3 Steps to Leveraging Scenario Planning to Build Resilience
Volatility is bound to happen. As a finance professional, it is your duty to showcase actionable cash insights that empower quick and effective decision making. Modern scenario planning provides the high level, real-time insights management needs, while alleviating manual processing that consumes unnecessary time and resources.
Watch this webinar to hear from Trovata’s Founder & CEO Brett Turner.
Through an informative Thought Leadership session, followed by an interactive fireside chat, we will explore how:
Jess: Hello, everyone! I’m Jess Bozzo of Proformative in Argyle Company, the leading online resource for the office of the CFO. I would like to welcome everyone to today’s webinar “Three Steps to Leveraging Scenario Planning to Build Resilience.” I’d like to thank our sponsor, Trovata. Trovata helps businesses automate the work it takes to gather and normalize all of its financial data. Their commitment to thought leadership today helps us make the webinar possible and delivered at no cost to the participants.
In terms of the learning objectives for today’s webinar, we will explore how scenario planning can build resilience to prepare for the future, how finance leaders can leverage scenario planning to become more proactive in assessing their capability to withstand disruption, to achieve greater accuracy over cash forecasting, and, finally, how adopting scenario planning can give your organization a competitive edge.
Before I introduce today’s featured speaker, we have just a few housekeeping items to cover. We will send you links via email to the presentation and the recording within 24 hours. For those attendees seeking CPE credit today, you must answer all polling questions and remain on the line for the duration of the webinar. Afterward, if you are eligible to receive credit, you’ll be able to click on an icon to download the certificate located in the certification section. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage you to submit your topical questions during today’s session. To do that, you can simply enter your questions into the Q&A section of the interface, and we’ve set aside some time to address your questions following today’s session. Finally, please do take the short survey at the end of the webinar.
Now, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce you to today’s featured speaker on the line today. We’re excited to have Brett Turner, who is the founder and CEO of Trovata. What I’ll do is turn things over to Brett, so he can share a few words about himself, his role at Trovata, and the company. And then what we’ll do is launch our first polling question. I’ll go through the agenda and then I’ll turn things over to Brett. So, Brett, over to you for a bit of background.
Brett: Great. Yeah, thanks! Good to be with everybody today. Yeah, this is a topic that’s sort of near and dear to my heart and a big part in starting Trovata a little over 4 years now. So no shortage of passion about this topic and having a lot of, you know… Like I’m sure many of you are working in the trenches for many, many years. So my background for context is a little over 20 years in finance and accounting. I started as a CPA at Deloitte in the Seattle area, migrated quickly into high-growth tech companies, for a few years early in my career, about the midpoint in 2004-2005, managed Amazon’s SEC reporting, and then moved into a CFO role for about a decade prior to starting Trovata. And that was all three different companies, all high-growth technology companies, venture-backed, all selling into the enterprise: one in telecom, one in energy, and then one in cloud computing. All of them really had a different segway as to why Trovata is also just kind of being in, you know, managing cash and doing a lot of planning, you know, throughout my career. But, you know, across these three as a CFO, raised a little over a hundred million, you know, all three grew rapidly, all three have exited successfully, thankfully. And then really Trovata really, you know, embodies a lot of that. You know, these 20 years of work in a lot of ways, it’s the solution that I always wished that I had. And I think that’ll come across as we talk through a lot of the topics today.
Jess: Excellent. Well, thanks so much, Brett! I’m super excited for today’s session. So before we dive in, I think what we’ll do is go ahead and launch our first polling question. You’ll see this one on your screen. And I think this will help Brett and I just get a bit of background on our attendees, set a bit of a baseline for our conversation today. So what you’ll see on your screen here, again, this is our first poll. And this one says, “What does your finance team use for scenario planning for cash & liquidity?” You’ll see the answer options on your screen here: Excel, an FP&A planning solution, banking portal, or other banking solution, or we’re looking to build out or upgrade. We’ll go ahead and give you a few moments here to select your answer. Again, for those attendees who are just joining us, this is our first poll of the day. If you’re interested in CPE credit, you’ll need to answer all three polls. Once we close this question down, we’ll go ahead, take a look at the results, maybe have Brett, excuse me!, make a quick comment or two, and then I’ll go through the agenda and turn the floor over to Brett. So please go ahead and make your final selection here. Reminder: you can scroll until you see this Submit button, click on that to log your response. All right. Without further ado here, we’ll go ahead and take a look at the results. Let’s see! The most popular answer overwhelmingly here, Brett, with about 79% is Excel. Do you have any thoughts on that? Is that what you guys typically are seeing in the space? I would love to get some of your initial thoughts or feedback here.
Brett: Yeah! No surprise there at all as I would expect that to be really, really high. So, yeah, no surprises.
Jess: All right, well, I think that’s a great first poll. It’ll help us, you know, inform our conversation that we’ll have a bit later today. I thought it might be helpful just to go through this initial agenda with all of our attendees. So how are we gonna run today’s session? I’m gonna turn the floor over to Brett in just a moment here. He’s got some great slides teed up. It’s gonna be an informative session. Then Brett and I are gonna transition to a more informational informal fireside chat. So you’ll actually get to see both of us as we go through some great questions there. I’m excited to hear Brett’s perspective. And then what we’ll do is leave time for audience Q&A. So we’re looking forward to it. And without further ado, Brett, I wanna hand the floor over to you to go through your content. So welcome, Brett!
