Unum Team,

an insurance plan enterprise stated in the Fortune 500, brought in new reporting technological innovation and other tools to minimize the amount of time its finance staff commit on knowledge entry and consolidating transactions.


which has a tiny more than 500 people today in its finance business, is doing work toward slashing the time allocated for handbook processing responsibilities to 20%, down from about 50% at the moment.

Main Money Officer

Steve Zabel

talks about how the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based firm bought rid of spreadsheets, what he needs occupation candidates to bring and why finance chiefs engage in an critical function in promoting automation endeavours. This is the fifth section of a series that focuses on how CFOs and other executives digitize their finance operations. Edited excerpts comply with.

WSJ: What are the significant techniques you took as a corporation to modernize your finance functionality?

Mr. Zabel: The to start with move we took was all over some of our actuarial money circulation styles. We make use of those to do pricing and forecasting and actually every thing around [financial performance]. We began that back in 2013 and we’ve now cycled as a result of all of our solutions and bought [them] on a regular platform. Then, in 2017, we applied two things which ended up truly practical. We introduced in a new normal ledger and we place in a [configurable reporting technology]. We do all of our monetary reporting off of that.

What that permitted us to do is at the corporate amount get rid of all the consolidation, all the spreadsheets. Step two has been to now look at the accounting processes that we have and get started to apply much more particular automation technological know-how.

WSJ: What are your critical objectives?

Mr. Zabel: There is a number of points, [including] the good quality of the function that our folks are carrying out. It’s them [having to] devote much less time compiling info for the purpose of creating journal entries and also compiling details just to do essential reporting. So shifting them from that form of get the job done to much more evaluation and doing the job with our products strains. It’s a very competitive atmosphere for talent. No matter what we can do to make it a additional fulfilling practical experience for workforce is likely to enable us in the lengthy operate.

WSJ: Is there an estimate how considerably time your staff members help you save with these new systems?

Mr. Zabel: I have a whole lot of functional regions beneath me and some of them are a lot more centered on the genuine monetary reporting and journal entries than some of the other people. On normal, those parts likely used 70% to 80% of their time just finding the transactions carried out and then getting the info back out of the ledger to be ready to analyze [them]. We have now moved that additional to 50/50. What we’d like to do is entirely flip that [to] the place they only expend probably 20% of their time truly processing transactions.

WSJ: How are you serving to them do that?

Mr. Zabel: How we’re approaching it is we’ve brought in these applications and we’ve begun to present [our employees] what the tools are, but also give them circumstance scientific tests of how they’ve been applied.

WSJ: What’s still left to be performed before you strike the 20% target?

Mr. Zabel: There’s a couple locations that we nonetheless want to perform on. Just one is information. Any time you commence a electronic transformation, it all starts with the information you have. Some of our data is in actually excellent condition. [For] some of it, we even now have some do the job to do. So I feel there is some foundational spots wherever the data needs to be in a superior form, but then it is just creating the bandwidth for our groups to educate themselves on the tools and generate the capacity for them to be equipped to use them.

WSJ: What is your head depend in finance, and do you expect it to shrink as you automate even more?

Mr. Zabel: We have just in excess of 500 folks correct now in the finance firm, out of a overall employee base of over 10,000. What we’re definitely trying to do with driving efficiencies is not so a lot just take head count out, it is more about redeploying these means to resolving additional enterprise challenges for our company companions. I have no designs to lessen head rely in just the business. I would rather devote these means and redeploy them to enable the business grow in distinct techniques.

WSJ: What are you on the lookout for when you evaluate potential candidates?

Mr. Zabel: It is incredibly essential that we have people that have a good specialized basis. We have a great deal of formally trained accountants and actuaries in the organization. We also have people that have a legitimate details science background. Heading forward, what we’ll need additional of are men and women that can translate small business procedures into [automation opportunities]. [For] a large amount of the instruments that are readily available currently you never seriously have to be that tech enabled in your formal track record. They’re extremely configurable.

WSJ: How would you describe your function as CFO in this?

Mr. Zabel: You absolutely have to be an advocate for it. Having the possibility whenever you can to highlight and accept when we have those “ring the bell” moments the place people today have used technology to improve their business procedures is genuinely crucial. I assume the other thing is just staying plugged into what we’re performing with our digital strategy additional broadly. I’m tied at the hip with the particular person that runs our [information technology] division and also our digital adjust agenda.

Compose to Nina Trentmann at [email protected]

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