To run a financial institution as large as Detroit-based Comerica, which has $55 billion in total assets, timely and accurate data is fundamental to making the right decisions. Lacking an integrated system for forecasting, budgeting and reporting Comerica needed a new solution.
The bank had been using an antiquated annual planning system for its budget process and relied on Excel spreadsheets for forecasting. Also, Comerica's existing Planit budget process system was no longer supported by a vendor; it was being patched together, and the bank feared that one day it wasn't going to work.
"What we really wanted to do was to integrate the actual, the plan and the forecast into one database," says Ed Echelmeyer, first vice president of corporate planning and forecasting, Comerica. After reviewing three vendors' offerings in 2001, the bank tapped SRC Software (Portland, Ore.) for a solution. "Purchasing SRC Budgeting and SRC Reporting allowed us to unite all three under one database."
According to Echelmeyer, the old system was time-intensive and made it difficult for users to derive budgets and forecasts. And, plan coordinators in the bank's major business units lacked an area where they could find historical trends and review actual data. Users were forced to manually input data into spreadsheets for analysis. "Our goal was to derive good reporting and analytical tools from a system, and that was one of the most important features of SRC's products," Echelmeyer says.
Comerica signed a contract with SRC in November 2002. Implementation plans were established in November and December, and software was delivered in the first quarter of 2003.
"Our whole purpose at this point was to gear up for the April 2003 forecast," Echelmeyer reflects. "We needed to purchase more Citrix servers for the new software, and they arrived in the first quarter of 2003. Our tech people installed the servers. The [April 2003] forecast process was actually our pilot program."
SRC trained Echelmeyer's staff of three people, who in turn trained a trainer in each business group. While working on the April 2003 forecasting project, Echelmeyer's team built functionality in preparation for Comerica's annual planning process, which began in September 2003. Today, the software is used by 500 planning centers.
Bending Over Backwards
Echelmeyer believes that the SRC applications' flexibility has been crucial to the solutions' success. "Anything we've thought of, we've been able to do," he says. "The reporting and analytical tools are a real benefit because we can easily build reports. Anyone with Excel skills can literally put reports together quickly," he adds. "The analytical side allows us to drill down on any report until we find where the differences are."
Ease of use, he continues, has also been key. "As a finance user of the system, I'm controlling my own destiny - without much IS support." The software allows users to change line items and data elements without tech support.
SRC Budgeting and SRC Reporting allow Echelmeyer to incorporate data from other applications to assist in forecasting and budgeting. Information is imported on head counts and salary from the bank's human resource systems. Depreciation and runoff on the bank's fixed assets are also integrated into the system, as is cash flow aggregation data on loans and deposits from the bank's MIS system. "SRC built bridges so we could interface," he says.
This year, Comerica used the software for the first time in its strategic planning process. Because of the system's flexibility, Echelmeyer notes, the bank continues to examine where else it can leverage the application to integrate its data and improve forecasting and planning.
Institution: Comerica (Detroit).
Assets: $55 billion.
Business Challenge: Unite forecasting, annual budgeting and monthly reporting into one data system.
Solutions: SRC Software's (Portland, Ore.) SRC Budgeting and SRC Reporting applications.