With thousands of monthly account reconciliations as well as day-end, month-end, and year-end close processes often conducted in an uncoordinated way, the accounting teams realized they would benefit from a more standardized approach. “Account reconciliation was a very manual, decentralized process,” says Laura Darbro, vice president of close operations and general accounting, Zurich North America. “People were using their own formats for their reconciliations, so there was no standard view. Our goal was to find a solution that would improve how we coordinate our monthly close and other finance-related processes, provide additional visibility and transparency into our overall reporting environment, and assist us with our compliance requirements.” The accounting teams started to look for a solution that could be implemented within their existing SAP framework across the Zurich IT landscape.
While Zurich’s parent company, Zurich Insurance Group, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, has a long-term global vision of migrating the company’s entire IT operations onto one unified global platform, its North America operations currently maintain their own platform. Zurich in North America, based in Schaumburg, Illinois, has other finance regional offices in Canada, Bermuda, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Kansas City. Zurich in North America is currently upgrading to SAP ERP 6.0 and is developing an SAP HANA proof of concept to address several of its reporting processes. Until Darbro’s team sought out a more standardized solution for its accounting governance procedures, the team utilized several manual processes to supplement its SAP solutions.
Zurich turned to its audit consultant for help finding a strategic automated financial solution. The recommendation was a comprehensive financial governance tool from SAP partner BlackLine that could handle most of the important closing tasks, account reconciliation, and variance analyses Zurich needed. Senior management saw demos of the product’s modules at SAP’s annual SAPPHIRE NOW 2010 event and developed a business case shortly afterward for executive sign-off.