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HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP CFOS STAY IN CONTROL OF THE FINANCIAL REPORTING PROCESS

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HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP CFOS STAY IN CONTROL OF THE FINANCIAL REPORTING PROCESS

By Nick Nesbitt, Managing Director at Tagetik UK

Today’s finance organisations are riddled with fragmented manual processes and CFOs are increasingly concerned about undetected errors (including their own), lack of collaboration and accountability and inefficient workflow.

Nick Nesbitt

Nick Nesbitt

Last minute changes and inconsistent information are two major causes for errors. Too many finance functions rely on data collected during in-person meetings and often from more than 6 different sources.

Yet, manual processes are not the only problem. Multiple contributors, compliance demands and mounting deadlines add to the stress too.

So, how can finance teams best manage their external reporting process and avoid errors? The answer may well lie with technology.

Getting your processes right

Producing the company results is a time consuming and highly stressful exercise which unfortunately doesn’t end when financial statements get approved. There is still the process of communicating the results to your stakeholders, from the executive team to the board of directors, investors and regulators.

And they want more than just accurate numbers. They also want to read the story that the numbers tell about the business. If this weren’t enough, each stakeholder has a different point of view and this makes it challenging and potentially risky to meet the needs of everyone.

Communicating with external stakeholders involves different departments across a company, from finance to HR, Risk, IT, etc. and can take different forms that can either be a press release, an investor deck or a board book.

When data is manually inserted into a system, there is always a degree of risk involved. If numbers from disparate, incompatible operating systems or applications need to be recombined into another, versioning issues arise. Questions may be raised concerning accuracy and even the objectivity of data may come into question if it passes through too many layers of hands.

It’s the finance team’s responsibility to pull together all the data from the various departments. The problem is, finance doesn’t own the data so tracking it down can be time consuming and error-prone.

Workflows and audit trails increase accountability and decrease risk. It is therefore essential to give the content and consumers of your reports alignment, accuracy and confidence.

Conclusion

The worst part of the reporting process is that is has to be done over and over again. It’s not a one-off operation but instead happens every month and every quarter. It’s a time consuming, manual and repetitive process that takes away from other value-added activities.

And the reliance on manual processes can lead to a lack of data consistency and control. With regulatory mandates intensifying the need for change, having the right systems and processes in place in the form of a reliable, unified corporate performance management platform, can be the solution to reporting process headaches and a cure for CFOs sleeplessness.

The right platform shouldn’t require major technology investments or significant process redesign as you should be able to easily map it into your existing IT architecture.

Automating your reporting process means having one source for multiple reports, one database for accuracy and consistency, a repeatable process that saves time and resources, the financial intelligence to ensure accuracy and workflow to manage many people across many departments.

An effective unified system should enable all the above allowing you to communicate your numbers to all your stakeholders accurately, timely and simply and, by doing so, to reduce your financial reporting risks.Automate and turn your data into a winning reporting process for your company.

Box out: John Hancock/Manulife case study

The Challenge

Manulife, a leading financial services group based in Canada, acquired US insurance leader John Hancock in 2004 to become one of the largest insurance companies in the world. With different processes and regulations in North America, it was increasingly difficult to manage all of the reporting so, in 2011 the organisation began to focus on how to improve financial reporting processes across entities. Challenges included multiple reporting requirements and a reliance on manual processes. For example, data provided by decentralised business units for the same footnote needed to be consolidated manually. To add to the complexity, finance teams in each country were using different processes. The Canada team used embedded Excel files while the US team manually updated all numbers and text, resulting in an inconsistent financial statements reporting process. Another problem was that only one user at a time could update a document.

The Objectives

In September 2011, the company formed a project team to identify a set of goals and begin the search for an automated reporting solution. The plan was to implement a solution in 2012 for the John Hancock unit in the US and roll out to parent company Manulife in 2013.

The team’s overarching objective was to simplify the financial reporting process. A critical goal was to create one source of the truth for producing all financial statements. The reporting solution also had to integrate with Lawson’s general ledger system. The project team also wanted to ensure consistency and standardisation across all financial reports without error-prone and time-consuming manual work.

The Solution

In January 2012, the company selected a Collaborative Disclosure Management (CDM) solution with advanced functionality.

In March 2012, the team documented and reviewed business requirements and implemented the CDM in a test environment. Next, the team began testing, building reports and training. The company also established a working group of super users, including IT and financial reporting personnel.