Brett: Thank you! So I’m gonna click through here. This is sort of just the opening. Needless to say, 2020 has been a crazy year. So how do you really visually display that other than showing crazy stuff on the screen? You know, when you look at the pandemic, just, you know, fires in California, just the speed of our world, I think it feels like everything’s moving faster. And then when COVID hit, it just became, you know… I think just, you know, I think there’s a mantra in finance, of course, “Never be surprised.” You know, we all planned for that, but… And we’re talking about, you know, scenario planning today. Obviously, nobody could have predicted the pandemic. I mean, maybe a few say that they had it on their radar, but, you know, clearly, that’s, you know, this isn’t to say that they’re gonna give you all the answers to be able to predict the next big thing. But it’s more of a discipline. It’s more about how to start to prepare in a different way to really engage so that you can be more proactive because, as I mentioned, it just feels like the world is speeding up. Reality is, it’s been like that for the last 10 years. You kinda look at modern tech and how it’s really changed so much, and yet there’s this growing disparity, I think, in finance, accounting, and especially treasury in that the expectations are high, that you have a good modern tech to move quickly. But as the poll indicated, most everybody’s still doing, you know, everything in Excel or mostly. And so, you know, those expectations are there because of really modern tech and what it’s driven over the last 10 years. You look at the cloud, mobile, big data, APIs, you know, biometrics for approvals now on your mobile phone for MFA, there’s the rise of big tech. You know, we have so many experiences on the consumer side or other aspects of our daily life, but there still aren’t a lot of really good modern tech tools in finance to be able to utilize. And yet with the cloud and even IT, which often rolls up underneath the CFO, there’s been this massive change or metamorphosis and really this massive shift and even cost compression. And so as that’s gone through this digital transformation, I think in a lot of ways, there’s this expectation that that’s just permeated throughout all of the DNA side of the house, and that’s just not true. So there’s been a lot there. But, you know, one of the things, of course, it’s in some ways that you can think of financial institutions and banking. You know, we see things that we’ve all used on the consumer side, whether it’s Mentor, some of these apps that are on your phone to be able to manage, or you have Robinhood. You know, different things that we have on the mobile or consumer side, and we kind of wonder, “When is that coming to the finance side?” But I think when it comes to banking and wholesale banking, so I call it the QuickBooks demark. So when your business is doing 20 million in revenue and above, you’re on the wholesale side of the bank. And then, there hasn’t really been a lot of… You know, modern tech hasn’t really found its way. It is starting to with APIs kinda finding its way, and that’s sort of the banks that discover that, “Hey, they can actually start to act like a tech company if they embrace the API.” You know, when we started, I started Trovata a little over 4 years ago, most people on the wholesale side of the bank didn’t even know what an API was. About 2-2.5 years ago, that was when API started to come through. So, you know, it’s changing, and I think that’s a big part of… With still that disparity in that tug of war of, you know, the expectations are that we’re moving fast with this tech, but the reality is, we don’t really have the tools to be able to keep up. And therefore, we’ve gotta think smarter. We’ve gotta look at how we upgrade tech, and we have to think strategically at the end of the day. And that’s really what scenario planning does. It sort of forces you to think critically in that way.
So some context here. We kinda put this in the context of cash and liquidity. And I’m thinking when you kinda look at… you know, with COVID hitting and in all of that how it’s played out, I mean, everybody kinda hitting the panic button in a lot of ways large and just realizing how pervasive this was. And then, you know, one is because we’re all stuck in Excel, and we’re doing all of our modeling in Excel. You know, instantly, everybody’s looking at finance or the CFO and saying, “OK, you know, what’s the prognosis here? What’s the impact on our business?” And it’s been, I think, very different than in 2008, which now seems like a lifetime ago. It’s been 12 years ago since the Great Recession. And all of those changes, they kinda built in some sort of discipline and, you know, even certain frugal aspects of kinda when we tighten things up. You know, that’s a distant memory. And you kinda look at, you know, really where we have been, it’s, you know, we’re all kinda got flat-footed with that. And a lot of that is just… You know, again, that disparity of resources, of expectations that we have a good tech to be able to get the answers quickly, and then, you know, what quickly became this massive fire drill of getting everybody in a room, you know, “Call home and let your spouse know that you may not be coming home until late at night the next 2 or 3 nights.” And that’s just been, and it’s been very discriminating for companies and how it’s really impacted, you know, crushed some companies, and yet other companies thrive. So it’s just been… You kinda look at the end of the day, you know, getting in this mode of how you sort of prepare and get started around scenario planning, it’s really taking inventory. What do we have? And, you know, we all had to do that in a matter of 48 hours to really get the answers. But, you know, take stock of what you have to be able to understand your position, to understand what are the ranges of outcomes here. Just ring-fence all the aspects of this. And then, you know, quickly moving through that process has been difficult.
So I think part of… The other aspect, too, of just, you know, this mindset really from a scenario planning perspective, it’s if you start to think that way where you have to, you know, you’re starting to… you know you have to think smarter and not work harder. You know you have to have better tech. You know you’ve gotta think more strategically. You know where does that all begin? Part of it is doing the work to sort of engage with the business and different department heads and just learning the business that sort of forces you to know the business and to learn the business and understand a lot of the business drivers of… You know, when there are these various impacts, how is that gonna impact the business? How is that gonna impact margins? How is that gonna impact cash flow? You know all of these. When you start to look at all these drivers, it allows you to ask harder questions, and that allows you to go to the certain people in the business that see things in their vantage point to where you can ask them questions and get those answers more quickly. So I think a part of that is, you know, how much cash are we gonna need, a part of this prognosis of how we’re gonna get through this, a lot of it is you need to know the business. You need to understand all those aspects. And that’s why scenario planning, you know, is forcing you to think strategically, forcing you to think critically. And knowing the business will help you understand a lot of those toggles, a lot of those aspects and help you estimate in your mind, you know, when there are things, you know, what really are gonna be the big impacts, the big drivers, and it’ll allow you to be a little more agile and then be able to then have that knowledge more readily available and pour that into your assumptions and what’s your modeling to be able to move more quickly through that process.
