How Stock Yards Bank Shortened Their Month-End Close by Six Days
- By Liz Briggson
- July 6th, 2021
Every controller can relate to the nervous, eager, and somewhat uneasy feeling they experienced when closing the books and reporting financials for the first time in their new role. For some, that feeling never goes away, while others tackle the pain points head on. They assess risk, identify obstacles, and implement solutions to improve their organization’s close. That’s exactly the approach Derek Slone, Controller of Stock Yards Bank, applied when he joined the Stock Yards team over a decade ago. Coming from external audit, he sought to fortify the close through implementing account reconciliation and month end close automation.
Nancy Wu, Head of Sales and Customer Success with SkyStem, recently talked with Derek about the reasons he introduced automation into his team’s month end close and the benefits he and his team have realized by moving their account reconciliations to the cloud. Watch the webinar reply to hear their conversation and see SkyStem’s ART platform in action: Streamlining Month-End Reconciliations Through Automation. We’re sharing a few of the highlights here.
Thinking Back to the Start
Prior to joining Stock Yards Bank, Derek Slone was an external auditor working on the audit of Stock Yards Bank. With this background, he already had a helpful window of insight into the accounting function when he accepted the role of Corporate Controller.
Derek’s main objective was to “get his arms around the close process” and enhance visibility by improving the quality of the bank’s balance sheet account reconciliations. What controller can’t relate to this objective?
Derek brought his concerns to the leadership team, highlighting the areas where he didn’t have visibility and illustrating how lack of visibility leads to risk. The leadership team trusted Derek’s background as an auditor and they recognized they needed to place a stronger emphasis on timely account reconciliations (i.e., before results were reported). Management gave him the green light to move forward with a solution.
Ultimately the team launched SkyStem’s ART solution within 6 months of Derek becoming the controller. Derek commented, “ART’s presentation was great, and it was an easy sell to management.”
Pro Tip: Software implementation is not always just about cost savings. Sometimes it’s about risk acceptance. When faced with a similar scenario, try the following illustration: “Here’s what we can do. Here’s what we can’t do. Are we willing to accept the risk?”
Bringing Along the Team
The accounting team at Stock Yards Bank was well-established and for the most part very comfortable with the way things were. Derek shared how he encountered some resistance to change when he first introduced ART.
Adoption was helped by a few factors: 1) SkyStem trained the whole team; 2) The implementation period is relatively short coming in around 3 to 4 weeks; and 3) ART is “very easy to use,” in Derek’s words.
Nancy and Derek discussed how new solutions create capacity for staff which helps to make room for staff to absorb new responsibilities as the company grows. For the team Stock Yards Bank, this is proving true as they recently completed the acquisition of another bank in the region.
Derek sung SkyStem’s praises mentioning how “ART’s support is top notch.” Because of the personalized support, he said, there is “No way we would switch.”
At the point of adoption, Derek and his team were concerned with the visibility and effectiveness of completing account recs more so than with shortening the close. They reconcile somewhere around 500 balance sheet accounts on a monthly basis. Ten years ago, the recs were all completed in Excel with paper-based support which meant they had a lot of documentation to sift through that sat on people’s desks.
Leaps of improvement came from moving the supporting documentation into ART, which allowed them to analyze trends and variances without having to track down paper support. Upon implementation, Derek could suddenly access recs and documentation straight from ART about 80% of the time.
ART also has the functionality to handle system-reconciled accounts. Derek’s team is able to reconcile around 40% of accounts using this feature that relies on algorithms and pattern recognition. This works well with accounts that have attributes like predictability, lower risk, and/or lower materiality.
Additionally, Derek and his team enjoy the capabilities ART offers to support other month-end close activities such as automating the balance sheet flux and compiling review notes.
With more than a decade of collaboration under their belts, it was no surprise to hear that a recommendation from Derek’s team resulted in a new feature released by SkyStem. In response to the team’s request, SkySteam rolled out a new feature to consolidate all coaching notes, along with their status and any responses, into a single report now used for reviews.
This highlights SkyStem’s specialty in enhancing visibility through workflow tools. Reviews and approvals become so much easier with ART in place.
Before SkyStem’s ART, the Stock Yards Bank close was taking approximately 7 to 8 days. After the implementation of ART, they were able to close in about 4 days. As processes evolved the close got shorter. By leveraging the features and functionality of ART, not only has the team gained far more visibility into the month-end processes, the Stock Yards Bank pre-tax close now takes only about a day and a half. Thanks to ART, the time to close the books decreased by almost 6 days.
We invite you to join us on July 13 for SkyStem’s upcoming webinar: Combat Fraud Through Month-End Close.
Headquartered in the heart of New York City, SkyStem delivers a powerful month-end close solution for organizations seeking to streamline their financial processes. The company’s flagship solution, ART, is an enterprise technology that helps CFOs and Controllers shorten the month-end close and the time to issue financials by automating balance sheet reconciliations, managing month-end tasks, performing flux / P&L variance analysis and providing insightful reporting. The web-based solution streamlines and eliminates up to 90% of manual activities while strengthening internal controls and corporate governance.
Visit https://skystem.com/ to learn more.