How Franklin Templeton Transformed Its Finance Organization

Franklin Templeton’s acquisition of Legg Mason doubled its assets under management—and provided an opportunity to transform how its finance team works. Read more in this conversation with leaders from Franklin Templeton and Workday.

With $1.4 trillion in assets under management, Franklin Templeton is one of the world’s largest asset managers. The financial services company has made a number of acquisitions in the past five years—including its acquisition of Legg Mason in 2020, which doubled its assets under management. 

It’s been a busy time. And Gwen Shaneyfelt, executive vice president and chief accounting officer at Franklin Templeton, doesn’t anticipate things will slow down any time soon.

“I tell my team we've gone from 30 to 80 miles an hour, and we may go to 100 miles per hour. So we need to find ways to meet our clients’ needs faster,” said Shaneyfelt in a recent conversation. 

Acquisitions in the financial services industry come with both challenges and opportunities. For example, each new acquisition expands the amount of data related to the workforce, financials, and more, noted Sophie Sharp, senior vice president of global industries and value management at Workday, who was part of the conversation. “When you think about the demand for insights and ability to use that data, that's an exponential increase,” said Sharp.

Read on to learn more from our conversation with Shaneyfelt and Sharp on how Franklin Templeton is transforming its finance organization, key areas of focus, and its partnership with Workday.

“We've made several enhancements that have allowed us to save a considerable amount of work hours, which we can apply to other more analytical activities and better supporting the business.”

Gwen Shaneyfelt Executive Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer Franklin Templeton

Collaborating to Find Efficiencies

Franklin Templeton had been dealing with an outdated and highly customized collection of enterprise systems. So when it discovered a company it had acquired was successfully using Workday, it saw an opportunity to simplify and streamline operations by rolling out Workday across the business. Franklin Templeton started its Workday journey with the deployment of Workday Human Capital Management, and later added Workday Financial Management

Shaneyfelt said the improved efficiencies and reduction of basic work resulting from these deployments have transformed how her team works.

“It's been really exciting to see the team's reaction,” she said. “Everybody was a little nervous at first as we were literally changing every financial system all at once. But people are really bought in.” 

Shaneyfelt acknowledged the most important work her team does is to collaborate on critical answers to business questions, whether about regulation in various jurisdictions, tax planning, structuring a new business, or the profitability of a company they’re considering acquiring. 

“Workday has enabled us to do routine work more efficiently,” she said. “That always frees us up to do the next acquisition, to work on the next business strategy, to provide better analytical work to our business partners.”

“By using Workday, Franklin Templeton is able to have better quality data, faster speed of reporting, and less time focused on operational processes.”

Sophie Sharp Senior Vice President, Global Industries and Value Management Workday

Making Faster, More Informed Decisions

Having access to large amounts of data is critical to everything Franklin Templeton does. And the faster Shaneyfelt can provide insights to decision makers, the faster they can adapt to changes, manage risk, and seize opportunities.

“All investment managers and broker dealers are regulated in countries across the world, and putting together the web of those rules and coming up with the best business answer requires data,” said Shaneyfelt. “It requires knowledge and synthesizing all that data.” 

In a fast-paced, always-changing industry where there’s no room for error, finance teams need access to unified, real-time data. Legacy financial systems, however, were built around monthly and quarterly processes—one reason why organizations such as Franklin Templeton have moved to Workday. 

“To drive the right types of insights in such a dynamic environment, companies need to have today's view of what's going on, not today's view a month from now,” said Sharp. “By using Workday, Franklin Templeton is able to have better quality data, faster speed of reporting, and less time focused on operational processes. And all of that positions this team to drive growth for the company much more effectively.”

Opportunity Comes from Change

Both Shaneyfelt and Sharp see major changes—such as mergers and acquisitions or deployments of new technologies—as an opportunity to address long-standing problems, such as operational inefficiencies.

That includes making the decision to change how a business works to align with industry best practices and what’s best for its future, rather than expecting new technology or acquired companies to change to fit how things have traditionally been done.

“One of the core things we decided when we were implementing Workday was we weren't going to try to change Workday to fit our processes,” said Shaneyfelt. “We were going to try to change our processes to work best with Workday. And that has been transformational for our business.” 

Sharp said it’s important for financial services companies to address challenges that acquisitions and mergers surface as soon as possible, such as having two sets of processes spread over many systems. “And if you don't resolve that in the process of a merger, you run the risk of having a real impact on your operational efficiency,” she said. “And more importantly and strategically, you're not creating capacity for the business to focus on what's important.” 

Continuous Innovation. Continuous Improvement.

For Franklin Templeton, the integration of Workday HCM and Workday Financial Management has fostered deeper partnerships between its finance and HR teams, as they collaborate on needed insights from the applications’ shared data. “I think we are getting more thoughtful, which leads to better data to the business,” said Shaneyfelt.

And, Franklin Templeton continues to think about how to use Workday to find greater efficiencies. 

“Even over the last quarter, we've made several enhancements that have allowed us to save a considerable amount of work hours, which we can apply to other more analytical activities and better supporting the business,” said Shaneyfelt. 

Workday is investing in cutting edge technology for finance and HR professionals all the time so companies like Franklin Templeton can quickly leverage it, noted Sharp.

“Using Workday helps Franklin Templeton's teams spend their time on the real value add analysis,” she said. “Rather than spending time on rote reporting or operational processes, they're able to drive strategic insights for their business.”

Embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

Innovations in AI and ML are reshaping the financial services industry in transformative ways. And Franklin Templeton is excited about the AL and ML technology embedded in Workday’s products.

“Our employees will be able to respond to variances or issues that AI is telling them is happening in the data,” said Shaneyfelt. “And I think that that will make their jobs easier once again, freeing up time to work on more interesting projects and work more efficiently. The business as a whole is excited about AI and how it might help us respond more quickly to all of our clients.”

Shaneyfelt said leaders try to create an environment of continuous improvement within the finance team so they can have an impact on every business decision. AI and ML can help create more bandwidth for team members to contribute even more business value.

As an example: “Machine learning can help us quickly move on to thinking about how we might improve a process going forward. Maybe we can redeploy people on a project that we're working on. I think it'll be exciting for most people.” 

Planning for the Future

The chief accounting officer role (CAO) is evolving into one where they serve as a strategic business partner who drives data-driven decisions about how the company should navigate timely challenges and the occasional crises. And, the CAO will also be expected to look long-term and make the right recommendations for its business partners. 

No matter how Franklin Templeton continues to grow, Workday will continue to help them innovate, collaborate, and provide value for their customers. 

Learn more about how Franklin Templeton streamlined its financial systems through acquisitions. Also discover more about digital transformation in the financial services industry.

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