And I think that at the end of the day, a lot of this is just getting to… We’re at a point now where, again, we all got flat-footed, and I think it’s become a catalyst. I mean, it’s certainly become a catalyst for what, you know, who has a lot of this critical data, the bank, you know, bank transactions, bank balances. When you look at cash forecasting, doing a bottoms-up forecast, wanting to understand all your cash flow trends and all of those pieces, that data is critical. And I think that’s one of the things, too, that in addition to all of us responding to that, realizing we have to have more real-time access to data, the world is speeding up where access to information… You know, somebody puts out a tweet, and it’s traveling quickly around the world. Somebody is trading their stock in an instant, you know? We have to be able to respond and have more real-time data. And so part of it is future-proofing your data strategy, trying to pivot off of legacy systems, and migrating to something that will give you the agility to move and do a number of different things. But it really comes down to data. You know, data, as we talk about it, data is the new oil. Well, it depends. If you have access to it, and you can do the right things with it, it obviously allows you to be able to drive things forward and move with significantly greater leverage. And we all need that. We’re at a point right now where I think I mentioned because of the cloud or other things there, everybody is resource constraint. And it’s not just, you know, it really sort of feels sometimes like, you know, we’re squeezing blood from a turnip in terms of resource management, you know, in accounting, and FP&A, and treasury. And part of it is, the only real way to kinda move through this, to continue as resources continue to get flatlined or harder to grasp, and then also just not having any IT resources to help, you know, when it comes to pulling in and upgrading on the tech side. So I think that has been the key thing. It’s just get to this point where you’re focusing on this mindset, “How do you future-proof your data strategy?” because that’s what it’s gonna come down to. And all of the automation that’s needed, it’s really gonna be driven off of that data. So this is just a view of, a little bit about Trovata. So, again, Trovata, for me, it’s sort of the system that I always wished that I had throughout my career. You know, a little bit about moving through, having a very deep background in financial reporting, both public and private, and then when I moved into a CFO role back in 2005, I think the first thing because I moved into this, it was this telecom startup, very fast growing, but it was a bit of a turnaround.
And so I came in on the wave of fresh capital coming into the company. And right away, because we had so many… you know, a finance-dominated board and financial stakeholders that were putting, you know, who had been in the business for a while, some new investors, everybody wanted to know about cash, cash utilization, cash spin, efficiency of spin, and all of these things sort of broke some of the convention of, you know, aspects of getting those answers through your standard reporting cycle. And so for me, it really, you know, I kinda had to reinvent myself at that time around getting access to cash data and then combining it with ERP data, but being able to then use that as a basis to get, you know, as an FP&A tool, so I could understand what’s going on in the operation more quickly, and I could use it for myself to be successful as a CFO, but also just build confidence and be more decisive, be more agile, and then be a resource, a resource to people throughout the company, but particularly the senior team, so we could quickly make faster and better decisions.
So Trovata is the first modern end-to-end solution that really encompasses three pieces. One is the transport layer: getting the bank data from the bank and into the system. Like right now, we’re still following this 40+ year process of file-based systems or even downloading CSV files from your online banking portal. So of the three things in that poll, it was Excel at the top. The third one was your online banking. So combine the two, that’s mostly how people manage with all of that. And we’re not trying to replace Excel. Part of it is how do we seamlessly work with Excel, but do it instead of just for assistance. Excel is the system of record where you’re constantly wearing your product management hat and doing all of your own ETL and text the columns and formatting all this data and using these models that can be a little unwieldy as you go, and sometimes… no, not exactly maintenance-free, trying to make that turnkey for the pieces that you shouldn’t have to do, that are very manual. So right now, getting your bank data, sometimes it feels like ordering something from the Sears catalog. You know, we’re trying to change that. We’re in the era of Amazon where you order something, and it shows up on your doorstep the next day. We need to have this transport layer, the data from the bank into Trovata. That needs to happen immediately. And it’s starting to happen now as the banks open up, you know, referred to now as open banking is coming online. Banks are embracing APIs. 90% of banks now have an API strategy. I’d say 3 years or so ago, many of them didn’t know what an API was, especially on the wholesale side. So we handle that transport layer. Then we’re predominantly a big data company. So then we’re doing all of the normalization of data, all of the, you know, managing that as a managed service for you, being able to give you an enterprise SLA, built-in reconciliation, making sure of all of the banks in a multi-banks scenario where that data is coming in that you have all your data and it’s all tied out. So you don’t have to do that, you know, these intense daily reconciliation steps. So these are continuous advancements that we’re making within Trovata. But being able to pull Trovata trove of data, starting with the bank is that truth of record and then building on top of that with selected data from your ERP system, pulling in affects rates, being able to interact with it with Excel and then really using that as a layer. So that third layer, the application layer – automating these cash-centric workflows. That’s where we fit in. It’s really about all of the cash forecasting. So how much cash do you have across all your banks? What is going on with your cash in terms of cash flow analysis, all of your historical trends? And then thirdly, a tool that will finally now help you forecast cash: where is it going? And have a tool that is able to do that as a system record. Even if you’re using Excel, you can still do things with Excel, but now giving you access to different sources of data, so you can start to build up your forecast with these different building blocks that we have: tags, streams, factors, all of these pieces that you can do just help you manage through all that to give you much greater leverage over all that and kinda get out of the weeds from a lot of the manual processes that everybody is dealing with today. So I’ll pass there… Jess, if you wanna take back over here.
