Spending More Time Analyzing Balances and Reviewing Results

Established in 1963, the Toga Group is a leading developer of residential apartments and operator of hotels across Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The company is the name behind projects such as Jones Bay Wharf and Bondi Boheme in Sydney, and the Darwin Waterfront Precinct. Its hotel brands include Travelodge, Vibe, Adina and Rendezvous which, together, offer more than 9000 rooms.

The Challenge

About three years ago, Toga Group entered a rapid expansion phase. The number of concurrent development projects was increasing significantly and its hotel portfolio was also on the rise. Toga Group Financial Controller, Michael Gowing, says it was at this time the company realized some of the back-office systems which had been in place for years were no longer providing the level of support required.

“Toga was evolving from being a small firm into a large company,” says Gowing. “As we made this journey, it quickly became clear that many of the functions and processes within our finance department were struggling to cope with the rising workload.” A particular pain point was the company’s reconciliation process. A team of three within the finance department was engaged full time in reconciling multiple accounts and bank statements, and were starting to drown under the weight of work.

“We were essentially running the reconciliation process using Excel spreadsheets and templates that had been devised years before,” he says. “This works when you are a small company but does not scale very well. We simply couldn’t deal with the volume of reconciliations that needed to be completed.”

Gowing says it reached the stage where he would have to take loads of documents home in the trunk of his car, undertake hours of manual reviews, and then return them to the office for actioning.

“When it came to things like bank reconciliations, we were getting to the stage of having millions of transactions that had to be reconciled. Our internal customer satisfaction rates were falling as the team was perceived as being slow and matching things incorrectly.”


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Business Impact

Auto-reconciled 58% of accounts and more than 95% bank statement transactions, introduced rules and relationships between accounts, increased internal customer satisfaction rates, removed the need for manual reconciliations, embedded alerts within the system, provided remote access to external auditors

More Growth in the Playbook

In step with Under Armour’s mission of relentlessly pursuing innovation, over the last two years the company has acquired several new mobile app businesses and aptly named this market “Connected Fitness.” For Boyle, these businesses — MapMyFitness (acquired in December 2013), MyFitnessPal and Endomondo (brought on in the first quarter of 2015), and Under Armour’s own app, UA Record — represent not only a new reportable segment, but also three new company codes that operate on completely different non-SAP ERP systems and need to be incorporated into the company’s monthly close process. Using BlackLine, the company has been able to gain visibility into account balances and important information regarding the newly acquired entities. “BlackLine has been really useful in terms of gaining quick visibility into the ending balances in each of the accounts, giving our leadership a chance to review transactional details and key account balances without having full integration of those other ERP systems,” says Boyle. “That will continue to evolve as we go forward.”

The Results

Goals: Adopt a less manual and more scalable approach to monthly account reconciliations and book closing processes, as well as journal-entry retention, support, and review

Strategy: Implemented a scalable, automated, cloud-based solution for account reconciliations, journal entry, and financial tasks that integrates with SAP ERP and delivers push-button reporting and real-time access to data

Outcome: Shaved days of work off the desks of Under Armour’s accounting employees, who are now able to spend more of their time analyzing balances, reviewing results, and ensuring relevance and accuracy, rather than monitoring completeness and executing administrative tasks