Financial planning to drive sustainable growth in financial services

The PJT Partners financial services team discusses their seven-year journey with Anaplan, sharing how they overcame key FP&A challenges, drove self-sufficiency, and leveraged Anaplan for various use cases beyond finance.

Kurt Peterson 0:00:06.1:

Sree, I don’t know about you, but I think we’re a little short up here. It must be unlimited protein shakes at the PJT household. First of all, thank you guys very much for being here. You’re in your seventh year now, seven-year journey with Anaplan, really appreciate it. I’m Kurt Peterson, I’m the account manager for PJT. I’ve been here about four years, and before joining the software world, I was actually in capital markets for 25-plus years, mostly as an equity trader for several of the banks here on Wall Street.


Sreekanth Kumar 0:00:38.8:

Hi guys, I’m Sree Kumar, I’m a customer success business partner. For the folks who haven’t interacted with Anaplan before, our prospect customer success is in investment by Anaplan in the customer’s success. Personally, I’ve been involved in more than 200-plus finance and digital transformation in the last 20 years, mainly the EPM space, technology like Anaplan, and I thank PJT Partners for giving the opportunity for me to support you on your Anaplan journey. One quick note, right before we walked on stage, we were discussing where to sit in order, and actually, it was more difficult than building an Anaplan model. Kurt.


Kurt Peterson 0:01:22.1:

We can keep this interactive throughout the session, feel free for Q and A, but let the PJT team introduce themselves. Go ahead.


Henry Bourgeois 0:01:29.8:

Hi everyone, I’m Henry. I am an assistant vice president at PJT Partners on the corporate transformation team. I’ve been there for about three years now, and we work quite closely with Anaplan obviously, and a couple of other technologies. Happy to be here.


Josh Baker 0:01:44.7:

Hi everyone. I’m Josh Baker. I’m an SVP on corporate transformation at PJT Partners. I’ve been at PJT for about five years now. I oversee a lot of our work with both the CEO functions and our corporate leads, and general innovation that they want to undertake.


James Sheldon 0:02:02.8:

Hi everyone. I’m James Sheldon. I’m a managing director at PJT Partners. I’ve been there a long time, which you can tell by the picture, which is my original picture and not my current picture. I joined PJT about eight years ago. The firm is a little more than eight years old. I look after the operations for the advisory business at PJT.


Kurt Peterson 0:02:24.8:

Thank you. Tell us about PJT. There are a lot of people in the crowd who, some of them know PJT, who they are, but give us a little history and background on PJT.


James Sheldon 0:02:36.9:

Sure. PJT Partners is an independent advisory firm or boutique advisory firm as some refer to them. We basically sell advice. The firm started in 2015 with a spin of the advisory and restructuring businesses out of Blackstone and combining that with a small independent advisory firm that Paul Taubman had set-up called PJT Capital. The restructuring advisory businesses came out of Blackstone. Also came out of Blackstone was the Park Hill business, which is the fundraising business, so they raise funds for private equity real estate, hedge fund, and also through secondary transactions in those spaces. All of those businesses were put together with Paul’s business and spun out as a new form on the New York Stock Exchange, PJT Partners. What does that mean in reality? It means we started with a very established market-leading restructuring business. We started with a very established market-leading fundraising business, and we started with essentially a brand-new advisory business, advising on M&A and capital markets.


James Sheldon 0:03:50.2:

What’s unique about an independent advisor for those in the room who may be less familiar is that we don’t lead with balance sheet. A lot of bulge bracket firms that you’ll be familiar with, Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanely, they’re also lending to their clients as a way of generating business. We have to rely on our insights and our advice alone, which is obviously a different model. We started with a very, very small advisory business, and we’ve built that considerably since 2015. We started with about 300 employees, we’re now at 1000-plus. In our advisory business, we started with about 20 partners and now we’re up to around 70 partners, with the other businesses taking that number up to about 115. Over the last eight years, the firm has enjoyed tremendous growth, which we’ve all been fortunate to be part of. Geographical expansion, business expansion, we merged with another firm, PJT Camberview, brought them on as a fourth business line, which is a shareholder advisory capability.


James Sheldon 0:05:01.3:

Of course, as part of this growth, and we’ll get to this conversation, is where Anaplan comes into it, when you’re a small firm, growing from nothing eight years ago, leveraging technology instead of people to help manage and build the firm is very important because we simply don’t have the hundreds of people that a bigger firm would have to do some of the things manually.


Kurt Peterson 0:05:29.9:

Excellent, thank you. My favorite slide right here. Again, thank you, you can see the growth if you can look at the expansion from 2017 all the way to where we are today. This is absolutely fantastic, thank you for your support throughout this, and again, thanks for all of the different reference calls you guys have helped us with along the way, which is always a great surprise, but at the same time very helpful.