Jess: Absolutely! Thank you so much, Brett, for a really great tip there. I think your slides were great, your passion for the topic is clear. So I’m excited to get into a fireside chat with you in just a moment here. But what we’ll do now is just pause briefly and go ahead and launch our second poll of the day. So I’ll pull that one up on our screen here. You’ll see it. It says, “What would be the biggest benefit of scenario planning for your organization?” The answer options for this second poll are: identifying ranges of potential outcomes and impacts, visualizing risks and opportunities, moving from reactive to proactive, or all of the above. Just like our first poll, we’ll go ahead and give you a few moments here to select your answer. Friendly reminder for any attendees seeking CPE credit for today: you’ll need to answer at least three polls. This is our second one. Just like our first poll, after we close this one down, we’ll go ahead, pull up the results. We’ll have Brett make a quick comment or two, and then Brett and I will dive into a fireside chat. I’m excited to get into some of these topics a little bit deeper with Brett. And a friendly reminder as well: after a fireside chat, we’ll save some time for audience Q&A. I think I’ve seen a question or two come through so far, so continue to submit those. And again, we’ll save a few minutes towards the end. All right. Let’s go ahead and take a look at the results here. Just scrolling to take a look. Well, it looks like the attendees are really understanding the benefits here of some good solid scenario planning. So it looks like all of the above. Brett, is it surprising to you? Any thoughts on this second poll?
Brett: Yeah. No, this is fairly predictable, too. I mean, at the end of the day, you can’t go wrong, you know? I think everybody’s doing it to some degree, right? It’s just how much can you do it, knowing that, you know, when people have intersections where they’re doing it, it always pays dividends in a big way.
Jess: Excellent! Well, let’s go ahead, Brett! I’m excited to dive into our fireside chat. Again, like I said, I think your passion for the topic is clear. It’s exciting. So let’s go ahead and just, I think, start at the beginning. And the first question I wanna ask you is, you know, the COVID-19 global pandemic caught everyone off guard. I know you said it, and I’ve heard it as well, some people might have seen it coming, but what have you seen from companies and how they’ve navigated through the crisis so far this year?
Brett: Yeah, I mean, first off, with Trovata now, we’ve grown a lot. We’re gone from 0 to 70 customers in a little under 18 months. And I think when you look at who… You know, I kinda look at the context of who our customers are and who were serving from that standpoint, cash forecasting, you know, cash is king. Of course, it’s the lifeblood. So obviously, when something like this happens, it has brought some, you know, more customers to us. It’s a little bit like, well, who would, you know, is using Trovata, it’s sort of like a little bit the eye of the storm. The only person who, you know, companies that really don’t need it or where there’s no change center, that may be that 1% of companies globally, so it’s usually everybody. But it’s also, you know, it’s a little heartbreaking, honestly, when you’ve got companies that really need Trovata because they need it in a bad way. I mean, their business, you know, COVID has been highly discriminatory. I mean, if you’re in the entertainment space, travel space, restaurants, event planning companies, they’ve just been crushed in a lot of ways, right? So I think for them it’s about trying to get visibility of when things are gonna revitalize or making really, really hard decisions. You kinda look at this. We talked about the fire drill that everybody really went through. I think one of the things is what’s gonna be, you know, how big of hard decisions are we gonna have to make? You know, layoffs or other kinds of things, right? So those are tough things. And so you wanna make sure that you’re gonna make hard decisions, you wanna be really confident about that. You wanna be able to look people in the eyes, and you wanna be able to communicate across the organization what’s going on and decisions, the hard decisions you have to make. You’re making those because you know you have to, and the data points to that, and you can be transparent about that with your employees as best as you can. So I think there’s that scenario.
In the other scenario, there are companies that are thriving. You know, we have companies on the other side of the spectrum, too: you know, learning platforms or other aspects where e-commerce, you know, companies are doing really well. So I think that’s the difference about this versus 2008. Everybody sort of was negatively impacted. It was just hard, and we were all in the same boat. This one is different. And it’s really forced us to think critically about the business, know your business, know all the pieces of… you know, when something happens negatively, what are gonna be the things that are most affected and how? And so it’s forced us to really… You know, it’s been that catalyst where now nobody’s really taking things for granted. Nobody’s really in the status quo. And also on top of that, as mentioned, everybody is already under-resourced. And so they’re really looking at, you know, we have to now take that step and find ways to really future-proof our business and give us leverage. You know, it reminds me, you know, we talked about this a little bit. Like if you ever remember the movie Avatar, and, you know, the folks have those big machineries there. You know, they’re walking around in it. And it’s this robotics that’s essentially allowing you to do 3x the work or whatever it is, right? But I think we’re at that mode where automation really is key. It’s really the only way out. We have to have automation and really get out of a lot of these manual workloads and manual workflows that we’re doing, and everybody from top to bottom, from a department perspective, we have to just get greater leverage. And so I think that’s the thing that’s really in a good and a bad way has really set that ball in motion where everybody now is pursuing that. And then thankfully, the banks are, too. The banks have really struggled through this in a lot of ways, too, of knowing that they need to get. They have the customers’ data. They have that when it comes to cash. They have, obviously, you know, when it comes to liquidity, obviously, the banks play an important role. And so the banks are trying to step up. They know they need to help their customers with these problems. And so they’re starting to embrace APIs. So a company like Trovata can really get that baton and unlock that value with the data for customers. The banks aren’t the… It’s not necessarily there in the banks’ DNA to build great products. I think we all know that. We have online banking that sort of like Internet banking of the late 90s, that hasn’t changed a whole lot. So the banks are recognizing their needs to be more productive and experienced. They’re knowing it’s hard for them to get there. So they’re starting to embrace the API that can really be the catalyst for that handoff with the fintech, with a company like, you know, Trovata and others who can really drive that change and bring about the solutions that are really gonna drive a lot of improvement, drive automation.
