Performance monitor says aloha

Finding the right performance management suite can be a challenge – unless you find something tailored to your industry, according to one bank executive.

Brian Stewart, senior vice-president in charge of management reporting at the Honolulu-based Bank of Hawaii (BOH), said his financial organization recently hit a rough spot in its planning, forecasting, reporting and analysis process. Within the Oracle Financial Services Application environment it was running, “the only [data output] ability we had was strictly into an Excel-based format,” Stewart said.

Users had to dump their information into an Excel spreadsheet and then follow an “extremely complicated process of making sure that everything balanced and reconciled….It was very detailed and there were a lot of checks and balances,” he said.

In addition, the bank had undergone what Stewart called a “strategic assessment” in 2001, which called for significant divestitures of some of the bank’s foreign operations, as well as a close look at IT spending. This was all “part of the whole assessment that caused the reorganization, and a demand from managers for more real-time reporting capabilities and quicker turnaround of financial information, because financial ana-lysis became so much more important during that whole time period,” he said.

Before doing any serious shopping, BOH’s management and reporting department had to determine how much it would be willing to pay to receive the types of benefits it was looking for – such as the ability to restate financials easily and pull off the budgeting process with fewer headaches. “We set ourselves a targeted price range and then also decided which features we needed, which we could live without, and which we would be willing to pay for,” explained Stewart.

Having done its homework and checked the references provided by other banks, BOH narrowed its choices down to two: Hyperion’s and Inea’s performance management suites.

The bank ended up choosing Inea’s product because it “came cheaper with more features, within the price range we were looking at and with all benefits we wanted…a good bang for the buck,” he said.

Mark Ruddock, president and CEO of Toronto-based Inea, said the Bank of Hawaii’s “high-level challenges” are typical of the financial services sector.

The firm’s Web-enabled performance management application was built specifically for financial institutions through a joint venture with the Royal Bank of Canada. The product delivers enterprise planning, forecasting, modeling, profitability analytics and management and regulatory reporting on a single platform. It also automates the process of distributing input templates for data capture, collecting plans and supporting collaboration between the finance function and the business units.

Stewart thinks the bank made the right choice. “Hyperion as an off-the-shelf product really was more general and not necessarily industry-specific. Once it was installed, there would be a fair amount of time devoted to just tailoring it to our industry.” However, the features the bank needed – such as accounting and financial measurements – were already built into Inea’s product, he said.

Neal Akamine, vice-president and database manager at the bank, said Inea’s method of integrating hierarchical structured reports is “tailored to how banks produce reports,” and instead of using the “old method of running a query and changing the variables of the query each time,” Inea’s real-time analytics engine enables the user to drill down for a multidimensional analysis of business performance by customer segment, product, channel and business line.

The software took a month to get up and running and “allows us flexiblity to make multiple versions of budget, track what changes have gone in, what adjustments have been made,” said Natalie Ota, a vice-president at the bank in charge of budgeting and planning. “We always have a trail and can go back to previous versions if we need to.”

Ruddock said Inea implementations typically run at a ratio of one part consulting to three parts licensing fees.

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