Finance departments are notoriously challenging areas in which to implement and measure change.
The composition of work in a finance department is often different from that of other areas. Finance teams tend to be more formal and mature, the work requires more investigation and analysis and is more concentrated over a reporting period. Also, the culture and composition of employees in finance teams may also cultivate an environment naturally resistant to change.
In this case study we look at a change project in the finance area of a global insurer, and how the particular challenges of the client were addressed to produce sustainable and measurable results.
Client introduction and background
Our Operational Excellence consultants worked within the Finance Change team of a global life insurance and asset management company. This team had been set up to manage the changes within the finance department.
Through the Finance Change team, we engaged with a number of teams at the UK Head Office, including Financial Reporting, Financial Operations, Business Intelligence & Reporting and Actuarial.
In addition to these teams, our consultants also engaged with the other finance teams in London and across Europe.
The client required assistance in implementing the following changes in the Finance Department:
- New reduced cost targets.
- Centralisation of finance functions (from various UK and European sites to one UK site).
- Implementation of a new group reporting tool.
- Reduction of the lead time of Financial Reporting cycles.
- Improvement in the quality of delivery.
In order to ensure the ultimate success of the transformation project, our consultants initially needed to lay a solid foundation as a starting point. The steps needed to achieve this were to:
- Introduce the principles and key tools of operations management.
- Embed operations management within the teams and establish a consistent approach.
- Engage the full finance team in continuous improvement activities.
- Provide Lean/CI training to the managers & team leaders, followed by training for all team members.
- Deliver bespoke work stream presentations to the individual teams.
Once the individual work streams had been completed, our consultants maintained a presence within the finance department, working with the Finance Change team on site.
Building on the initial foundations, the teams were unified within finance and the way of working was standardised by:
- Introducing a Finance Reporting Board and daily huddles (short, focused meetings in which to make operational decisions), attended by representatives from each team.
- Working with the Finance Change team to assist teams with process improvement.
- Re-visiting operations management.
- Creating visual representation of the complete end-to-end reporting timetable.
Our consultants also worked with the other finance functions in London and across Europe to capture their knowledge with regards to the tasks to be moved to the central finance function. This included mapping current processes and working with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).
The following approach was employed in order to achieve the desired outcome:
- Created workstreams of 6 weeks for each team, with two Lean specialists per workstream.
- Sat within the teams to be ‘part of the team’ for the duration of each work stream, fostering trust with those affected by the change.
- Completed a workstream charter with each team manager. This charter details the problem statement, the goals, the scope of the project and the stakeholders.
Each workstream had a standard structure for the six weeks, covering areas such as visual workflows showing team specific timetable and tasks, skills matrix and training plans, capacity planning and coaching and support.
Results and benefits
Established a culture of continuous improvement, eliminating waste and improving quality:
- The client has seen a reduction in paid overtime by eliminating wasteful activities.
- Challenging demand drivers i.e. those things that cause a spike in workload.
- Headcount reduction – absorbed three FTE’s worth of work from the consolidation team in Sweden and ran it with one FTE in the UK.
- Improved quality; now regularly achieve a score of 100% from Group for data quality and responsiveness (previous average was 60%).
- Embedded operations management, and coached and supported managers and team leaders in Lean Operations.
- Ultimately this assists with the day to day delivery and has improved communication across finance. It also supports skills development and capacity planning, and directly contributes to restructuring efficiencies.
Significant contribution to large finance projects:
- Facilitated the finance reporting timetable initiative (a total reduction of 4 days).
- Knowledge capture to support activity migration from Europe and London.
- Process capture and design for new system developments.
Finance and Commercial Director
We knew that process improvement would enable us to speed up our reporting. The pleasant surprise was that operations management has initiated a change in our culture. Finance now feels more vibrant, and we are restless to improve what we do.
If you need support with implementing change to the way your actuarial or finance teams operate, contact us to discuss your specific challenges and requirements.
Image (c) Shutterstock | IR Stone
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