Jess: Yeah, you’ve touched on a couple of key themes which we’re gonna get to in just a minute. I almost wanna skip around just a bit, but I wanna kinda go in chronological order here. So I guess, you know, it’s clear to me at least, and I think I know how you’re gonna answer this question, but Brett, if you had to boil it down for our attendees on the line, why is scenario planning such an important way to manage risk for finance and for treasury teams? And how is it really proven to be effective? I think you hit on this, but if there’s anything else you wanna add from your remarks on question 1, I would love to hear it.
Brett: Yeah, I think like anything when everything is just going perfectly smooth, then it may not prove out how effective it is because nothing is bad going, you know. But that’s not the way the world works, and now it seems like, “What’s next? What’s around the corner?” You know, the world is speeding up. And so I think the world feels that way, at least. So I think the aspect is, if you think that way from a scenario planning perspective, it forces you to be inquisitive, to engage with others outside of accounting, finance, treasury. It forces you to learn about the business and know the business. And that’s really the only way when you know the important parts about your business that are really the underlying drivers or maybe the vulnerabilities, what can be affected, then that allows you to just respond or lean in and be proactive. But you can’t otherwise. It’s really difficult to do that otherwise. I think for me, just my background of being in startups, things are changing constantly. So that’s the thing. You have to learn to… You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. There are just so many aspects of a dynamic change that are constantly going on. So you have to think that way, or you may not be there. In a lot of ways, you have to be able to keep up and respond. You have to be a resource, and you’re always dealing with resource constraints. So I think, in a lot of ways, just being in startups, I mean, I love the entrepreneurial aspect of it. That’s always kinda what I wanted to do as I kinda grew up. I kinda took this accounting track, so I could kinda learn, but then definitely wanted to grow and run my own business at some point and so… But working in startups, having all of that, you kinda take on a little bit of that entrepreneurial aspect of being vested in the business. And I think the part that I loved about it and learned early was that, and it happened for me, was the ERP system.
The ERP systems have been sort of a black box of data. And most of us do this as the workaround. If we can build a data lake, then you’ll build all your financial reporting or FP&A off of that data lake. You’re not doing that within the ERP system. It’s just not really equipped and designed to be able to do that very well for you. And so once you do that, you know, for me, just realizing that us as accountants or if you’re in the FP&A or in treasury, you’re sitting on a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of valuable data. And if you can utilize that or get that engaged with businesses and sort of help other decision-makers and lean in to help them and get that data pushed out to them, they will be grateful. Sometimes, there are walls around finance. You know, tear those walls down, really enable that data to really help those key decision-makers, and they will be better for it. The business will be better for it. And it will come back to you in spades. They will start to teach you about some aspects of the business that you might not know. And that stuff all of a sudden when you start to learn those aspects because you’re engaging with all of this, other key stakeholders in the business, they’ll be more open and forthright about that, and they’ll just start to give you better visibility of what’s going on. They’ll teach you about some of the things that, those moving parts, of kinda how things kinda tie together. And it just will allow you to understand all of the underlying business drivers. And again, all of that flows into all of our planning and all of how we can start to think about the various potential outcomes. It’ll impact the business in a good way or bad way, or knowing that that’s just gonna be a speed bump, we don’t have to worry about that. It really just elevates all of that immensely.
Jess: That’s great! Thanks so much, Brett! And I wanna… You know, the benefits are clear, but where does it all start? What are some of the first steps that finance leaders should take, and what should be their areas of focus? I think you’ve highlighted pretty clearly that data is key, so maybe it starts there. But I wanna hear your thoughts about, you know, we’ve actually seen a few attendee questions come in on this: kinda how to get started with effective scenario planning at their organizations.
Brett: Yeah, like I said, I think the biggest thing is, it is to start to… I think particularly in accounting and finance, treasury, you know, these are very process-oriented disciplines. You know, the trains have to run on time, right? So there’s so much about making sure that everything is gonna operate like a final machine. I mean, that’s what we all kinda want and get in that groove. But I think part of it is, that’s definitely, and sometimes that can take time, it’s constantly causing some tweaks and maintenance to be able to do that and operate with that level of success and proficiency. But you have to… Don’t get stuck on that, right? Start to venture out. Start to… And sometimes, that’s just a basic… You know, a harder thing, though, sometimes is just to start to step outside and give. You know, you’re sitting on this great… You know, all of this data and all of this knowledge, the ERP is a fantastic source of data, right? But being able to and then understanding that the cash flow in various pieces, you’d be surprised… When you start talking to other business folks, they don’t understand finance that well. So you can actually educate. And just some basic things that I think that everybody takes for granted are things that you can teach them. So when you start to tell about, you know, “Hey, here’s the financial impact of what you’re doing every day,” that gets them excited because it adds some purpose and meaning to what they’re doing. And I think as companies get bigger, especially, you know, everybody sorts the, there’s a lot of red tape, and there’s a lot of fiefdoms and all that and, fortunately or unfortunately, and so it… I think being able to find just people and points of engagement and just have a natural curiosity, a curiosity around the product, so when you talk to somebody in engineering, you’ll just be curious, ask them questions about what they’re doing, and how that translates into the revenue. You see the trial balance, you see the financial statements, and you know that really well. Start to make that story come to life by engaging with the business and just start with somebody. You don’t have to start with the head of sales. Just start with anybody. And then once you kinda do that, you’ll start to build that up because you’ll realize how cool it is and how much you learn something there. Then go to the next person. You’ll start to build this habit of reaching out outside the organization or outside of finance, and you’ll start to learn aspects, and then you’ll get addicted to it. You’ll start to learn how cool that is. It will bring this additional meaning to what you’re doing on the process side, and you’ll get excited about the business and what’s going on there. And then everything that you’re seeing now that you’re doing from a discipline perspective, you’ll start to understand why or the story behind it. And that’s just fun to connect the dots. So I’ll just say part of it is sorta give and receive. Take that step, tell people about the impact that they’re making from a financial perspective that you see everyday, and tell them about that, and also maybe bring some… There might be something you can help them with: a report or some way to analyze their business, give them some information, and if they see that from a business operator perspective, they’re like, “Wow, this is really cool! This helps me with understanding, you know, what’s going on.” They will reciprocate for sure. And so I think that’s just the best way that I have found early. And then it just sorta tipped over to just wanting to make a big impact as a business person. You know, you’re just always learning. It’s a constant journey, and you can’t help but not continue to ask more questions and just go deeper down what becomes an exciting rabbit hole to pursue.
