Unum Finance Chief Stresses Importance of Advocating for Digital Transformation


Unum Group,

an coverage organization mentioned in the Fortune 500, brought in new reporting technology and other equipment to decrease the total of time its finance workers invest on data entry and consolidating transactions.


which has a tiny a lot more than 500 persons in its finance business, is working toward slashing the time allocated for handbook processing duties to 20%, down from approximately 50% at the moment.

Chief Monetary Officer

Steve Zabel

talks about how the Chattanooga, Tenn.-centered firm acquired rid of spreadsheets, what he wishes position candidates to convey and why finance chiefs participate in an significant role in advertising automation attempts. This is the fifth section of a series that focuses on how CFOs and other executives digitize their finance operations. Edited excerpts stick to.

WSJ: What are the important steps you took as a company to modernize your finance function?

Mr. Zabel: The first phase we took was close to some of our actuarial income move versions. We make the most of all those to do pricing and forecasting and truly every thing all-around [financial performance]. We started that again in 2013 and we’ve now cycled as a result of all of our merchandise and obtained [them] on a reliable platform. Then, in 2017, we applied two issues which were definitely beneficial. We brought in a new standard ledger and we put in a [configurable reporting technology]. We do all of our monetary reporting off of that.

What that authorized us to do is at the company amount get rid of all the consolidation, all the spreadsheets. Move two has been to now look at the accounting procedures that we have and get started to apply far more precise automation technological know-how.

WSJ: What are your essential targets?

Mr. Zabel: There is a several matters, [including] the high quality of the do the job that our persons are doing. It is them [having to] spend less time compiling details for the objective of producing journal entries and also compiling information just to do basic reporting. So shifting them from that kind of do the job to much more examination and doing the job with our products lines. It is a incredibly competitive environment for talent. Whatever we can do to make it a additional enjoyable knowledge for workforce is heading to help us in the long run.

WSJ: Is there an estimate how much time your workers conserve with these new technologies?

Mr. Zabel: I have a lot of functional regions underneath me and some of them are a lot more focused on the actual economical reporting and journal entries than some of the some others. On common, these areas possibly used 70% to 80% of their time just having the transactions completed and then getting the info back out of the ledger to be equipped to evaluate [them]. We have now moved that extra in direction of 50/50. What we’d like to do is fully flip that [to] wherever they only invest perhaps 20% of their time in fact processing transactions.

WSJ: How are you helping them do that?

Mr. Zabel: How we’re approaching it is we have brought in these tools and we’ve began to exhibit [our employees] what the resources are, but also give them circumstance scientific studies of how they’ve been utilized.

WSJ: What’s remaining to be performed prior to you hit the 20% concentrate on?

Mr. Zabel: There’s a couple areas that we still will need to do the job on. One particular is data. Any time you start out a digital transformation, it all begins with the facts you have. Some of our details is in actually fantastic condition. [For] some of it, we nevertheless have some perform to do. So I believe there’s some foundational places wherever the details needs to be in a far better sort, but then it is just developing the bandwidth for our teams to educate them selves on the equipment and develop the capability for them to be in a position to implement them.

WSJ: What is your head count in finance, and do you expect it to shrink as you automate additional?

Mr. Zabel: We have just in excess of 500 people today proper now in the finance business, out of a whole employee foundation of about 10,000. What we’re actually hoping to do with driving efficiencies is not so significantly choose head rely out, it is additional about redeploying all those resources to fixing far more enterprise issues for our company companions. I have no strategies to decrease head count inside of the organization. I would relatively expend those people resources and redeploy them to aid the business improve in unique strategies.

WSJ: What are you looking for when you evaluate probable candidates?

Mr. Zabel: It’s quite crucial that we have people that have a fantastic complex basis. We have a lot of formally properly trained accountants and actuaries within just the corporation. We also have individuals that have a real information science track record. Heading forward, what we’ll want more of are persons that can translate business processes into [automation opportunities]. [For] a large amount of the instruments that are out there currently you don’t really have to be that tech enabled in your official qualifications. They are quite configurable.

WSJ: How would you explain your part as CFO in this?

Mr. Zabel: You surely have to be an advocate for it. Getting the option every time you can to spotlight and acknowledge when we have all those “ring the bell” times where by people have used know-how to strengthen their company processes is actually significant. I imagine the other thing is just being plugged into what we’re carrying out with our electronic strategy more broadly. I’m tied at the hip with the individual that runs our [information technology] office and also our digital improve agenda.

Compose to Nina Trentmann at [email protected]

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