Youi's Finance Transformation Journey

Youi sought a FP&A platform to embed scalability, governance and auditability in its finance operations, transforming the insurer’s processes across planning, allocations and premium modelling. As an APRA-regulated entity, the stress testing functionality and scenario analysis has proven key to its business, ensuring rigour around their full costing process.
Join Samantha Morgan, Financial Planning Manager, Youi Insurance and Spencer Corlett, Principal Consultant, Tridant in this 1:1 interview.

Interviewees:

Samantha Morgan
Financial Planning Manager, Youi Insurance

Spencer Corlett
Principal Consultant, Tridant

Interview Transcript:

Michelle Susay:
Hello everyone, my name is Michelle Susay, and I am excited to go behind-the-scenes to uncover the finance transformation story at Youi Insurance, implemented by Tridant.

Headquartered in Queensland, Youi is a successful challenger insurance brand in Australia. The insurer launched in 2008 and quickly began picking up industry awards. In 2020, Canstar rated Youi the winner for Most Satisfied Customers for Home & Car Insurance in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria too.

With us today is Samantha Morgan, financial planning manager at Youi Insurance. Welcome, Sam.

Samantha Morgan:
Thanks for having me today, Michelle.

Michelle Susay:
We also have Spencer Corlett, principal consultant at Tridant. Spencer is a CPA, a Master Anaplanner and does enjoy an FP&A transformation. Welcome, Spencer.

Spencer Corlett:
Thanks, Michelle.

Michelle Susay:
Sam, could you tell us a little bit about your role at Youi?

Samantha Morgan:
I am the financial planning manager at Youi. My job currently involves preparing our annual budget and five-year plan as well as completing regular full costing and stress testing on the future performance of the business.

Michelle Susay:
And Spencer, tell us about your role.

Spencer Corlett:
I am a principal consultant in the corporate performance management team at Tridant. My background in is Accounting and Finance, I think you mentioned I am CPA-qualified, I started working in this field about 10 years ago.
My role at Tridant really is about working with clients to make their business, I guess more specifically their finance process, more efficient. So, looking at things like reducing manual work, overheads, and also producing greater insight into their data. And, this is generally done through, the better design of process and with the application of technology.

Michelle Susay:
Thank you, Spencer. That's a nice segue to our focus for today. Youi partnered with Tridant to transform the way the insurer undertakes planning and forecasting processes. Sam, it's been quite a journey since 2018. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Samantha Morgan:
Yes, sure. In 2018, we looked at our budgeting and forecast process, which was all done in excel at that time, and we realised we needed to implement a planning solution to get better scalability. We did an RFP process and landed on Anaplan as a solution, with Tridant to implement this for us.
This came about during an annual budgeting cycle where we had versioning issues with the excel files and had to do a significant amount of rework in a short space of time. This really highlighted the lack of governance and auditability around the excel budgeting solution. We knew that we needed to move towards a more systemised approach in the future.
I got involved when we were reviewing our top three solution providers. At that time, Tridant was one of the only firms that we knew who were working with Anaplan. Tridant have several Master Anaplanners, with expertise in the financial services industry, which really helped toward our decision.

Spencer Corlett:
I think I can probably add to that. Youi is obviously quite a big business in a traditional industry, but I think it is fair to say that they are quite modern in their approach. As Sam said, you know, they were constrained by doing everything in excel and having all the sort of inherent issues that come with using that tool including security, scalability, those types of things.
In terms of the project, it was really broken down into two main phases and really they were about putting together manageable chunks of specific functionality and capability that could be packaged up and delivered to the business to deliver value asap.
The two phases that we undertook were the annual budget, which is really about planning the key components of the business and their associated finances with that; and the second phase was around premium underwriting and stress testing. Obviously, the latter has become topical in the last 12 months.

Michelle Susay:
So, stress testing is important, Sam?

Samantha Morgan:
Yes, it certainly is. Stress testing functionality is key to our business because we are an APRA-regulated entity and ensuring rigour around our full costing process is key.

The dynamic stress testing we set up in Anaplan proved very useful during the COVID era and particularly with the recent catastrophes we've had here in Australia. Modelling out the impact of these to our business has been quite critical.

Michelle Susay:
Scalability and governance sound business-critical, Sam. Has it helped in your day-to-day role?

Samantha Morgan:
It definitely has. It has been very productive to have a system that integrates with our financial data warehouse, and to automate the updating of historical information. This has really limited the amount of manual intervention and really ensured governance around the actuals brought into the system. It also increased the amount of data we can actually bring in. Another example I would mention is how easy it is to add additional dimensions like new cost centres and charts. We are now spending a lot less time structurally maintaining the model and have more time to review the actual assumptions and value drivers.

Michelle Susay:
Let's discuss value benefit gains for Youi. What were some of the key improvements realised as part of your FP&A transformation?

Samantha Morgan:
Thanks Michelle. Implementing a planning platform like Anaplan has really enabled us to have greater transparency around our budgeting and forecasting process. It has given us greater capability to do stress testing and scenario analysis, which has come in really handy during the COVID pandemic, when predicting future financial performance has been quite key given the changes in the economic environment.