Jess: Yeah, absolutely. I love your point about engaging with the business. It’s something we hear a lot about, especially, you know, collaboration between finance and other executive functions and how it’s so key, especially now. So I think that’s a really good point. And I wanna circle back for my next question about something you mentioned pretty early on, and that is automation, moving away from some of these manual processes. We saw in that first poll that most folks are still relying on Excel. So I wanna chat briefly about… We hear a lot about machine learning, about AI. How are you seeing finance teams leverage some of this technology now? And what kind of resources do they need from their IT counterparts?
Brett: Yeah, absolutely! I’ll say something, maybe, surprising, especially as a tech company. I think that you’ll hear machine learning and AI and tech-buzzwords a lot. And the people… I think, right now, tech companies or even legacy systems writers, some of it is marketing, they’ll start being really loose with these terms. And it’s unfortunate because I think then people start to wonder, “Well, what is machine learning?” I bet if we did one of the poll questions that said, “What is machine learning?”, I bet a lot of people would say, “Well, it sounds cool. I want it. I’m not sure what it is.” And that’s not anyone’s fault. That’s just sort of just these terms that get thrown out very loosely, and honestly, I think in the finance space especially, much of the modern tech world is way out in front. And they’re definitely doing these kinds of things, the different uses, or different niche applications and things, but it’s sort of left finance, accounting, treasury behind of it because there’s just this basic level of automation that’s needed. It’s not rocket science. Some of the stuff, that’s just needed. I mean, like I mentioned, just getting your bank data out of the bank, that should be like an obvious, easy, trivial thing. It’s not. It’s hard. The APIs are… You know, we’re pioneering these connections, really the first company in the world to pioneer these API integrations on the wholesale banking side. Some of you may have heard of a company called Plaid or Finicity. They’re allowing access for fintech companies on the consumer side or what’s called the retail core of the bank. But it may be a small business, but that’s more on the retail side, which is more on the consumer-based platform of banks. Banks are still operating off of mainframe computing. So when you kinda look at something very trivial of getting your bank data out of the bank and then realizing that… And then when you kinda look at how large corporates… You know, treasury departments or treasury functions typically don’t even get built out until a company gets to about 500 million in revenue. So when you talk about treasury departments, and once they start to get to a billion, 2 billion in revenue and large scale, like they have to have something. There are just too many banks, too many bank accounts, too much data to manage, and making sure that they’re having to reconcile that, just basically the completeness and integrity of all of their cash flows, and preventing fraud in a risk management aspect. So I think right now those systems are highly legacy. And they can spend hundreds of thousands or deal with maybe a year of implementation or deal with that because they have to anyway. But of the companies that are really in the market for these legacy treasury solutions, there are 5,000 global companies that are doing a billion in revenue and above. There are 500,000 companies in the US alone that are 5 million in revenue to a billion in revenue. And just like the poll question, everybody is using Excel and online banking to manage their cash. So cash is king. Why are the tools to manage them so terrible? But really, they aren’t. It’s a dearth of tools. So I think a big part of this is, you know, sure, we are doing things. We have a super-talented data science team and, just so you know, we’re blessed to have these really talented leaders and talented engineers in our company. And we are bringing the future machine learning and AI, those kinds of pieces, they’re already built-in. But there’s a ton of more stuff that’s coming. But there are also these table stakes like we just gotta get people upgraded on the basics. Get your data, use the data to automate some basic reporting that’s happening and being still manually done, tagging your data. We’ve reinvented this process around categorizing all your data. People are doing that in Excel, which is painful. You know, having more of a natural language search, it’s a little bit more like Google for Discovery. But having that fluidness of finding, searching, getting that data, and then being able to tag it, take the like pieces that you can set aside and then label them that are more operationally focused, and then automate the reports. These are basic things. And I think that’s the place that we’re in now. We really need to… You know, there are so many of these things that are just table stakes that I think customers are just yearning for because we’re creating massive time savings. There’s a lot of this blocking and tackling that needs to happen first, sort of this crawl-jog or crawl-walk-jog-run. And I think there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit, and let’s just drive basic automation first. And I guarantee you it’s gonna be a significant upgrade from 99.9% of what people have there.
