Creating a state-of-the-art office of finance from scratch

By Kirit Patel | 27 October 2017

How Electra Private Equity changed its modus operandi with cloud ERP deployment

Bringing your finance function in-house after years of outsourcing and creating a CFO role from scratch does not need to be a daunting task. If you build a fully digital function, making use of the latest technology tools and processes, you are in for a win.

Take the case of UK-based Electra Private Equity, a British investment trust specialising in private equity and part of the FTSE 250 Index. The company’s high-profile stable of investments includes TGI Fridays, Hotter Shoes, and the Photobox Group. In 2016, Electra was preparing to bring its finance function in-house, having previously handled bookkeeping and reporting through a third-party before a change in company direction. That meant building a new office of finance from scratch – an opportunity for Electra’s finance leaders to create something state of the art.

Electra needed a system that could produce PE style reporting and would in future consolidate monthly results from all its investments and provide visibility of individual and cumulative monthly performance. With a small team and limited IT resources, management requirements for software and hardware needed to be minimised. Expected changes to future reporting requirements needed to be considered. Electra’s new finance team recognised that future-proofing had to be built into any new system.

“Following a strategy review in 2016, we were looking at a change in the way Electra operated,” says Andrew Grimditch, Electra’s Group Financial Controller. “Our management and corporate structure changed. Previously the company had no direct employees, only a board with most management and administrative functions outsourced. We decided to bring functions like finance in-house, creating a CFO role and as a consequence requiring our own systems for bookkeeping and reporting. Rather than just default to spreadsheets we saw an opportunity to create a fully digital function using the latest technology tools and processes. We decided on a centrally-controlled environment and began the search for a solution that would make month-end close, reporting and consolidation simple and straightforward to execute.”

The solution – analysis, consolidation and reporting automation

Electra’s objective was set to automate consolidation, analysis and reporting – with the aim of producing a consistent version of the truth that would give the board, shareholders and business partners complete confidence in the new finance team’s numbers, while minimising the time and resources required to produce them. Key features were speed of implementation, scalability and obviously something that could be easily configured for the needs of an investment trust. Following a rigorous procurement process, a list of top vendors was whittled down to two and Electra ultimately selected the SAP ByD enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to manage core finance processes, and SAP’s BPC solution for consolidation and planning.

Given the profile of Electra’s finance team, the advantages of easy web access and always having the latest software, persuaded the company to opt for the cloud. Electra was immediately impressed with the cloud ERP package as it made month-end processes more streamlined. The cloud ERP solution, which is architected for unlimited scale and meets the most stringent security standards, makes it simple for the office of finance to manage essential finance processes without depending on IT for support.

The SAP BPC solution delivers planning, budgeting, forecasting and financial consolidation capabilities in a single application. It easily adjusts plans and forecasts, speeds-up budget and closing cycles, and ensures compliance with financial reporting standards. It can also help finance teams make better decisions based on what-if analyses and scenario planning.

Once the solutions and vendor had been selected, Electra needed a partner to handle implementation. EOH UK was suggested, who demonstrated the expertise and experience Electra was looking for.

“EOH UK was somewhat unique as it included senior people with backgrounds in both accounting and IT. They spoke our language and understood our needs both practically and technically,” says Grimditch.

While having a cloud solution eliminates most of the IT management companies need to assume with an on-premise deployment, the philosophy at EOH is to always make clients as self-sufficient as possible and ensure a full transfer of knowledge.

Measurable and transparent business impacts

Both solutions were implemented in four months. Electra’s finance team was able to learn the systems with minimal training and start using them in a matter of weeks. The software is delivering as promised and Electra is now planning ahead to move from reporting as an investment trust to the additional requirements of reporting as a normal UK corporate.

“Cloud deployment means I have access to systems and information wherever our team members are – an excellent system for a small finance team accounting for potentially global investments,” says Andrew Grimditch. “I can see how our companies are performing whenever I want and build in information about why things are happening. From a group accounting point of view in a business like ours this is a huge benefit.”

The implementation of both the ERP and consolidation solution has brought many benefits, from scalability to future requirements to ease of integration with other systems and ability to configure and customise. Additionally, users can learn quickly, meaning accelerated time to value.

By creating one repository for financial data, Electra’s new office of finance now has one reliable version of the truth and complete visibility of investments and performance against targets. Grimditch and his team have now greater confidence in reporting and analysis for decision-making and can deliver clear information to executives, the company’s board and investment partners. 

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