In May 2012, the CDM software was officially implemented. Leveraging the existing Lawson general ledger system and Essbase database management system, the team created a second data mart so that all financial information could be uploaded into a central repository. Over the following months the project team focused on generating nine reports, which included multiple sets of audited US GAAP statements, audited statutory reports which are filed with insurance regulators and National Association of Insurance Commissioner (NAIC), and unaudited footnotes included in regulatory filings with insurance regulators and NAIC. Within six months, the company had trained staff, created all requirements and started generating financial statements.

In early 2013, the organization began using the CDM for additional John Hancock reports, including multiple sets of management discussion and analysis (MD&A) required by the NAIC and insurance regulators as well as internal quarterly management reporting for the audit committees and board of directors. By the end of 2013, 96 people at John Hancock were accessing the software and the finance team was producing reports involving three different basis of accounting methods and 15 legal entities.

In addition, Manulife began using the CDM to produce its annual and quarterly interim financial statements. By early 2014, Manulife was also using the CDM for the MD&A in its quarterly reports to shareholders and for its press releases.

Benefits

Today, John Hancock/Manulife has a central repository for all financial reporting information. The data collection process is much simpler and the organisation has a more controlled environment where users know exactly where to go. The CDM also allows to continuously monitor the data with built-in checks to make sure it balances before anything is uploaded from the general ledger.

Processes are much more streamlined and standardised. For example, business areas have standard templates that allow them to update their data during the quarterly or annual close process, resulting in greater consistency across financial statements.

The organisation has developed a very strong group of expert users on North America’s finance teams. The group’s efficiency has helped expedite the management review process and has significantly reduced reporting time. For example, the team was able to issue John Hancock’s 2013 financial statements four days earlier than issued in 2012.

Going forward, the project roadmap includes leveraging the CDM’s linking functionality between various Manulife reports and utilising the software’s XBRL capabilities and implementing new job scheduling functionality. So many reports run back-to-back and these can take 15 to 30 minutes each to run. The CDM helped create a scheduling function that actually will allow jobs to run overnight. When the team arrives in the morning, financial statements will be updated and ready for management to review. 

Nick Nesbitt – Managing Director

An established and seasoned consulting services leader, skilled in creating, running and leading successful Performance Management delivery and implementation.

Nick has worked in the CPM market space for approximately 18 years after starting his career in accounting with Arthur Andersen.  The last 10 years have seen Nick operate as a consulting leader, managing large CPM technology practices in supporting and delivering software vendor solutions, most notably Cognos and Hyperion.  His career has incorporated working for a number of the large SI consultancies, specifically Accenture and IBM Global Business Services, where he was involved in selling and delivering software and consulting solutions across a wide range of industry sectors.  His role at Tagetik has seen Tagetik UK & Ireland grow substantially in terms of successful new customers and software and consulting revenues.  Most recently, Tagetik UK & Ireland was awarded Tagetik Best Performing Business Operation for the second year running.

Business

Audi aims to sell one million cars in China in 2023

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Audi aims to sell one million cars in China in 2023 1

BEIJING (Reuters) – German premium automaker Audi aims to sell 1 million vehicles in China in 2023, versus 726,000 vehicles in 2020, the brand’s China chief Werner Eichhorn said on Wednesday.

Audi, which is making cars in the world’s biggest auto market with FAW Group, will also add more products in China, Eichhorn said. Audi’s rivals include Daimler and BMW.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarka

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Netflix forecasts an end to borrowing binge, shares surge

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Netflix forecasts an end to borrowing binge, shares surge 2

By Lisa Richwine and Eva Mathews

(Reuters) – Netflix Inc said on Tuesday its global subscriber rolls crossed 200 million at the end of 2020 and projected it will no longer need to borrow billions of dollars to finance its broad slate of TV shows and movies.

Shares of Netflix rose nearly 13% in extended trading as the financial milestone validated the company’s strategy of going into debt to take on big Hollywood studios with a flood of its own programming in multiple languages.

The world’s largest streaming service had raised $15 billion through debt in less than a decade. On Tuesday, the company said it expected free cash flow to break even in 2021, adding in a letter to shareholders, “We believe we no longer have a need to raise external financing for our day-to-day operations.”

Netflix said it will explore returning excess cash to shareholders via share buybacks. It plans to maintain $10 billion to $15 billion in gross debt.

