Treasurers still hooked on spreadsheets, finds white paper

By stubbornly sticking to Excel, are treasurers determined not to… excel?

Rampant use of spreadsheets is still at large in the corporate treasurers community, according to research from financial IT client-to-vendor matchmakers Bobsguide. The firm has found that treasury chiefs are reluctant to fully abandon the tried-and-trusted Excel and plunge headlong into the complex world of Big Data tools.

In its new white paper, Treasury Management Systems Guide 2015/2016, Bobsguide gathered testimony on data management from an array of often very senior treasury professionals and found that many of them still look to Excel for processing core accounting tasks.

Nicholas Franck, group treasury projects and products director at cosmetics firm Oriflame, said: “I still use spreadsheets, especially pivot tables and graphics for flexible analysis purposes. I also use it for integrating data from different sources.

“These requirements are too small to put significant investment in a more robust data integration tool, in terms of money and staff time. Spreadsheets are therefore ideal.”

Franck said that Oriflame does also use a more sophisticated treasury management system (TMS), but as a “general database” for treasury-related instruments and information – for example, guarantee lists for bond covenant reporting. “Using Excel is still essential for many different applications, however,” he added, “particularly reporting, budgeting and forecasting.”

Enrico Camerinelli, senior analyst with the Aite Group consultancy, told the white paper that two years ago, his organisation polled 178 treasurers around the world about their IT preferences.

A winning – and sizeable – 107 classed themselves as members of the spreadsheet faithful, with 51 TMS users as runners up and 31 users of enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages in third place.

“If I ran this survey again now,” Camerinelli told the Guide, “I don’t think the findings would be too different. When something is so popular, useful and widespread – as Excel is – then it’s for a reason. It’s unlikely to suddenly disappear.”

Camerinelli explained: “Technology firms across the sector have largely given up trying to get treasurers to scrap Excel, and instead now incorporate it into their solutions as a calculating engine or suchlike.

“It’s a useful tool, particularly for an older professional [who] may already have many complicated models on the platform, but it should only ever be an add-on tool in a controlled environment. The TMS should remain as the ‘single source of truth’ and overriding, corporate-wide system. That is the best-practice approach.”

One high-profile expert who concurred with that point was World Finance Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Martin Bellin – founder of treasury management solutions provider BELLIN. “Excel never helps to improve processes, security, compliance and communication,” he said, “so it should only be used in parallel [with a TMS].”

He added: “We could still use physical books for bookkeeping, but we have moved to SAP, Oracle and others.”

That trend, he explained, is driven as much by compliance requirements as the march of progress. “The industry is moving to TMSs to make work more efficient, and for other reasons, such as its ability to cope with regulatory demands emanating from the US Dodd-Frank Act, IFRS and the European Market Infrastructure Regulation.”

Find out more about the Bobsguide white paper here.

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