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FOUR STEPS TO BETTER FINANCIAL REPORTING

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Rob Douglas

By Rob Douglas, Vice President, UKI & Nordics at Adaptive Insights

Many businesses are aware that their current financial reporting processes are not as effective as they could be. So much so that a CEB survey of accounting and finance professionals on their reporting skills found that only 46 percent believe they are effective in meeting stakeholder needs. For many finance teams, the reporting process is cumbersome. It includes manual gathering and verification of data, and re-keying and rolling up that data using spreadsheets. Dealing with a large number of spreadsheets means finance teams do not have the time they (and their bosses) would like to spend on analysing performance.

Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas

Yet finance is expected to play a strategic role, helping the organisation to drive performance. So, while change is hard, sticking with the same processes may be harder in the long run. By streamlining financial reporting processes, finance teams can free up time for the value-added analysis needed for strategic decision making.

Here are four steps to streamline financial reporting:

  1. Move financial data to the cloud

While spreadsheets are low-cost and easy to use, the time that staff spend on building reports comes at a cost to the business and ends up leaving money on the table. This is not least because staff have the pain of gathering data from a plethora of sources.Additionally, they are having to wait as staff from across the business manually integrates and reconciles data, creates and checks formulas, updates charts, and formats reports. Then there is the inevitable questions and change requests to come as the report or report book is circulated.

The first step towards effective financial reporting is to make all the relevant financial data available in the cloud. By making sure that data is not buried in separate reports and spreadsheets that need to be continuously hunted down, everyone involved can have easy access to only the most up-to-date information. This way, finance teams can spend more time making well-informed business decisions.

  1. Empower users with self-service

The more systems, people, and data in an organisation can all slow reporting down. Indeed, reporting that once took a few days, suddenly takes a few weeks. In addition, instead of two business analysts, it’s now four…or six…or eight or more. This can be attributed to two factors; having multiple systems that are not integrated and redundancy caused by users throughout the organisation that repeat the same data-gathering tasks.

One way to improve financial reporting processes is to empower users through self-service solutions. By allowing users to instantly retrieve the report they need themselves, instead of relying on others, they can have real-time access to business-critical data—and it does not matter how big the company gets. This is not only beneficial in terms of productivity, but also in terms of a business’ bottom line.

  1. Provide a single source of truth

Relying on manual, spreadsheet-based reporting exposes business to substantial risks, as it allows for minor errors to cause big problems. While time efficiency is a great asset to the reporting process, it will not be beneficial unless the quality of the financial data is robust.

According to Accenture, 84 percent of organisations struggle to guarantee the quality of their data*.One way for them to gain confidence in their data is to move all their hierarchies, calculations, data, and security to a place accessible by everyone who needs it. This way, if an error is detected, one person can correct it swiftly and in one place only. To put it simply, everyone has the same view and is checking the same data for quality.

  1. Work in concert with other departments

To make strategic business decisions based on the data available, finance teams can’t only look backwards. Instead, they should look at the entire picture, including the past, present, and future clearly and accurately.This means combining effective reporting and analysis with planning and forecasting. While this requires collaboration with other departments and teams, it is also critical to get a holistic view of the organisation. And, instead of constantly producing data, get everyone to agree on the same KPIs, metrics, calculations, and reports, streamlining the process.

Ultimately, finance teams play a strategic role in driving business performance, but manual financial reporting procedures are slowing them down. Leaders need to take stock of their processes and technology so that they can concentrate on what really matters—driving the business forward.

*https://sg.moorestephens.com/MediaLibsAndFiles/media/sg.moorestephens.com/Images/Adaptive_Path_To_Reporting_Nirvanapdf-V3-(A1)-compressed.pdf?ext=.pdf

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Oil rises as U.S. vaccine progress raises demand expectations

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Oil rises as U.S. vaccine progress raises demand expectations 1

By Shu Zhang

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Wednesday as signs of progress in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the United States, the world’s biggest consumer, raised demand expectations.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 15 cents, or 0.25%, to $59.90 a barrel by 0757 GMT, recovering from three days of losses.

Brent crude futures rose 24 cents, or 0.38%, to $62.94 a barrel after four days of losses.

“Ongoing stimulus measures, as COVID-19 vaccinations speed up, have boosted sentiment,” ANZ analysts wrote in a note.

The U.S. will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday after Merck & Co agreed to make rival Johnson & Johnson’s inoculation.

Futures were down earlier in the day amid uncertainty over how much supply the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, together called OPEC+, will restore to the market at its Thursday meeting and a big build in U.S. crude inventories

The OPEC+ meeting on Thursday comes at a time when producers are generally positive on the oil market outlook compared with a year ago when they slashed supply to boost prices.

The market widely expects OPEC+ to ease production cuts, which were the deepest ever, by about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), with OPEC’s leader, Saudi Arabia, ending its voluntary production cut of 1 million bpd.

Still, an OPEC+ technical committee document reviewed by Reuters called “for cautious optimism,” citing “the underlying uncertainties in the physical markets and macro sentiment, including risks from COVID-19 mutations that are still on the rise”.

Reinforcing concerns of potential oversupply, the American Petroleum Institute industry group reported U.S. crude stocks rose by 7.4 million barrels in the week to Feb. 26, in stark contrast to analysts’ estimates for a draw of 928,000 barrels. [API/S]

However, that build occurred while U.S. refining capacity was shut during the survey week because of cold weather in Texas. Refinery runs fell by 1.75 million bpd, the API data showed.

“The recent selloff may help reinforce Saudi’s cautious stance and delay any production increase,” said Stephen Innes, global market strategist at Axi.

“It’s probably something that could sway the OPEC+ increase more back toward the 500,000 bpd as opposed to the 1.5 million bpd,” he said.