“This is in sharp contrast to Disney and many other new entrants into the streaming market who expect to lose money on streaming for the next few years,” said eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom.

From October to December, Netflix signed up 8.5 million new paying streaming customers as it debuted widely praised series “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Bridgerton,” a new season of “The Crown” and the George Clooney film “The Midnight Sky.”

The additions topped Wall Street estimates of 6.1 million, according to Refinitiv data, despite increased competition and a U.S. price increase. Fourth-quarter earnings per share of $1.19 missed analyst expectations of $1.39.

With the new customers, Netflix’s worldwide membership reached 203.7 million. The company that pioneered streaming in 2007 added more subscribers in 2020 than in any other year, boosted by viewers who stayed home to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

COMPETITION HEATS UP

Now, Netflix is working to add customers around the globe as big media companies amp up competition. Walt Disney Co in December unveiled a hefty slate of new programming for Disney+, while AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros scrapped the traditional Hollywood playbook by announcing it would send all 2021 movies straight to HBO Max alongside theaters.

Disney said in December it had already signed up 86.8 million subscribers to Disney+ in just over a year.

“It’s super-impressive what Disney’s done,” Netflix Co-Chief Executive Reed Hastings said in a post-earnings analyst interview. Disney’s success, he added, “gets us fired up about increasing our membership, increasing our content budget.”

Netflix said most of its growth last year – 83% of new customers – came from outside the United States and Canada. Forty-one percent joined from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

For January through March, Netflix projected it would sign up 6 million more global subscribers, behind analyst expectations of roughly 8 million.

Revenue for the fourth quarter rose to $6.64 billion compared with $5.47 billion a year ago, edging past estimates of $6.63 billion.

Net income fell to $542.2 million, or $1.19 per share, from $587 million, or $1.30 per share, a year earlier.

Netflix shares jumped 12.5% to $564.32 in extended trading on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Matthew Lewis)

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MGM Resorts drops takeover plan for Ladbrokes-owner Entain

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MGM Resorts drops takeover plan for Ladbrokes-owner Entain 3

By Tanishaa Nadkar

(Reuters) – Casino operator MGM Resorts International on Tuesday ditched plans to buy Ladbrokes owner Entain after the British company rejected an $11 billion takeover approach this month, sending Entain’s shares down nearly 12%.

The United States is seen as the next big growth market for sports betting, spawning a series of transatlantic partnerships tapping in to European technology and expertise. These include Caesars Entertainment agreeing last September to buy William Hill in a 2.9 billion-pound deal.

MGM said it would not submit a revised proposal or make a firm offer for Entain, which had said the approach announced two weeks ago significantly undervalued its business.

Entain shares closed down 11.9% at around 12.44 pounds in London. MGM shares were up 2.5% at $30.54 in New York trading late on Tuesday afternoon.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with MGM to drive further success in the United States through the BetMGM joint venture,” Entain said in a statement.

Online betting firms have benefited during the COVID-19 pandemic-led lockdowns, as customers took to playing from home when casinos and betting shops were off-limits.

MGM had previously said a merger with the British bookmaker would be compelling and believed a deal would help expand BetMGM, which the two have operated since 2018.

The proposal, on the basis of 0.6 MGM share for each Entain share, was also backed by billionaire Barry Diller’s IAC. It valued Entain shares at 13.83 pence each when it was first announced.

Complicating matters, Entain Chief Executive Officer Shay Segev decided to step down just seven months into the role and in the middle of negotiations with MGM to take a job with sports streaming service DAZN.

Segev’s departure, as well as limited engagement in talks shown by Entain and a difference in price expectations between the two sides, led MGM to decide to walk away from the deal, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Entain, previously known as GVC, has itself expanded rapidly through a series of acquisitions and owns the bwin, Coral and Eurobet brands, operating traditional British high street betting shops as well as offering online gambling.

“While we are genuinely surprised MGM didn’t up its consideration … we don’t think this changes MGM’s ability to secure equity value enhancing benefits from the attractively growing US sports betting and iGaming pie,” JP Morgan analysts said.

The brokerage said it would not rule out further discussions with Entain depending on how the company shareholders reacted, adding it would be tough for someone else to buy Entain given so much potential equity value coming from the 50/50 BetMGM joint venture.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Joshua Franklin in Miami; Editing by Keith Weir and Matthew Lewis)

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