It has also enabled us with more time to focus on the actual drivers and assumptions, rather than maintaining the model itself. That has probably been the biggest change in our actual planning and full costing methodology.
It has also helped us reduce our turnaround time on key deliverables.

Spencer Corlett:
I'll just jump in here, Sam and add a couple of things. I suppose, looking in from an outsider's perspective, it is great to hear some of the benefits you've mentioned. I remember when we started the project, we got together and were talking about how stress testing was so onerous. You guys would be in a situation where you needed to turn around some of those scenarios or the stress testing, with short deadlines, all hands on deck, trying to turn it around, scrambling for spreadsheets, making multiple versions, to address the C-level executives requirements. But it is great now to hear how the solution has gone some way to addressing these issues.

Michelle Susay:
And has this affected how the FP&A role is perceived internally?

Samantha Morgan:
Definitely. Implementing a dynamic forecasting and planning solution has enabled the FP&A team to expand our forecasting and stress testing, like I mentioned earlier. It has improved our turnaround time or how quickly we can present these insights to the business.

The investment in the finance transformation journey has driven further value-add analysis, and really shown the value of FP&A as a function. We've been able to partner with the business, in helping provide key insights to decision-making.

Michelle Susay:
This is a massive finance transformation journey, more than two years in the making, over four phases so far. Were there hiccups along the way?

Samantha Morgan:
Yes, there was. One thing we really learned during this process is that you really need to have the right people for the job on the project. And for us, that was having consultants with financial expertise who were able to understand our requirements. To make sure that they had the foundational finance knowledge to help throughout the transformation journey, the consultants we engaged with had a CPA qualification, which really assisted us in implementing the financial aspects of the system. We saw the value-add in having that CPA qualification and industry expertise. It meant that we did not have to explain basic financial principles of income statements and balance sheets, and we could get straight into scoping and designing our requirements.

Spencer Corlett:
I think as Sam said, the project went reasonably smoothly. Obviously, there was some teething issues with things like system access and that sort of thing, but that is nothing unusual in a project of this nature.
I think a big part of this success really was our dedication to having a robust project management methodology in place. At Tridant, we use our own methodology called TSIM and that methodology has been created at Tridant and refined over the course of working on hundreds of different projects for clients like this. Broadly speaking, it is a blend of both waterfall and agile, taking the key elements of both of these and wrapping that up into what we call TSIM. This really helps in putting together a framework which enables us to manage risk, some of the challenges that come up, and also making sure we've got adequate resourcing on the project, and I suppose most importantly, making sure there's open lines of communication across the project.

Samantha Morgan:
Thanks Spencer. I agree that breaking our finance transformation journey down into smaller manageable projects enabled us to achieve the outcomes we were looking for, and really helped to manage the workload and change management throughout the process.

Michelle Susay:
Sam, while we have you, what advice would you give to anyone considering the same transformation journey?

Samantha Morgan:
That's a really good question. Definitely involve the right people in a journey and make sure you bring them along with you from the beginning. I think stakeholder involvement is very important so make sure you've got buy-in from your senior leaders, finance team and data teams as well. Ensure that everyone is aligned to the outcomes that you are after and continue to partner with everyone throughout the journey. You're investing the time and effort now to really set yourself up for future success.

Spencer Corlett:
One thing that I'd like to add is, Sam's mentioned most of the stuff that I’d adhere to during a project of this nature but one really key thing is, having a robust project management framework in place to undertake these projects. We touched on this briefly earlier in the discussion, but it's very, very important when you tackle these projects to make sure that you've got all the framework in place to be able to manage the risks, manage the challenges, make sure that you've got the appropriate resourcing, there's communication within the project, and everyone's on the same page, working to the same goals.
The only other thing I'd like to add is, all the consultants at Tridant are either CPA or CA certified, or I guess at a very minimum they have a background in Finance and Accounting. Having worked in the Office of Finance, it puts them in a strong position to understand the day-to-day challenges that the function faces. In addition, also being experts in technology, it really allows us to look at both improvement in efficiencies from two perspectives: from the business, and from the technology perspective.

Michelle Susay:
Great to hear the platform is proving a productive and powerful tool. I am glad it's delivering for Youi and your team, Sam. What's next on the horizon?

Samantha Morgan:
What's next is probably around continuing to optimise and invest in our current planning, to really drive feather efficiencies and insights in our business. Now that we have been on this journey, we are really excited with the future possibilities in store.

Spencer Corlett:
It has been great working together on this project. It's obviously been a huge success, as we've discussed the last couple of minutes, but it's also good to see when all the hard work finally comes to fruition and you've got something tangible in front of you. We have worked on this for several months and now we can actually see the business using it on a day-to-day basis. And not only is it saving money, but it's also saving time. You know, the guys are using it to do their base cases. They are using it to do some scenario modelling to do their budgeting. And it is really invaluable to get that time back when you're got competing activities for your resource.

Michelle Susay:
Fabulous. Thank you, Samantha Morgan, financial planning manager at Youi, and Spencer Corlett, principal consultant at Tridant, for taking the time to share your insights with us today.

If you need more information, please reach out to Tridant. Thank you to everybody for attending this Tridant session.

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