Sree Kumar 0:06:01.0:

Shall we go to the questions?


Kurt Peterson 0:06:02.5:

Sure. Before we move on, are there any questions from the audience at this stage just about PJT, but now we’re going to talk about their journey and this slide here in particular. All right, go ahead.


Sree Kumar 0:06:18.7:

Please don’t hesitate to stop us and ask any questions while we go through this. Would you like to elaborate on your current set-up of your Anaplan footprint, the models, workspace, whatever you’d like to discuss with anybody in the audience?


Henry Bourgeois 0:06:33.9:

Sure, yes. Our current workplace, we have about five different workspaces right now that all focus on different verticals. Within that, we have about 25 models total, around 100 users, and then about 40 different use cases. It spans a wide variety of different users, different end users, for what they want to look at in terms of reporting capabilities. It’s been this really dynamic and fast-paced model space where we can pull in a lot of information and then export it out to a variety of different users that need insights in different directions.


Kurt Peterson 0:07:12.9:

What were some of the first use cases outside of you landed an FP&A? What were some of the first use cases outside of finance and HR?


James Sheldon 0:07:21.9:

Is that for me?


Josh Baker 0:07:23.5:

I think so.


James Sheldon 0:07:23.9:

Okay. I think what’s interesting is the way Anaplan started at PJT was actually met with quite a lot of resistance from me in that it was rolled out as part of the traditional FP&A path, and as someone who forecasts the business, obviously the most efficient way to front and back that process is for the forecasting to happen in Anaplan as well. Rewind to, I think it was COVID or just before, and that was probably a fortunate thing to happen for me getting on to Anaplan because it gave us more time to do the necessary work. I was resistant because it was working for us as a business, but the way we were sharing information into finance and into the organization as a whole was very inefficient. With having more time to invest in the set-up, we started to forecast the business in Anaplan. That obviously incredibly streamlined the process into FP&A, but of course I was resistant at first because it was more work for me. Like many things in Anaplan, the reward is not at the beginning, and so being a time-constrained, resource-constrained individual, I saw little reward to me investing initially.


James Sheldon 0:09:03.0:

That first use case was actually still more of an FP&A use case even though it was the business forecasting. From there though what happened is a realization that that data that we were housing in Excel and reporting on across the business could be far easily accessed, far easily reported on, more easily combing it with other data sets to enrich, in Anaplan. Then, once you get to the green section of this slide, which is obviously four or five years into the journey, that’s when the real tangible use cases outside of FP&A really started to become very powerful from the business point of view. I’m not sure that exactly answers the question because I think the first use case outside of finance was still finance, but from there, it quickly became the data house of choice for the business.


Sree Kumar 0:10:11.3:

That’s great. That actually tees off well into my next question, Josh, I would like to ask you that. James was a tough customer to get on the Anaplan board, but you could answer this from not just James but any other stakeholder, how did you get their buy-in? There are so many customers here who use Anaplan. They are successful, but getting buy-in with other stakeholders is always a challenge. Any tips or tricks you can share?


Josh Baker 0:10:38.0:

Definitely. I think for us, James talked about it a lot, and his resistance was very clear. To Sree’s point, the buy-in, I think it comes with some proven value and we were really focused on the core FP&A, HR use cases, and for us, the real value came when Anaplan scaled their reporting, I think. We’re now able to deliver click button reporting in a PDF, highly formatted output, and that’s where you see the ramp. I think for James specifically, and even in HR and our finance use cases, they really see okay, I’m going to put in all of this work, I’m going to model the data, and I’m going to be able to get it out quickly. For our business, I think the presentation and the delivery in a paper format is still pretty valuable, and so that’s kind of what led our scale.


James Sheldon 0:11:35.3:

I think as well, the one other thing to add to that is success begets success, and it’s very hard at the beginning because you’re basically saying, ‘Trust me, if you put in all of this work, it’ll pay off,’ because it’s rare that the Anaplan team is the ones who own the data. They’re reliant on data coming from other sources. Once you get past that first success where – and it happens now where you can put a page in front of someone, a PDF, a dashboard, whatever, and say that’s just click button. Then of course, interest grows, but it’s very hard at the beginning, and Josh, I don’t think Henry was with us then, but Josh had a bit of a hard time at the beginning.


Kurt Peterson 0:12:22.2:

For Henry, what other business units and cost centers are you guys branching out to considering?


