One of the most common calls we take at Plansmith is from a bank or credit union looking to improve their entire budgeting, forecasting and board reporting process. While the organizations vary greatly in size, and the person calling is sometimes the president and other times a financial analyst – most often they all have one thing in common: “I’m currently using Excel.”
For most banks and credit unions the annual budgeting process is just that, a “process” that is far from looked forward to.
The CFO gathers data and input from market managers and department heads. The President and CEO then hand down more information as well as targets and objectives that rarely align with the other information. It's then the CFO's and finance team's job to cobble it all together, make it balance, and deliver results to the Board for approval.
As anyone who has been through it knows, the process itself is not cut and dry. To be honest, it can be downright exhausting.
Most of us hate planning, so why would I want to start now, when I could wait until the usual time next year?
"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." - Confucius
Interestingly, the response I usually hear from small businesses (outside of the banking industry) is that they do have a strong, more formal handle on their day to day cash needs. They keep a check register (albeit mostly electronically, for example in QuickBooks). They know how much cash they need to fund their regular business needs and they monitor their cash flow in detail. They know which customers they need to collect from up-front, and which ones are slow to pay. They have concrete back-up plans if cash runs tight – savings, lines of credit, which bills they can delay paying versus which payments are critical to be paid on time. They know where they’ve been and where they’re trending - positive cash flow is critical to staying in business, so cash flow is always top of mind. Otherwise they’re out of business (and hence not part of my survey.)
Opening night featured a performance by singer Eddie Money, which literally had the Washington Convention Center "shaking to the beat of the night". Day two presented a strong stream of visitors to the many exhibitor booths spread out around the convention center floor. It was great to finally put a few client faces to the many voices that we speak to regularly. We met a number of new credit unions that were interested in our solutions for managing risk and active planning. It was fun being able to run our Financial Compass model for these individuals, right there on the convention floor. Some really seemed impressed by our ability to quickly provide a two and three year rolling forecast for their organization. Impressive perhaps, but after all, "the future is ours to see".
A new request list and questionnaire from the OCC is making its way around the banking community and the NCUA has issued one of its own. Regardless of who you answer to, expect more scrutiny on your asset liability management (ALM) model. For some of you this might be "old hat", but we’ve fielded calls by clients asking for interpretation of the IRR Data Collection. So, Plansmitties, and even non-Smitties, take note: there is a letter with your name on it and we’re here to help.