Jess: Excellent. Yeah, I think those are really great points. I’m keeping an eye on the time here, Brett. I’ve got a couple more questions for you here. I think about 3, and then we’ll go to some attendees’ questions as well. So to our attendees, please do continue submitting those questions, and we’ll get to as many as we can. You know, Brett, you mentioned “cash is king.” So in managing liquidity, I think we just wanna bold and underline this for our attendees, how important do those banking relationships become?
Brett: Yeah, I mean, obviously, they’re really important because they hold your cash. They also hold your debt. You hit a bump on the road, and you need to pull money off your revolver and/or you get a term loan or, you know… Banks are critical. They’re allowing that liquidity to happen for you. And that’s why, in a lot of ways, your finance folks will have… They may not be in accounting. We may not be connected to that many people, but we do have an inner circle of people that are kind of in that trust circle. And usually your banker, your banking relationships are in that circle. They’re there when you need them. You kinda know what you’re gonna get. So you’re not gonna get that stack. And they know that, and they’re trying to help with that. But they’re reliable, and they provide this relationship aspect and client service. It’s extremely valuable and helpful to you. So I think part of it now is just where do we go from here with COVID as a wake-up call not just for everybody, especially for the banks? And I think now the banks are trying to bring about change and APIs, and they’re trying to accelerate as much as they can, realizing that if we build these APIs, they’re really powerful. That’s really this handoff that we can do to a Trovata or other tech company, right? So I would just say, as you navigate your banking relationships, look at how your bank… Are they taking APIs seriously? Because that is going to be a key that’s gonna unlock, you’ll be able to drive automation on some very basic, basic kinds of things. And a lot of banks are doing it. I mean, we’ve got a lot of banking partners, and that’s growing every day and making these connections. But I think, too, we’re also… We love our banking partnerships, but we’re also, you know, the first as an advocate to you for the problems and helping you solve the problems. The good thing is the bank wants to solve the same problems that we wanna solve and so we can lean on that together. But really finding, making sure your banks are looking to foster that, and they’re also a part of that future-proofing journey and like-minded with you in that.
Jess: Great! Excellent! And I wanna circle back on one of the key themes that you mentioned earlier, Brett, which was engaging with the business. So what are some of the best ways you’ve seen when it comes to collaborating and communicating effectively with the rest of the organization, especially when it comes to planning and reviewing some of these various scenarios we’ve chatted about today?
Brett: Yeah, I think we talked a little bit about that, so I know for the time, we might be able to make this one a little quicker. And again, I think it’s just engaging with folks who have this business intelligence. I think part of especially from planning, scenario planning, it’s forecasting. It’s an art. It’s a blend of art and science, right? So I think a part of it is, how do you get out of the building all the analysis? I mean, the stats are you spend 75% or 80% of your time just doing all the work to get to the analysis, so then you can review and then make a decision. So automate as much as that 80% as you possibly can. But the other aspect is there’s still the artistry, and that’s based on this… The true business intelligence is very dynamic. It’s very fluid, and it’s in the heads of a lot of people that are driving and influencing those business decisions throughout your company. So that’s the other part. Engaging with those folks is gonna allow you to have the best intelligence, this rapid human intelligence that’s gonna go in, that’s gonna seam up with the technology and be a really powerful combination.
Jess: Great! And this is our last question, Brett, to close out. I think it brings us full circle here. So, you know, everything’s happening in real time. What’s your advice for finance seems to be equipped, so they can handle what’s next in order to be less reactive and more proactive?
Brett: Yeah, again, I think it’s future-proofing. It’s all about your data strategy, kinda future-proofing your data strategy because I really believe that that’s… You know, in order to gain leverage, which you have to get from technology now, you’ve gotta automate a good part of the stack of workflows that you have as a department. You know, it comes down to getting access to that data. You know, you wanna be able to just like the world, how fluid it is, as you see that in the world generally. I mean, make sure it’s real-time. You know, the data can come to you. Bank transactions are now coming through the APIs in real time. That’s happening now. So try to align with your, you know, look at your data model. Look at the access to data, make sure it’s dynamic. The other aspect is, try to make sure that it’s fully managed. So don’t… You know, nobody has any IT resources. In fact, especially when it comes to banking or cash related-things, your IT department, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who wants to touch anything when the word ‘banking’ is mentioned. It just scares IT folks because one is it’s hard to get resources, period, but also to touch something that’s banking or pick up a file or write a script where there are security implications. I mean, there are just some of those aspects that just kinda scare IT folks, when it’s… You know, they’re wading into financial stuff that they don’t quite understand, and then you’re, “Oh, just connect that,” and you have that much more comfort level because it’s your daily mode of operation, not theirs. And so if this comes back to bite them, I mean, those are the kinds of things that they worry about. So I think part of it now is that modern tech is building the IT component. It’s turnkey within solutions. You know, that’s what we’re doing. You know, we don’t have… You know, I made the word ‘implementation’ early on. I said, “Nobody can use the I-word within Trovata.” Like, we wanna eliminate implementation. Nobody likes implementation. It’s like… So the sooner we can have these fast connections when the integrations, you know, we’re all pre-done, now the IT in a box as part of your solution just needs to happen. So I think that’s the other recipe. Make sure that you have the ITPs, it’s really included and wrapped in the solution as part of your strategy.
Jess: Excellent! I think that’s great advice, Brett. I can’t thank you enough for taking some time out to chat with us today. It was really fun getting to talk to you about some of these really important topics. So we’ve got about 6 minutes left here. I’m gonna pull up this third poll, so folks can start answering it. But I wanna prioritize some of these attendees’ questions that have come in, Brett. So I’m gonna start reading them out, feel free to… Our attendees continue to submit these types of topical questions. We’ll get to as many as we can. And then while you’re listening to Brett and I do some attendee Q&A, please go ahead and tell us your answer to this third poll here. So, Brett, a lot of great attendees’ questions coming in. I think that’s great. Let’s go ahead and get to a few of them! This attendee writes, “For what minimum gross revenue size company would you consider this cost-saving effective versus cost-prohibited, prohibitive, excuse me!, understanding that we are currently using Excel, and you agree that this type of analysis is important?”
