Low risk bet pays off with iPOS
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“Using the system has made our life much easier because we can control the cost and see what we have spent, what we are spending – and the way that has operated.”
Donna Hughes, Head of Accounts Payable
City Index provides consistently competitive spreads and access to thousands of markets worldwide including indices, shares, currencies, commodities, bonds, interest rates and more. City Index is committed to providing a market-leading service based on fair and transparent prices, accessible technology and customer support.
Install the iPOS procurement solution to help the London Finance team of this rapidly growing and internationally expanding financial services firm.
As advised by partners, Sapphire Systems, iPOS was chosen due to its integral links to Infor SunSystems.
London needed to streamline a set of inefficient manual processes that were a potential barrier to further expansion.
Install the iPOS procurement solution to help the London Finance team of this rapidly growing and internationally-expanding financial services firm.
A 'True Purchasing System' In Place to Support Expansion and Improve Cost Control
City Index Group (http://www.cityindex.co.uk/), one of the world leaders in spread betting (UK), FX and CFD (Contracts For Difference) trading, has found that in the context of a rapidly growing organisation, tight budgetary control over spending is nothing less than "essential."
Established in the UK in 1983, 250-strong City Index has grown to become a leading force in the market it operates in. Part of IPGL, a privately owned company with substantial shareholding in the world's leading derivatives broker ICAP, as a group City Index has over 400 employees worldwide, helping customers from offices in the UK, Poland, Singapore, China, Israel and Australia.
A growing business
City Index estimates it currently transacts in excess of two million trades per month for customers in over 50 countries worldwide. In fact, "We are branching out all the time; we've got offices opening at the moment in Dubai and Malaysia, for example," says its Head of Accounts Payable, Donna Hughes.
However, in order to continue to deliver consistent customer satisfaction and predictable performance, it became evident for Hughes and her team that they needed true cost pipeline visibility both within individual countries and across the group as whole.
However, the team were getting swamped by a plethora of manual processes that were starting to get in the way of the level of friction-free financial control it needed.
In particular, Hughes was concerned that City Index's IT spend and marketing spend, already considerable, was too chaotic. Clearly, it had to be managed more effectively: "We didn't have a true purchasing 'system.' Manual purchase orders were being raised and invoices were going missing on a regular basis, because you used to hand them over to someone for approval and they could easily end up mislaid as a consequence."
The decision was made to go to market to source help to address these issues - a process that ended up with a commitment to Professional Advantage's iPOS eProcurement software from Sapphire Systems - , a decision signed off by a new CFO who came on-board at City Index in 2010.
"The new executive was very keen on managing costs, which hadn't really been done before," confirms Hughes. "He really wanted to implement a purchase order system to control costs and other business issues."
The iPOS procurement solution was selected as offering seamless integration with the Group's main finance engine, the Infor SunSystems Financials solution, right out of the box - plus, its support for remote connectivity.
Rapid acceptance and dissemination
The iPOS system did not, unfortunately, have a hassle-free debut. Professional Advantage worked with the City Index team to iron out issues that had cropped up with a previous implementation team, with the system eventually going live in June 2011. That help is still appreciated by Hughes to this day: "Professional Advantage came in and, within half a day, had completely restored my faith in the system," she recalls. "I realised just how well it could work and the issues we were initially having were so simple to address, as well as the ease of turning on new functions the team showed us. They were saviours and we went live in London within two or three weeks."
Once settled in, the iPOS procurement solution has become quickly accepted by City Index. A sign of that acceptance is how rapidly it is spreading to other parts of the group, being rolled out first to Australia, then to the US, Poland and soon (2014) Singapore.
"We rolled it out to Australia less than a year later and they love it," points out Hughes. "It is now so easy to raise a purchase order there, budget-holders in London can see the request online so they don't have to have conversations - everything can now be done via e-mail, in other words."
The end of the paper chase
Why have so many City Index teams turned to iPOS? Hughes says that's down to its flexibility, ease of use and its small training footprint - and the fact that the system automates a previously manually intensive process. "A user can create a requisition and the whole process will be completed in a matter of minutes - which is far better than the old paper chase method that might have lasted for days, even weeks," she notes.
Processes that used to take time and spawn inefficiency are on the way out, it seems. "Meanwhile, staff in the requisitions team don't have to worry about chasing the boss for approval; if the manager doesn't answer the e-mail, they get a reminder automatically - there's no 'chasing' any more. And at the other end of the process the approvers only have to push a button; they can see the invoice, they don't have to do anything else. You never have to explain anything to them, it's all there."
Hughes' team also makes the most of the Good Receipt functionality integrated with iPOS, and also purchased from Professional Advantage: "People are now completely clear that if they order anything, they need a goods receipt; we can't put invoices in until they are goods receipted. That is a major part of the system's pay-back as far as we're concerned."
Benefits for the whole group
All in all, says City Index, working with Professional Advantage, and current support and training partner Sapphire Systems, has been highly beneficial to the business. "We've had iPOS for two and a half years now and I am convinced it has really made a difference to the way the whole Finance team operates," she says.
Of course, the bigger advantage is that the City Index finance team is able to exert much tighter financial control - the real reason for the project. That seems to have been achieved - from transparency of actual spending to date, against budget, to take just one example; the software's ability to present a real-time display of purchasing information including purchase orders raised, delivery reports/receipts and outstanding payments offers real benefit, she says.
"Our CFO appreciates functionality like that as it gives him much better budget forecasting proposals," points out Hughes, "while Management Accounts manage accruals so much better as they know what costs to expect." At the same time, departmental budget holders have far better budget visibility via iPOS, able to make far more informed spending decisions, which is a real help, especially for the group's biggest single budget holder, Marketing, "who love it because it controls their expenses better."
Considerable as these benefits are, they're not all the ways iPOS is helping streamline processes. Hughes has also found turnaround time on the payment run managed by the software and the absence of any payment queries has been "life changing."
"Now, it's just so easy to run things like the payment run; there are no issues whatsoever because if it is on there it is approved, we don't have any drama finding the invoices to match the payments. The Group Finance Controller finds that very helpful too, as all he has to do is 'tick, tick, tick' because he knows the invoices have all been approved. It's very easy to go in and search and find the invoices, too, so if a supplier phones up, we can say 'yes it's paid,' 'no it's not been approved' and so on.
"It's just the simplicity of it, and the way it cuts down on paper and printing. It has certainly made my team's life much easier."
Plus, the solution is improving the often-challenging month-end workflow. "We cut our month end process down quite markedly; we had working day five, now we close it by working day two and a half, a 50% cut," says Hughes. "On that date, everything is done and finished; we just close the books and we roll it into the next month. In fact, we've got the month-end debt process down to 10 days now."
The software also provides a yet further welcome feature, in the shape of its support for an approved list of suppliers, which helps guard against ad hoc purchasing: "Preference suppliers were put into place, which means all our suppliers are now properly credit checked."
So to sum up: was that 2010 decision to go with Professional Advantage the right one? The answer is emphatic: "Definitely."
That is especially true from the all-important cost-control perspective, adds Hughes. "Using the system has made our life much easier because we can control the cost and see what we have spent, what we are spending - and the way that has operated."
Sounds like a ringing endorsement.