Digital transformation was high on the agenda for companies in the financial services sector long before the outbreak of COVID-19, yet many have struggled to deliver on its promise.
During the Workday Elevate Digital Experience, Robert Bloor, group financial controller at Equiniti, spoke to Peter Gamble, regional vice president and country leader, UK & Ireland at Workday, on how his firm overcame back-office complexity to achieve organisational agility. Equiniti’s deployment of Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management was key to that success.
Here are some highlights from their conversation.
Can you give us some background on Equiniti and what the company does?
Equiniti is a FTSE-listed business that was carved out of Lloyd's Bank in 2007. We provide back-office services for listed companies, allowing them to manage dividend records for their shareholders and make payments. The common theme is around money transmission and management of records, both fairly complex service areas.
We employ about 5,000 people. Around 500 are in the U.S., and just under 1,000 in Chennai, India, where all our back-office services for IT, finance, HR and operations are supported.
What were the drivers that challenged Equiniti to change the way it operates?
Because we’re dealing with money transmission and the management of records that underpin that, it’s a fairly complex, B2B environment. Digital is a hugely important element of that, because data privacy and security are crucial. We have to be very mindful about how we process and manage that information because the compliance landscape is continually evolving.
The driver to transform the way we think about finance and HR came in 2017 when we announced the decision to purchase a business from Wells Fargo, as a carve-out, and it came with no system of record—no HR, finance, or payroll. There was no framework, and as a condition of the purchase, we had to provision that. It was all very logical, because as a bank, Wells Fargo didn't want to be providing those types of services on what would have become a third-party basis. And they wanted us to be able to take that on straight away.
We’re talking about a timeframe of around 16 weeks to deploy Workday across Equiniti, including the newly acquired business. Our IT team was already heavily focused on extracting the core operations of the company we were spinning out from Wells Fargo. We wanted to take finance and HR off-premise, to be managed in the cloud.
Talk us through how you thought about choosing the right technology and partner to meet the needs of the business.
We went through a fairly detailed process to identify the most suitable provider. That wasn’t just who could deliver on time but also who could provide the best level of service for us. We had been led to Workday through our association with the U.S. part of our business. There were a lot of gaps with our existing vendor, and we were looking for a partner who could help us leverage the shared service environment we have in Chennai and create a true global business services provision. With Workday, we now have the technology to do that.
What do you think your transformation and journey will allow you to do in future that was not possible before?
I think the value of what we’ve done has been brought into sharper focus by the global pandemic. The tapestry of working arrangements is so very different today. We’re now able to see the how and where people are working, and the differences in how people are getting the job done. It’s all underpinned by the ability to collaborate, and that essential human interaction needed to solve problems.
“I think the value of what we’ve done has been brought into sharper focus by the global pandemic.”Robert Bloor Group Financial Controller Equiniti
Having the technology to directly address those needs and challenges is fundamentally game changing. We’re cutting through a lot of seemingly impenetrable barriers because necessity drives that. We have to find solutions, and by understanding what is happening with our people, where the skills are, where the challenges are, we can face these problems with a lot more confidence.
Looking back on the project, is there anything you would have done differently?
Technology can have a great way of upsetting the rhythm. But the rhythm itself is something that was really important in our projects. We established that back in about 2015 or 2016, when we were looking at our shared services centre. We said that for anything to work effectively and get that credibility, we needed to have that routine, that rhythm, that pace that was driving in the project. And that's a big piece that got us through, as well as the fact that there are talented people everywhere you look—it's just unlocking the talent in people.
A project like this can really help drive people forward. But also, you will get things wrong. Sometimes, you just have to stand back at it and use contrition and the learning that comes from it. Every project like this will throw a surprise up, and ours was testing. We just got it spectacularly wrong . . . don't let a bunch of accountants work up 8,000 scenarios to test and then realize you don't have enough time left in the project to test it.
Sometimes you just have to learn from your mistakes. Good, strong leadership certainly helps, and it is not an appointed role—we were fortunate to have leadership qualities in many of core team project members. Asking difficult questions is important. We had a lot of those traits in our team which helped us. We asked difficult questions of each other and we stood by our decisions. And in the main, that's what got us where we needed to be.