Performance Management Transformation Through Connected Planning
It is surprising how little finance is involved in bank transformation debates. We talk about disruption in financial services, the FINANCial services industry, and we forget finance in the loop.
I admit that this is not different at The Banking Scene. Last week was an exception when we invited David Stemberger, Director of Strategic Planning and Performance Management at AXA Bank, and now, after the merger, Crelan. He shared his experience of how Anaplan’s Connected Planning tool revolutionised how they measure performance management.
That is not all. We learned that Connected Planning changed the dialogue between finance and business. It stimulated ownership and accountability of the different business units and made finance reporting a lot more action-driven.
Definition of performance management
Performance management comes in all colours and shapes. Every department has its definition. Sales will define it in relation to how much they sold, logistics may instead be looking at efficiency measures, whereas procurement will define performance management in terms of negotiation power, for example.
David defined performance management as: “making sure that we link what’s happening in the real world, in the business, and how that translates into an accounting world, in the financial results.” Performance management should be the bridge between business and finance and break silos by connecting data from across the company.
Being able to translate business changes into financial results, positive or negative, and evaluate the consequences on the strategy; hence strategic planning is a longer-term horizon extension of performance management.
Performance management transformation through connected planning
I remember my life in the finance department, and the experience is not different from David’s experience in the past. Performance management was sitting in the ivory tower dictating the guidelines they believed made sense and got frustrated that business was not listening.
Over the years, finance understood that more communication was needed. They improved the dialogue with business and scheduled much more alignment meetings. However, too often, the relationship remains us-vs-them.
Everyone talks about finance becoming a business partner, but only a few realise to make this a success.
The transformation AXA Bank has achieved in becoming this business partner is also thanks to Anaplan’s Connected Planning tool. The tool connects the dots across the organisation to create a common dashboard with a single truth. Operational data is linked to financial data and vice versa.
Different departments decide how to report their performance, but the components and architecture remain the same. Connected planning allows to drill down to the level of an invoice and the most fundamental assumptions in a forecast.
The tool makes financial results tangible and understandable to business departments, not just for the past and the present but also for the future, all in real-time. Instead of building all kinds of excel scenarios, David (or even the business) simply makes a change in one screen to see the impact in another, on the spot.
The past and the present are based on actual results, and the future is a forecast that can easily be built in the tool, including the documentation of assumptions.
Adding finance to the loop of digital transformation
The success of digital transformation often lies in how expectations are managed. Making these expectations smart, measurable and aligned is a challenge that only a few can deal with.
David explained how connected planning is part of the solution, not just for digital transformation but also for every product improvement or enhancement. David: “The strength of the connected planning is that you change one parameter anywhere in the chain, and your full P&L is adjusted and instantly looped back to the business owner. This way, the business owner & performance manager can l see the consequences of their specific actions.”
It makes product and business owners suddenly much more accountable for their actions.
The tool allows for better prioritisation of changes since the impact of change requests can be measured in real-time. David: “We can see which business case is more valuable than others, and we know the budgets. Based on this information, we discuss with all stakeholders on how to allocate the budget. It is a continuous business partnering that you need to do with all your stakeholders.”
Our Belgian audience knows that Crelan and Axa Bank are currently in a merger. Merging banks implies a lot of dialogue with the supervisor. Having a connected planning tool to instantly show the impact of one scenario versus another stimulated the negotiations as it does in meetings with the Executive Committee, and all information is present in 1 tool at the tip of your fingers.
Being able to run ten scenarios in a click completely changes the dialogue. What’s more, by connecting the dots, finance can report much more action-driven.
David explained this with an example: “Banks see a lot of pressure on the interest margin. In traditional reporting, we may say that interest received is increasing. Of course, it’s increasing; you’re selling mortgages at client rates that keep getting higher and higher.”
Of course, this doesn’t say anything if you don’t consider the evolution of the funding cost and thus the impact on the real margin.
David: “When we look at an interest margin, we look at the contribution of that margin, from the mortgage loans, from the consumer loans, from the professional loans from deposits from savings accounts, basically from all various products. This way, you’ll get actionable results because you can see why certain components evolve in a certain direction, and you can act on it.”
The most significant impact of that is that people suddenly start caring about financial reporting because it positively impacts their day-to-day work in a way they understand.
It is funny that every bank talks about open banking and tries to figure out the opportunities, while internally, the dots are often not connected. In that sense, it was refreshing how an internal transformation can change how we bank completely.
Having heard David’s story, I can only say: get the basics right before thinking about transforming the outside. A connected planning tool could be a good start to achieve that.