Brett: Yeah, it’s a great question! That’s where we’ve started as a company in that we have 4 different segments: 20 million to 100 million is our SMB segment, 100 million to 500 million is what we call professional. That’s lower mid-market. 500 million to a billion – upper mid-market, and then we typically will do small enterprise. So enterprise being a billion in revenue or above, 1 to about 3 billion. If companies are over that, you know, a bit larger corporations, there’s just a series of… We’re definitely moving in that direction. But that’s really… It’s still very broad, and still 4 segments is a lot to chew on. However, one of the things knowing that… Again, and it’s still a passion of mine, and startups are kinda coming through something that small and versioning up through something that has to scale, to something a lot bigger, it is really helping out small business. And so that’s why we just released our small business tool. It’s a lot of the same functionality that’s really robust and really powerful. It has a forecasting tool in it for a small business, and that’s gonna go down for companies as low as 2 million in revenue to 20 million in revenue. And the difference there is that you might only have one bank and that’s OK. It’s just that there it’s sort of a self-onboarding process that you can kinda click on and sign up yourself. You can connect to your bank. You can go in. We’ve got some tours that are outlined to help you with that. And then the price points are a few hundred bucks a month. There’s a couple of different tiers. So we’re trying to make that very accessible for a small business that can be affordable. But even if it’s a few hundred bucks a month, it’s something that, you know, you start to do this even if it’s on a weekly basis. And the intelligence that you need from that, we’re trying to make that a really high ROI with that. We think it is. And so now we have an option that even extends below that 20 million going all the way down to the 2 million in revenue. Still, typically, it could be a business owner, but particularly if you’re a controller or accountant or a bookkeeper, you’re still managing things for your business, or a CFO, you can still do these things directly and effectively. If you’ve gotta wear a lot of hats or do a lot of the work yourself, Trovata becomes a really powerful tool. It’s very intuitive to use, which is a big part of why we’re growing so fast.
Jess: Excellent! Thanks, Brett! This next attendee writes, “Do you have to pay the banks for daily-balanced reporting if we use Trovata?”
Brett: It depends. It’s a great question. It really depends. When it comes to that small business product tool that we just released, then you do not have to do that. But if you’re on the wholesale banking core, again, kinda that QuickBooks demark and above, it really varies. It depends on your bank. Some banks will have a variety of different fees. We kinda leave that up to you and your bank to manage through that because everybody’s situation is a little bit different. I know the banks are trying to… they can work with you. Some of them are bringing those to where they are free, data through the API, because they’re trying to promote the use of the APIs and foster that, you know, kinda moving in that direction. So it really depends. But I think, for the most part, I think you’ll be surprised that it’s… I don’t see that as a big barrier, not like it used to be. And it’s definitely coming down, and it will continue to come down, I think, and just be more attractive because I think overall where things are going, it’s gonna help the bank because the banks have a whole department around information services. So you think of distribution and delivery of bank data for the bank, you know, having a more efficient way for them to deliver that through APIs, so I think over time, you’re gonna see that landscape change. But today it really depends. But it’s also… You know, I think you’ll be surprised that it’s maybe more advantageous than you might think.
Jess: Awesome! Thanks so much, Brett! And I think we have time for maybe one last question here. This attendee writes, “How has Trovata been used beyond cash flow forecasting, such as acquisitions?” Any thoughts there, Brett? Have you seen customers use Trovata beyond just cash flow forecasting?
Brett: That’s a good question. I mean, there’s a ton of stuff that we’re continuing to kinda add to the product. I think when you look at our forecasting product, we continue to invest in it and add different data sources, but it’s pretty powerful. So allowing you to forecast different scenarios will kinda help you just from liquidity management or kinda seeing where your cash is at different levels. So if you have your flush with cash, you can be better at being more precise in your forecasting because it’s a true bottoms-up forecast. And then that’s gonna help you manage yield, or if you’re finding that, obviously, in long… You know, rates are so low now, so it’s allowing you to see, “Hey, we’ve got excess cash.” You know, we can start to look at being more acquisitive or other things. I would say it’s more indirectly, you know, it’s giving you the intelligence to make those decisions and help you with that. I think we are looking at even like a private equity as a segment when they kinda look at having Trovata as a dashboard for all of their portfolio. So with some of those things, we’re not quite there yet, but certainly, a lot of that is where we’re going just because we’re giving you that intelligence, we wanna make it accessible or where you can utilize it in a variety of different ways, that being one of those.
Jess: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Brett! I know we had a couple of questions we didn’t have time for today. So those attendees, don’t worry! We’ll be sure to share those questions with Brett and his team, so they can follow up with you post-event. We are at the top of the hour here. So I just wanna call out a few final things. If you want an introduction to Brett or to Trovata in general, please do tell us in the survey. And of course, we’ll pass that along to Brett and his team. And of course, I wanna say a huge thank you again to Trovata in general for really making today’s webinar possible. They’ve been a great thought leadership partner to us. They’re a pleasure to work with, so please do check them out. Brett, thanks again for your time this afternoon! It was great getting to chat with you. And I wanna say thank you again to all of our attendees who joined us as well. Stay safe, everyone! And we look forward to seeing you on our next webinar. Enjoy the rest of your day!
Brett: Thanks, Jess! Thanks, everybody!