(Downtown Columbia, Mo., home of Shelter Insurance Companies. Photo credit: CosmiCataclysm.)
Shelter Insurance Companies (Columbia, Mo.), a $1.5 billion, multi-line super-regional insurance group, expects to cut its annual budget cycle by half through implementing Tidemark’s (Redwood City, Calif.) financial planning and analysis (FP&A) software. The insurer implemented Tidemark this year during its preparation of the 2015 budget, replacing its legacy spreadsheet-driven budgeting and forecasting system.
“Prior to Tidemark, we set up Excel templates with lots of manual calculations to gather our budget information from about 150 different departments and cost centers,” comments Tina Workman, VP of accounting and assistant treasurer, Shelter Insurance Companies. “It took a lot of manual effort. Someone had to enter that into our legacy GL program by hand. This meant we always had to start the budgeting process earlier than we wanted to.”
A More Collaborative Approach
Tidemark’s existing processes, shared by 250 associates across the group, were manual-intensive and time-consuming, Workman affirms. Implementation of Tidewater’s FP&A software eliminated steps and enabled a more collaborative approach to financial planning. For example, Shelter’s insurance managers formerly had to consolidate cost centers onto a spreadsheet, she recalls. “Tidemark does it in a click of a button,” she says. “It’s transformational to them.”
Shelter anticipates that managing FP&A across all those businesses will be dramatically easier as the company works towards fully utilizing Tidemark’s flexible metrics capabilities, according to a vendor statement. The Tidemark software gives new views into important metrics, such as monthly policy counts. In the past, finance couldn’t break policy counts down by auto, home, renters or other lines of business, instead reporting only top-line numbers for its property and casualty policies. In the near future analysts will get a real-time view of policy counts by line of business, and then drill down to view counts and policy retention levels by agent. These insights will help sales and marketing managers understand where to implement campaigns to increase sales of various lines of products, Tidemark asserts.
Greater Operational Agility
Shelter can now operate with greater agility because Tidemark is available to users anytime, even on mobile devices, and requires less handholding from IT than its previous system did, according to Al Finley, the insurer’s manager of planning and research. “With Tidemark, we have all our budget information and metrics stored in one place but accessible anywhere,” he says. “And we’ll always have the latest version of the software without us having to schedule an upgrade with IT. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how flexible Tidemark is, and impressed with the scalability of its computational cloud.”
Prior to the Tidemark implementation, inputting annual salary schedules required custom programming, so any adjustments made midstream meant a new round of coding and coordination. Now, Finley says, “We can adjust those tables on the fly and instantly see what impact they’ll have on total salary expense.”
As it relies on Tidemark for deeper analysis, Shelter Insurance plans to eventually correlate external factors, such as weather and population growth, to the type and frequency of claims by state, county or city, Tidemark reports.
“Cool” Factor Aids Adoption
Tidemark’s user-friendly interface integration with Workday helped bring more managers into the FP&A early in the adoption cycle, according to Workman. “Everything we do in Workday flows into Tidemark, and Tidemark is even easier to use than Workday,” she says. “Just four days in, we had 158 users on the system. People think it’s cool.”
Shelter Insurance employs 1,800 people and another 1,300 agents who sell auto, property, business and life insurance policies in 14 states in the Midwest. The company also maintains an international reinsurance operation that underwrites coverage for other insurers aiming to protect themselves against catastrophic loss. The group has $5.5 billion in assets under management.