIT Consulting was present at Apt Connect21.
The organizers have reported roughly 400 attendants but in case you didn’t make it – we have something for you!
Our upcoming post series will be focused on highlights from that event.
The opening session gathered superb digital transformation leaders:
- James Clatworthy, IFRS 17 Data & Systems Lead, Aviva Group Plc
- Nancy Moore, Senior Finance Leader OneAmerica
- Kristina Reid, Partner – Performance Improvement, EY
- Julie Girard, Head of Product Innovation and Strategy, Aptitude Software
- The discussion was moderated by Christophe Kasolowsky, EVP, Product Innovation and Strategy
Challenges of CFO office and finance function
Today, finance is dealing with achieving profitable growth and how to provide business leaders data to accomplish it. What are the best distribution channels? Can we have more visibility on how we’re making money? These are typical questions Nancy Moore from OneAmerica would have to deal with.
Another view was presented by James Clatworthy. He identified 4 operational challenges Aviva is currently tackling:
- Digitization: there is a relentless focus on digitizing the customer journey
- Cost reduction: obviously this one has been around for a long time but it’s still here!
- A new entrant into the list: climate change and how it impacts reporting and finance processes
- The immense pressure to do more work with fewer people, quicker.
Cristina Reid added that today, more than ever, EY recognizes the need for imposing data as a mindset approach. This corresponded well with Julie Girard’s observation on increased dependency on technology and that the customers are extremely eager to automate. These days, it’s possible to do more as technological supply partners with increased quality.
Constraints of finance transformation programs
Finance functions want to transform. How do clients look at configuring business cases so that they can deliver on the business cases they’re setting out?
EY has come across lots of types of questions throughout the year 2021. More and more companies are trying to get additional value out of these projects. So, the business case has to articulate the narrative we’re focusing on. It’s not anymore “I want to replace ledger and it is the cost of doing business, we have to accept it.” It’s more about asking yourself the right questions e.g. “What do we value more? A cost avoidance? Or having analytics as a driver?”
James Clatworthy explained that Aviva wanted to comply with IFRS17, but also thought about how they can “tick some other boxes.” Would it be possible to speed up their working timetable and report more frequently? As IFRS17 needs more granular data, they needed to understand their entries at a granular level. As soon as they do, they can help businesses more.
One important remark from Nancy Moore was that keeping a business case a living document holds us accountable for the money we get to invest.
How do people skills come into overcoming constraints of the finance transformation programs process?
Many EY customers have been asking themselves: “Do we have the right talent for the future?” We live in a time where finance aims at reducing time spent on manual touchpoints and moving towards thinking more about analytics. Finance leaders are trying to figure out how they can add value by attempting to find a balance between traditional accounting positions vs. technology positions.
Some interesting insights about teamwork came from James Clatworthy. He stated that, traditionally, insurance wasn’t discussed among people in the industry. But defining best practices and trying to solve common industry challenges has made insurance companies come together and work more closely in a team-oriented manner. It’s definitely one of the implications of IFRS17.
Nancy Moore shared that OneAmerica traditionally did much of manual reconciliations work. But a way to adjust for the future was to avoid hiring unnecessary accountants and monitoring the ratio of compilation vs. analytics people. OneAmerica’s tech investments go alongside having a workforce transition side program. It’s obvious we need to educate people on every new technology applied so it all goes together smoothly.
Changes in operating models in finance transformation programs
For Aviva, IFRS17 noticeably changed their operating model i.e. different new calculations required from now on. The insurer is currently using an offshore provider and analysing what activity can be put there. There’s definitely a lot of pressure to act quicker.
Cristina Reid highlighted that multiple-year implementations will simply not work anymore. Most of the finance customers are asking now “How can we get incremental value and realize benefits as we go along?” That sets up new expectations on the operating model.
How does technology allow us to have different transformations than before?
For Aviva, a fundamental underline stretch is to have all the data in the data cleanroom. Whether it’s actuarial data from profit models, accounting data, investments data or manuals data – the goal is to have everything in the same place. You can imagine how challenging a task that is, knowing Aviva had approx. 40 old admin systems. But once the data is in the cleanroom, you can either match it or shoot it to the AAH calculator to make proper operations – which is a fundamental difference versus the old process.
The state of ledger vs. sub-ledger discussion
James Clatworthy: “We extract all the right info from ledger…” but you need to ask yourself a question whether “…hold it on data cleanroom or ledger?” Having both is the best option, but it is the most expensive. As we discussed Aviva’s case, data is stored on AWS but “you can spend a fortune on AWS “.
EY looks first at the target state and wants to understand what capabilities customers need. In case business aims at more granular data and taking the human out of operational perspective then, most likely, it’s about taking the sub-ledger path. But it’s crucial to have a broader conversation first.
New technology directions noticed by finance leaders
Dealing with tons of data. That’s one of the reasons why OneAmerica was looking for configured tools that have the dimensions they needed. Having a preconfigured place for their data allows improvements in data organization, accounting verification and how the data is being exposed.
Aviva also utilizes new approaches in exposing data. Their choice is to click on top of their database, so people will self-service – which ultimately is more efficient and much quicker.
CFOs can become a catalyst for change
There was a question from the audience “How can we make sure CFOs are becoming a catalyst of a change?”
Nancy Moore responded that if finance leaders could orchestrate operations into more self–service, this would impose change and people would not need to come around to reporting teams.
James Clatworthy pointed out that finance has moved from being only a compliance function. Now it has to support the business more broadly so they get better quality data and analytics. IFRS17 helps us because it forces us to reorganize the way we provide data and type of it.
Cristina Reid ended with a statement that CFO can become a catalyst for bringing down silos – as this function can see patterns and look more from an organizational perspective. Thus, EY encourages CFOs to start talking to business leaders about what kind of consistency they want, how much insight they need and what are the best ways to open dialogue with their business partners.
If you’d like to get support in your future finance transformation program please take a look at our testimonials here https://fiit-consulting.com/case-study/ and take advantage of our free consultations here: https://fiit-consulting.com/free-consultation/