September 30, 2022


Business&Finance Specialists

Unum Finance Chief Stresses Value of Advocating for Digital Transformation

5 min read

Unum Team,

an coverage business detailed in the Fortune 500, brought in new reporting technological know-how and other tools to cut down the total of time its finance workers commit on knowledge entry and consolidating transactions.


which has a tiny additional than 500 people today in its finance corporation, is doing work towards slashing the time allotted for handbook processing jobs to 20%, down from about 50% at present.

Main Economic Officer

Steve Zabel

talks about how the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based business acquired rid of spreadsheets, what he wishes position candidates to bring and why finance chiefs engage in an essential purpose in advertising automation attempts. This is the fifth component of a series that focuses on how CFOs and other executives digitize their finance functions. Edited excerpts adhere to.

WSJ: What are the major actions you took as a business to modernize your finance operate?

Mr. Zabel: The to start with step we took was around some of our actuarial income movement products. We employ people to do pricing and forecasting and definitely every little thing close to [financial performance]. We started that again in 2013 and we have now cycled via all of our solutions and bought [them] on a consistent platform. Then, in 2017, we applied two matters which ended up really useful. We introduced in a new basic ledger and we place in a [configurable reporting technology]. We do all of our monetary reporting off of that.

What that permitted us to do is at the company level get rid of all the consolidation, all the spreadsheets. Action two has been to now seem at the accounting procedures that we have and start out to use far more specific automation technological know-how.

WSJ: What are your important aims?

Mr. Zabel: There is a few matters, [including] the quality of the get the job done that our individuals are executing. It is them [having to] spend less time compiling data for the function of making journal entries and also compiling information and facts just to do standard reporting. So shifting them from that form of function to extra assessment and performing with our product or service traces. It’s a very aggressive setting for expertise. Whatsoever we can do to make it a more enjoyable working experience for staff is heading to assist us in the very long operate.

WSJ: Is there an estimate how considerably time your workers save with these new technologies?

Mr. Zabel: I have a lot of functional locations underneath me and some of them are extra concentrated on the genuine money reporting and journal entries than some of the others. On typical, people parts probably spent 70% to 80% of their time just finding the transactions accomplished and then getting the data back out of the ledger to be in a position to examine [them]. We’ve now moved that extra toward 50/50. What we’d like to do is totally flip that [to] wherever they only invest perhaps 20% of their time truly processing transactions.

WSJ: How are you assisting them do that?

Mr. Zabel: How we’re approaching it is we’ve introduced in these tools and we’ve started off to present [our employees] what the equipment are, but also give them case studies of how they’ve been used.

WSJ: What is still left to be performed prior to you hit the 20% target?

Mr. Zabel: There’s a couple of parts that we nonetheless want to get the job done on. One particular is information. Any time you begin a electronic transformation, it all starts off with the info you have. Some of our knowledge is in really superior shape. [For] some of it, we nevertheless have some do the job to do. So I feel there’s some foundational locations the place the details wants to be in a improved sort, but then it’s just creating the bandwidth for our teams to teach them selves on the instruments and build the capability for them to be able to utilize them.

WSJ: What is your head count in finance, and do you anticipate it to shrink as you automate even further?

Mr. Zabel: We have just above 500 people proper now in the finance corporation, out of a complete staff foundation of around 10,000. What we’re really striving to do with driving efficiencies is not so considerably get head count out, it is much more about redeploying individuals sources to fixing much more enterprise troubles for our organization companions. I have no options to minimize head depend in just the corporation. I would instead commit individuals sources and redeploy them to assistance the company develop in various approaches.

WSJ: What are you seeking for when you assess likely candidates?

Mr. Zabel: It’s very significant that we have people that have a excellent specialized foundation. We have a whole lot of formally properly trained accountants and actuaries within the corporation. We also have people that have a legitimate details science track record. Going ahead, what we’ll need to have a lot more of are people that can translate organization processes into [automation opportunities]. [For] a great deal of the resources that are accessible now you never really have to be that tech enabled in your formal qualifications. They’re incredibly configurable.

WSJ: How would you explain your job as CFO in this?

Mr. Zabel: You absolutely have to be an advocate for it. Taking the option when you can to spotlight and accept when we have these “ring the bell” moments where by people have applied technological know-how to enhance their small business procedures is truly essential. I consider the other matter is just remaining plugged into what we’re carrying out with our digital system extra broadly. I’m tied at the hip with the individual that runs our [information technology] section and also our digital transform agenda.

Create to Nina Trentmann at [email protected]

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