Prior to joining Alteryx, I worked in investment banking. The primary part of my job was to support the Finance function with their regulatory reports and reconciliation of their financial statements. I quickly came to the realisation that:
So, let’s explore some of these realisations...
Image Source: Corporate Finance Institution
My day would start around 8am in the office where I would check whether the correct data (required for the daily reports and contributing to the financial statements) had come in from various systems to support my internal customers. It wouldn’t end until I helped them meet their report submission deadlines (by 10pm the same day each day). During the day, I would be completely involved in some of the tasks described in the image above to help Run the Bank (standard Business as Usual) with little or no time to focus on what we would called Change the Bank (be innovative, introduce efficiencies, etc).
So, Why the Long Hours?
Previously, Corporate and Banking environments would have long development lifecycles (for example, 3 months) and IT would have a backlog of requests for data – this has improved today, but still exist. With the financial analysts having daily deadlines, they developed their own desktop solutions in Excel. These are known as EUDAs (end-user developed applications), and let’s put it this way – they had a total of 800 to run daily.
The analysts were under pressure and needed to apply many manual adjustments (manual changes to correct the data) to the numbers ensuring validation and reconciliation based on what they knew about the Business. The number of EUDAs would increase and by the time I introduced some form of automation using internal applications; my processes were out of date. What I call tactical solutions, the EUDAs were Excel based and would reside on the analysts’ laptops. This would bring a number of risks, but the numbers were crunched and the reports out of the door.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
The balance sheet contains a lot of important information, to help the organisation know how it is doing as a Business or support decisions when making investments, etc. It is a snapshot of assets and liabilities at a single point of time and many types of data from various sources contribute to the final numbers, so this can mean blending these together into one flow / single version of the truth, before applying adjustments / rules / eliminations and populating a defined format / output. A typical manual process would look like this:
Image Source: Investopedia
The Road of Reconciliations
This is an important step in every financial process, and I helped implement logic / processes to allow the analysts to perform these with ease to ensure their reports reflect the correct information and to avoid fines for the organisations they work for. These are usually done at every step and reports are usually kept up-to-date daily, weekly, monthly, etc., depending on the data volumes involved. Some basic types of essential reconciliations are bank accounts reconciliation (bank ledger vis-a-vis bank statement), vendor reconciliation (vendor ledger vis-a-vis vendor’s books), inter-company reconciliations, and credit card reconciliations. Apart from these, internal reconciliations should also be done. These reconciliations include quantity reconciliation of closing stock, cost of goods sold reconciliations, etc.
Balance Sheet reconciliation can help organisations identify and correct errors before they submit their filings. This is just one example; however organisations need to adopt a continuous improvement process with a goal of reconciling all accounts before any further reviews or submissions take place. As Finance begin to better understand the role balance sheet account reconciliations can play in detecting and preventing financial statement misstatements, significant deficiencies, and material weaknesses, they will see the need to improve both the timing and overall quality of these reconciliations. If they are able to make these improvements, they then can use reconciliations to compensate for the failure of primary controls as well as to detect and prevent deficiencies and material weaknesses.
Analytics and Automation
It is great to see that the banks I have worked at have introduced further methods of analytics and automation. Many or nearly all CFOs in organisations now have strategic targets to reduce or decommission manual processes and introduce solutions that allow repeatability and efficiency. With this comes time and cost savings as well as accuracy and gives them a chance to Change the Bank.
Such areas greatly support and assist financial analysts along with those who support them (business teams that I was part of, Internal Audit, Risk/Compliance and even IT).
As a result of leveraging the Alteryx Analytic Process Automation Platform for a number of years, in organisations that I have worked for, and clients that I support currently, I’d like to show you how to:
Come join me to learn how you can Automate+Optimise Balance Sheet Analysis on 22 September 2021 where I will show you how the Alteryx Analytic Process Automation Platform can help you achieve the above and more.
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