American Airlines Federal Credit Union, based in Fort Worth, Texas, was founded in 1936 by a small group of American Airlines employees. For more than 80 years, the Credit Union has provided services to meet the unique needs of its more than 271,000 member-owners through a delivery network including 47 branches.
Supporting continued growth in membership and assets exceeding $6.3 billion, Credit Union leaders sought to streamline the institution’s financial reporting processes and improve the timeliness and accuracy of data inputs. To help accomplish this, management felt the ability to complete data inputs and prepare month-end financial reports in the same system was key. They also wanted a more intuitive, user-friendly interface for managers that required less administrative training and support from the Accounting team.
The Credit Union’s leaders were looking for a partner who would truly understand the organization’s needs and listen to their ideas, recommending and applying best practices to help them tailor the system to achieve desired results.
After a thorough evaluation of Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions, American Airlines Credit Union selected Axiom software with solutions for Budgeting and Forecasting, and Reporting and Analytics. The previous system required a labor-intensive data-input process for budgeting and forecasting, and was difficult to scale and adapt to the needs of the growing institution.
Streamlined budgeting, forecasting, and reporting
Axiom Software seamlessly integrates budgeting, forecasting, planning, and reporting in its unified platform. This allows Credit Union employees to load data, work on budgeting and forecasting analysis, and generate reports all in the same system, streamlining the entire process. Previously, for example, individuals had to input month-end values in a separate environment, copying and pasting data from the front-end system to the back end. With the Axiom system, the data is stored and linked together, eliminating this potential source of errors and inefficient work streams.
According to Don Scott, Vice President of Accounting and Controller for American Airlines Credit Union, “When you look across the Credit Union, Axiom saves us at least 40 hours during each reporting cycle.”
These efficiencies have freed up the accounting team to perform deeper analysis and play more of a coaching role. “Now that our initial implementation and staff training are complete,” Scott added, “we should see even greater improvements moving into next year.”
Increased accuracy for higher confidence in the data
Removing a layer of manual data entry also improves accuracy, reducing the need to manually validate the numbers. To further enhance accuracy, the Credit Union’s accounting team collaborated with Syntellis' implementation consultants on the final system design.
For budgeting, the consultants developed a new “true-up” process to reconcile the current budget with year-end actual balances. “With the importing of balances and rates, and the correct accrual of income and expense calculated, the process significantly reduces manual inputs and the potential for human error,” said Scott.
To enhance forecasting accuracy, the team conducts midyear reforecasting. The final months of the year are now prepopulated with actuals from the prior year. This adjusts for seasonality and provides a clearer forecasting picture while eliminating the need to rely on manual work in Excel®.
“This pre-population also saves time,” Scott said. “It previously would take four to six hours to enter current values before analysis could even begin. That information is now populated in 15 to 20 minutes.”
A new approach to financial reporting
“Syntellis takes a radically different approach, asking ‘What do you want from a product?’ as opposed to ‘Here is our product; this is what you can do with it,’” explained Scott. “Even before implementation began, the Syntellis team took the time to design a solution that really addressed stakeholder input and met our desires.”
This ability to tailor the system led to a number of improved processes. One example is the creation of a statistical table that automatically provides Allowance for Loan Loss calculations and other outputs—data that is extremely useful for creating financials, scorecard reporting, and board presentations.
Another example of innovation is the Credit Union’s new variance reporting process. Previously, individuals at more than 90 branches and departments had to email any items required for accruals reporting. Branch and department budget analysts accessed the system, pulled a report, transferred the data to a spreadsheet (including known variance explanations), then emailed the spreadsheet to Accounting. The Credit Union’ accountants then spent hours aggregating 90 sets of variance reports, and frequently had to go back to individuals to request more detail.
With the new process, branches and departments enter accruals directly into the Axiom system and provide commentary on variances. That data is automatically loaded into the Credit Union’s core system. Both month-to-date and year-to-date variances are immediately visible, including the impact of changes made. Variance explanations (as required per Credit Union guidelines) must be entered before data can be successfully saved. This significantly reduces the need for the Accounting Department to request more details, and allows analysts to obtain reports in minutes. Variance data and explanations are then easily compiled for management reporting.
“The whole process requires far less human intervention,” Scott said.
Intuitive, Excel-based user interface
When American Airlines Credit Union rolled out its Axiom solutions, department managers and other users were extremely happy with the switch. According to Scott, “They only needed a single training session to be proficient, versus extensive ongoing training and support required by the prior system.” Scott attributes this to Axiom’s “intuitive, Excel-based interface” that is easy for users to understand and leverages their existing knowledge.
Expert support to embrace change
Credit Union leaders have been overwhelmingly pleased with the work of the Syntellis implementation team. They praised the consultants’ strong knowledge of processes used by financial institutions, and their expertise in developing and using the software.
“Our consultants were wonderful—very bright, creative, and easy to work with—with a really good understanding of the system,” Scott said. “We had a lot invested in our prior performance management system, but it simply was not meeting our needs; change was long overdue. Building on the streamlined processes, improved data accuracy and user friendly environment that we now enjoy with Axiom software, we look forward to taking full advantage of management dashboards and leveraging the platform’s huge potential.”