(Reporting by Shu Zhang and Sonali Paul; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Christian Schmollinger)

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OPEC oil has advantage over U.S. shale during pandemic recovery

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OPEC oil has advantage over U.S. shale during pandemic recovery 2

By Jennifer Hiller

(Reuters) – The once-brash U.S. shale industry, which spent profusely in recent years to grab market share, is now focused on preserving cash, putting it at a disadvantage to low-cost OPEC producers as the global economy begins to gear up again.

Prior to the pandemic-induced downturn, OPEC countries led by Saudi Arabia restrained their production, eager to bolster prices to fund national budgets dependent on oil revenue. Shale drillers took advantage, boosting U.S. output to a record 13 million barrels a day.

But attendees of the year’s top energy conference made clear that even with a buoyant, $60-per-barrel oil price, shale will not come roaring back from the Covid-19 pandemic as it did from the 2016 downturn.

By contrast, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, has more than 7 million barrels of daily oil output sitting in reserve. This positions them to boost production much more easily than shale players for the first time in years.

The concern about free-wheeling shale companies taking advantage of OPEC’s output curbs led to a brief supply war in March 2020. Russia balked at a three-year agreement to extend production cuts, and Saudi Arabia responded by flooding the markets with oil, leading U.S. futures prices to slump to negative-$40 a barrel.

“Let’s face it. OPEC has had a very difficult time managing to accommodate the U.S. shale players and their ability to grow at low prices,” said IHS Markit analyst Raoul LeBlanc, adding that the key debate within OPEC is what oil price is just low enough to avoid a massive U.S. response.

The pandemic destroyed a fifth of global fuel demand, and numerous shale companies declared bankruptcy, while others arranged mergers to offload debt. Frustrated investors sent energy-related stocks slumping throughout 2020.

While shale executives expressed concern about reopening the wells too quickly, OPEC nations are expected to ease supply curbs at their meeting later this week, without having to look over their shoulder at shale.

“The worst thing that could happen is that U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” said ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Ryan Lance.

The market widely expects OPEC to ease production cuts, which were the deepest ever, by around 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), with OPEC’s leader, Saudi Arabia, ending its voluntary production cut of 1 million bpd. (Graphic: Pandemic ends U.S. oil output) climb) OPEC oil has advantage over U.S. shale during pandemic recovery 3

At CERAWeek, OPEC vs. shale is often discussed as a showdown between competing interests, but the dynamic of Texas vs. the Middle East is nearly invisible this year. Just one panel discussion in a five-day schedule focused on shale. Neither the Exxon or Chevron CEOs mentioned shale during their talks. Both companies have cut spending in the U.S. Permian Basin.

Crude on Tuesday topped $60 per barrel, up from $44.63 at the start of December, high enough to bolster U.S. producers’ earnings given recent cost cuts.

In the past, rising prices have enticed shale companies to ramp up production even after they promised prudence, and $60 oil would have once prompted companies to rush drilling rigs and frack fleets back to work. That is not happening now.

“They are not taking the bait,” LeBlanc said.

Private companies are likely to increase oilfield activity, but not enough to meaningfully boost U.S. output, said LeBlanc, adding that U.S. spending is likely to remain around $60 billion, flat with 2020, as companies prioritize shareholder returns.

“The severe drop in activity in the U.S. along with the high decline rates of shale and the pressure from investment community to maintain discipline instead of growth means in my view that shale will not get back to where it was in the U.S.,” said Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub.

(Reporting by Jennifer Hiller; additional reporting by Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar; editing by David Gaffen and David Gregorio)

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U.S. oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing – source

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U.S. oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing - source 4

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The American Petroleum Institute (API) is weighing endorsing a price on carbon emissions, a major shift after long resisting mandatory government climate policies, a source familiar with the decision making said.

The API, the main U.S. oil industry lobby group that includes most of the world’s biggest oil companies, is considering carbon pricing “among other policy solutions to reduce emissions and reach the ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” the source said, confirming a report about the policy shift by the Wall Street Journal.

The group is confronting its previous resistance to regulatory action on climate change amid a shift in industry strategy on the issue and the new U.S. presidency.

European member Total quit the group because of disagreements over API’s climate policies and support for easing drilling regulations and the Biden administration is pursuing a policy agenda that would shift the United States from fossil fuels.

A draft statement of the policy shift reviewed by the Wall Street Journal said the group does not endorse a specific carbon pricing tool such as a tax on carbon emissions or emissions trading scheme. The source said, however, that the group’s State of American Energy report released in January was supportive of a market-based carbon pricing policy.

The API did not comment on whether or when the group would formally endorse a price on carbon but said it has been working for nearly a year on an industry-wide response to climate change.

“Our efforts are focused on supporting a new U.S. contribution to the global Paris agreement,” said API spokeswoman Megan Bloomgren.

Within API, there has been a widening rift between Europe’s top energy companies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-total-api/frances-total-quits-top-u-s-oil-lobby-in-climate-split-idUSKBN29K1LM, which over the past year accelerated plans to cut emissions and build large renewable energy businesses, and their U.S. rivals Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp that have resisted growing investor pressure to diversify.

Other major industry groups like the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-business-carbonpricing/u-s-ceo-group-says-it-supports-carbon-pricing-to-fight-climate-change-idUSKBN2672W4, which includes Chevron, over the last year have endorsed market-based carbon pricing.

Chevron said it has engaged those groups and API “to support well-designed carbon pricing.”

“We support economy-wide carbon pricing as the primary policy tool to address climate change, applied across the broadest possible area to maximize environmental and economic efficiency and effectiveness,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said in an e-mailed statement.

BP and Shell declined to comment.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Christian Schmollinger)

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