Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Financial Statements in Record Time

Despite inherent challenges and extra complicating factors, the Financial Operations and University Reporting team did something extraordinary this year:  they got UVA's complex financial statements pulled together, formatted, reviewed by auditors, and bound and printed, almost one month earlier than normal.  

The end of each fiscal year begins an intense and complicated process of  gathering a wealth of financial information from multiple sources, both inside and outside of the University, synthesizing that information into one consolidated financial statement, addressing questions from auditors, and, sprinkled throughout, a good amount of waiting.

There's the Academic side and the Medical Center side to be considered: two separate state agencies that are, from a financial perspective (and from the State of Virginia's point of view), one.   Ten foundations are also added into this mix.  And, of course, there's the scrutiny of state auditors and the State Department of Accounts (DOA) to be addressed.

Randy Ellis, Associate Comptroller with UVAFinance, explains the usual financial statement timeline this way: "We usually have the information from the academic side together by the third week of August, and get the information from the Medical Center by the first week of September.  The foundations that are part of our process have their own independent auditors, so we have to wait on them as we put the academic and medical center information together.  Everything bottlenecks during that second week of September, right up against the deadline of September 24 to get it to the state auditors and to the DOA."

Ellis admits the process can be fairly stressful for the team.  "I've been here at midnight the night before it's due, getting ready to hit the send button," he recalls.  

This year, he says, the academic side was prepared by the second week of August, and the medical center slid under the finish line a week later.  

Financial Operations team members celebrating their
achievements with Cav Man at a recent women's
basketball game.  Go UVAFinance! Go Hoos!
Financial Operations then had time to review the information and anticipate auditors' questions before the statements were submitted.  The review time was quite beneficial; normally the DOA has 20-30 follow-up questions, but this year, they had only seven.

One of the most significant benefits of being early is that the Board of Visitors will be able to review complete financial statements by the December board meeting, instead of waiting until February.

"Information in the statements will be more relevant to the BOV," Ellis adds.  "We're talking about three months versus six months after the year-end close."

What made the difference this year?  Ellis cites two big contributing factors:

  • Clear expectations:  "We wait on lots of different departments," says Ellis, "but this year we gave them attainable deadlines, asked for things earlier, and held them accountable to the deadlines.  The entire team worked to keep everyone on task."
  • Process improvements: "We got quicker, better, and more efficient.  We streamlined how we put things into the system and how we got information from departments.  We use UBI, which made things easier, and allowed us to give the auditors access to the financial records, enabling auditors to have temporary access to different schedules.  This improved their efficiency and  reduced our internal workload.  UBI speeds things up for everyone."
These improvements weren't done under the most ideal conditions, either.  

"We were climbing over filing cabinets most of the summer, due to construction, and we still got this done," says Ellis.  He's quick to give kudos to Karyn Tancredi in Finance  and Kim Holdren, the Comptroller at the Medical Center, for their roles in this achievement.

"I am very appreciative of my staff," he says.  "Without the dedication of the entire team, this would not have been possible."

Even with such a big achievement in their rear-view mirror, don't expect Financial Operations to pat themselves on the back too much:  "We've set an expectation now," says Ellis with a laugh.  

"We'll have to do this from now on.  Early is going to be the new normal."


 Know of another department or group of UVAFinance employees who have done amazing things? Please share your success stories!  Please comment below or send your ideas to bv8h@virginia.edu 

No comments: