This article will focus on Microsoft Excel Reporting for Banks and how it has evolved over time.
Origins: I met Harold as my new boss in 1989 when I became Controller for a small subsidiary of a bank. At the time, I was a Lotus 1-2-3 disciple. I was great at writing macros and spitting out reports. The one thing I hated about Lotus, however, was its poor printing capabilities.
Harold introduced me to Microsoft Excel and its ability to set and preview the print area made me convert overnight. Harold said he loved the ability to type numbers into Excel every month, so he could get a good feel for the financials.
Benefits: Some of the many other benefits of using Excel are being able to enter or import data from multiple sources (General Ledger, Loans, Deposits, etc.), putting report development into the hands of bankers, being able to share the reports with others, and Excel’s ease of use.
Excel’s formulas are easy to audit, and one is able to build charts, graphs, and other visualizations all within the same tool. Excel was fun to use as you could type in anything you wanted to tell a story.
Regulations: Then FDICIA, SOX, and IAS30 came along and took a lot of the fun of Excel reporting for bankers away.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 (FDICIA) passed during the savings and loan crisis in the United States. FDICIA essentially required bankers to document all the controls that were put into place to ensure the accuracy of the numbers.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) is an act passed by U.S. Congress in 2002 to protect investors from the possibility of fraudulent accounting activities by corporations. SOX required many more disclosures and also made the CEO and CFO personally liable for any misleading information.
IAS 30 — Disclosures in the Financial Statements of Banks and Similar Financial Institutions became effective in 1991 and was superseded by IFRS 7 Financial Instruments: Disclosures, effective 1 January 2007. These requirements told bankers what their financial reports had to look like.
The cumulative effect of all these regulations dictated exactly what needed to be in bank financial reports. They have many requirements that focus on the measurement of Interest Rate Risk and Credit Risk. They spell out what needs to be in the various sections of the income statement and balance sheet. Soon, Excel reporting for bankers became very laborious.
Automation: With all the requirements and liability associated with Excel reporting, bankers needed tools that could automate the whole reporting process. Bankers needed tools that could pull data directly from the General Ledger and be able to present the numbers in Excel without them typing the data, and with full user security and dynamic capturing of new GL accounts, etc.
Hyperion (later acquired by Oracle and named Oracle Hyperion Financial Management) was a tool early on that pulled data from the General Ledger into separate OLAP data cubes. These cubes could then be accessed by Excel spreadsheets via add-ins and presented the way bankers needed. I used Hyperion in the late 1990’s and did not like the proprietary nature of the OLAP cubes and not being able to access the data with other query tools. Since then, Oracle has made many improvements to the tool.
OutlookSoft (later acquired by SAP and named SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation or BPC) came out in the late 1990’s and pulled data into a SQL Server data store. The add-in in Excel was much easier to navigate, as it was formula driven, and the parameters (company, branch, account, etc.) were straightforward. I used this tool as a replacement to Hyperion from 1997 to 2003. SAP too has made many improvements to the tool.
TM1 (later acquired by IBM and named IBM Cognos TM1) came out in the 1980’s and pulls data into a proprietary data cube. Its interface with Excel is also through an add-in. I actually sold IBM TM1 Cognos for a couple of years. As I mentioned, the cube is proprietary, and the data cannot be accessed from other reporting tools.
BI360 is a modern reporting tool offered by Solver, Inc. that pulls data into a separate data store that can be accessed via its Excel add-in and that can be automatically distributed to users by email or through a web interface. Its data is stored in a SQL Server data warehouse and can be easily accessed by many reporting and visualization tools. Solver’s BI360 is a complete Business Intelligence (BI) and Corporate Performance Management (CPM) suite with reporting, budgeting and dashboard modules. The BI360 data warehouse can combine your data sources and empowers all business users with self-service analytics critical to fast and efficient decision-making.
All four of these solutions are offered as on-premise or web-based solutions. They all have Excel front ends to build the reports with the ability to drill into the data. They all can publish the reports to web portals and be viewed on mobile devices.
Beyond the General Ledger: The basic Excel reports of yesteryear no longer are comprised of just General Ledger data. They must now include information from Loans, Deposits, Securities, Payroll, Accounts Payable, Fixed Assets, etc. Data from all of these legacy systems are now being pulled into the data stores of Oracle, SAP, IBM, and Solver and presented in Excel.
As Excel reporting for bankers continues to evolve and gets more and more regulated and complicated, you will need to partner with a technology that handle all the complexities. These solutions are definitely up for the challenge, but some of them can get a bit pricey as you add data sources and reporting requirements.
Typing in data into Excel spreadsheets the Harold use to do it is no longer an option. You need to automate today with a technology that will grow with your needs and not break the bank along the way. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer any questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use, Excel-powered consolidation tool for banking and finance industry users with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, comprehensive reporting and collaboration as a way to accelerate organizational performance management.