Behind every official balance sheet report is the month-end close process, which ensures that the numbers are correct. But all too often it is an error-prone and time-consuming scramble, a financial process survey by Adra Match reveals.
Every balance sheet report is required to give a correct picture of the company’s figures. But a recent survey shows that the reconciliation process has severe flaws, and not even the financial staff trust their own figures.
Adra Match, a global software firm specializing in advanced data matching and reconciliation management, has released the findings of a new survey that reveals key challenges facing finance managers who are overseeing their balance sheet reconciliation process.
The survey, completed by several hundred finance professionals in the winter of 2012/13, resulted in some important highlights:
• Only 28% trust the reported numbers
• Staff trust the numbers much less than managers
• 90% are under pressure to close faster
• Only 39% are satisfied with the quality of the closing process
“The numbers are revealing. We could see that companies in all countries were facing challenges with the financial close process,” says Martin Thunman, CEO of Adra Match.
“Respondents told us the most important factor was the ability to trust their reported numbers – yet ironically only 28% trusted their figures. Also notable was that 30% of managers (CFOs, Controllers, Finance Directors) trust the numbers, compared with just 15% of accounting staff. As the staff is much closer to the numbers, it raises some questions about the differences.”
Improving reconciliation management routines is one of the top three technology initiatives for financial organizations, as reported in the Gartner FEI Technology Study, May 2012. “As CFOs become increasingly aware of the serious challenges revealed in the Adra Match survey, this trend is certain to remain strong,” added Thunman.
The survey was conducted among financial department staff in the US and Europe. Among those surveyed, approximately 90% closed their books monthly – a process they called “a mad dash every month”. Only 35% said they were able to always report key figures on the close date.
To cite a few of the respondents, who commented anonymously:
Our biggest challenges are to trust the reported numbers and close on due date.” (US respondent)
There are too many accounts, poor systems and account reconciliations being done in too many ways and saved all over the place.” (US respondent)
We are a large organization, and the reconciliation process must go faster while still maintaining accuracy. It would be great if we could do this electronically since we waste a lot of time with the transportation of documents today.” (European respondent)
We have too little time, too few accountants and too many balance accounts not always reconciled. There’s no time for analysis during month-end closing.” (European respondent)
I need to be able to get an overview of what’s missing across more than 90 departments.” (European respondent)
The survey was conducted by Adra Match as part of a product development initiative aimed at gaining deeper customer insights. It confirms several hypotheses the company had regarding the needs of finance managers to speed up their monthly closing of books, replace error-prone manual routines and gain an instant, real-time overview of the entire process.
Differences between the US and Europe
There were some notable differences between the US and Europe. The highlights include:
- In the US 34% trust the reported numbers, versus 23% in Europe. Although the trust is higher in the US, as much as two-thirds of all respondents don’t trust the numbers.
- In the US 53% close their books within 6 days, versus 73% in Europe. The European companies in the study clearly had shorter deadlines.
- In the US only 9% have no second approver during the close process, versus 19% in Europe. The American companies in the study had somewhat tighter governance rules.
ABOUT ADRA MATCH: Adra Match has 20 years’ experience in providing software for advanced Data Matching and Reconciliation Management. Our products are primarily used by accounts departments to automate reconciliations. Automatic reconciliation helps organizations to work smarter and more quickly, with better control and accuracy. Our solutions streamline and standardize accounts departments and give them an overview of the company’s balancing process at all times. Adra Match has its head office in Oslo, Norway and offices in Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Among our 3,000 customers are Hertz, GE Capital, Old Mutual, IKEA and Telenor.