Marinus Pharmaceuticals image

Reducing Close Time by 50% & Enabling a “Seamless” Audit

Marinus Pharmaceuticals is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the development and commercialization of ganaxolone. It offers a new mechanism of action with safe and convenient dosing, for adult and pediatric patient populations in acute and chronic care settings.

The Challenge

As a public company with a product still in development, Marinus must carefully manage both people and financial resources.

“Our financial resources are sacred because we don’t have a product we can sell yet,” says Mike McNamara, senior director of Finance and corporate controller at Marinus. For Finance and Accounting, that means operating with a lean team.

“It’s not insurmountable, and I work with great people. But at the same time, Marinus is a public company, and there are a lot of deadline-driven and regulatory issues we need to manage, in addition to regular tasks.”

Prior to implementing BlackLine as a financial close technology solution, this environment was made even more challenging by Marinus’ use of manual processes for the close.

“Our close process was pretty broken. A typical close was 30 days, if not longer,” says McNamara. “Everything was done in Excel, including tracking every account. I would comment during reviews and staff would respond to those comments within Excel. That was our documentation. It wasn’t ideal.”

A reliance on spreadsheets to navigate the close and manage documentation also became problematic as Marinus’ five-year SEC grace period as an emerging growth company was ending.

“We were about to lose key protections, including not being required to have external auditors audit our internal control system,” says McNamara. “We knew our Excel documentation wouldn’t pass an audit. That’s when we realized we really needed close management software, a solution that would give us better documentation, increase visibility, and enable us to pass audits.”

Why BlackLine

The team evaluated three other close management solutions in addition to BlackLine, including a platform designed for smaller companies. But while this platform was advertised as a streamlined solution, it lacked the flexibility and scalability so crucial to Marinus’ growth.

“The other platform seemed clunky. There was more of a tech startup feel to it. Set up would have required some infrastructure changes on our part, which would have consumed a lot of time and resources,” says McNamara.

“I had used BlackLine in a previous job. I found it easy to use, and I knew it offered a sophisticated workflow functionality. I also knew that BlackLine would have a lot more capabilities than the other platform ever would.”

Initially, McNamara intended to implement one solution, BlackLine Account Reconciliations. “I thought I just needed to be able to document account reconciliations. I didn’t really care about the other modules. But as we went through the process with BlackLine, I started to see the real value of Task Management and Bank Matching.”

The Results

Reduced monthly close time by 50%. With BlackLine, Marinus’ close has gone from 30 days to 15, a 50% reduction.

“I think the most profound change is that we’ve been able to adopt a true monthly close,” says McNamara. “Before BlackLine, it took us at least 30 days. We’ve reduced it to 15 days. That may seem a little long for some people, but we’re not a global conglomerate. We don’t have all the resources to close in three to five days.”

Implemented BlackLine’ MAP in record time with a three-month time-to-value. In a timeframe of four-to-six weeks, Marinus implemented BlackLine’s Modern Accounting Playbook (MAP), a solutions and services package based on leading practices to help midmarket companies get up and running quickly. Marinus also achieved a three-month time-to-value.

“Implementation was fantastic,” says McNamara. “Any implementation process can be overwhelming, but with BlackLine, I never felt overwhelmed. Our consultant did a great job. She spent a lot of time getting to know our business. She kept us focused and was extremely patient, even though we asked the same questions over and over again.”

Saved time with auto matching and auto certification. With BlackLine, McNamara and his team have greatly reduced the hours spent on manual work.

“We’ve seen time savings on both bank recs and recs that are predictable amortizations. BlackLine rolls forward for us, and as long as the balance is what was predicted, it auto-certifies and saves us a lot of time. I do get excited when BlackLine imports a file directly from our bank and automatically clears things for us. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s really thoughtful and amazing.”

By spending less time on reconciliations and matching, the team can now focus on more value-added work. “Knowing that my staff has more efficiencies and that we can cross-train them and make them a stronger team is really important to me. That’s been the intangible return on our investment with BlackLine.”

Increased visibility. With BlackLine, the team has instant visibility into every reconciliation and task, something that was impossible with a manual, spreadsheet-driven process.

“What’s nice about BlackLine is that everything is visible. It tells a good story. You can go into any account reconciliation and understand what occurred. Every relevant file is attached, and it’s right there at your fingertips. You’re not hunting around for this file or that file,” says McNamara.

“And because we can comment on the reconciliation within BlackLine, it really cuts down on the back-and-forth time between me and my boss, or my boss and one of our leaders. Everything is organized in BlackLine and easy to see.”

Enabled a seamless—and less costly—audit. During a recent audit, Marinus simply gave auditors access to BlackLine.

“Our audit was seamless this year. Auditors didn’t have any questions about our documentation,” says McNamara. “To me, that was so valuable. The compliance aspect of BlackLine, with respect to documentation for control purposes, is almost priceless.”

A streamlined audit also costs less. “There’s so much value in being able to give auditors access to BlackLine and let them do what they need to do,” says McNamara.

“Their work on our control audit last year was billed hourly. I don’t know what they would have charged if we’d had a less efficient system. I do know that by using BlackLine, we’ve saved the auditors 30 to 40 hours, which in turn has saved us money.”