Henry Bourgeois 0:12:28.7:

Yes, it’s a good question. It’s one of those things where the Anaplan ecosystem is almost like its own positive feedback loop, where the more information you put in, the better the models become, the better you can feed that information back to other models. Our FP&A model was one of the first ones that we had set up, now that we have revenue in its own space, we have non-comps in its own space, compensation, all of these different things, we can now feed back into this FP&A model and it consolidates all of that information, which gives the team a lot more power. Other business units and cost centers that we’ve been able to implement Anaplan with have been a lot of focus around with the non-compensation side of things, so our compliance team, our legal team, HR, just managing those types of costs that we can see, down to a very granular, essentially journal line level and giving them that information back on a click-button basis.


Henry Bourgeois 0:13:19.3:

Another one that we have just rolled out was employee expense monitoring, which I don’t think our employees are too thrilled about, but seeing on a journal line, day-by-day basis, who is spending what on taxi services, cars, flights, meals, things like that. We’ve been able to give these highly detailed reports to our business units’ COO heads, then they can take that information and have those conversations with employees that might not be adhering to the policy for a 100 per cent basis.


James Sheldon 0:13:49.6:

Henry, I think that’s a really good example of a hybrid approach that Anaplan can do for us. You’re saying that example of looking at our expenses, and the reason we monitor our expenses is obvious for policy but also, it’s part of the way we bill our clients, like I’m sure many of you do. You bill your client for not just the fee part but also any expenses you incur. At first, what Josh and Henry came up with was a pure dashboard interaction. Now, as you can imagine, with 1000 employees, each one has got a corporate card, there are just tens of thousands of data points, so it made consumption very limited initially. What happens when consumption is limited? People just lose interest and move on to the next thing. What Josh and Henry did was they said, ‘Okay, this is still a relatively financial services type organization, we need a PDF.’


James Sheldon 0:14:45.2:

They came up with a PDF summary which they distribute, I go through the PDF summary, here’s 20 things I want to take a look at, then they’ve given me a dashboard where I can go and double-click on each of those things. I think when you start really thinking about how your user group or your businesses or cost centers, to use your word, want to consume, that’s when you can get real traction. If you’re just producing it how you might want to consume or how you’ve seen others consume, then it’s going to be harder.


Sree Kumar 0:15:18.5:

Having said that, were there any outcomes when you moved from your Excel-based approach to an Anaplan-based approach? Were there outcomes that you imagined, and Anaplan satisfied those needs? Were there any outcomes that you did not anticipate and actually were pleasantly surprised by?


James Sheldon 0:15:37.5:

And were there any that Anaplan didn’t satisfy, the third question.


Sree Kumar 0:15:41.1:

Sorry, my question is around the outcomes. Did Anaplan satisfy what your expectations of the outcomes were?


James Sheldon 0:15:52.1:

I think initially, the answer is probably no to Josh’s point. Until Anaplan stepped up their reporting, it was hard because putting data in Anaplan to then take it out again to report on it is obviously not an efficient way to operate, but once that reporting had improved, then it became incredibly powerful. I think the last session we were talking about it a little bit. When you do things, when you report and manage performance on a fairly granular level, like take our business for example, we have 115 partners all running around the globe generating business. To produce a report on one of their businesses, that’s easy, but to produce a report on 115 is incredibly time-consuming. That’s where Anaplan’s power started to come in, and they were the outcomes that were pleasantly surprising, is how quickly you could produce multiple similar outputs on a combined data set.


Sree Kumar 0:17:01.4:

Thank you. I do know the product manager for management reporting, but they are in the audience, and I want you to grow your head like a balloon right now, because I’ve got a long list of changes coming up for reporting, so that’s going to improve the platform even more. Kurt.


Kurt Peterson 0:17:16.3:

Could you talk about some of the insights, again, you’ve been able to leverage with us over the new models outside of finance and HR?


James Sheldon 0:17:25.0:

Is that for me? Which ones are the new models?


Henry Bourgeois 0:17:29.2:

Expense monitoring.


Josh Baker 0:17:30.6:

Business performance.


James Sheldon 0:17:31.7:

Okay. I think we’re a very data-driven organization, we have a very data-driven CEO. I think when any decision is being made, the first question is always what does the data say, even if there’s anecdote and subjectivity that needs to come on top of that. I think that’s why PJT invested early in a decent-sized FP&A team. I think it’s why PJT invested early in Anaplan and had an in-house team rather than using a consultancy. I think when you have that approach and you’re looking at the data constantly, the insight that you gain is complete. In the example I use when you’re looking at – by banker performance metrics, or industry performance metrics, or by business performance metrics, if you have the complete picture, you can make much more insightful decisions around what you’re doing, who is doing what, where we should invest next.


James Sheldon 0:18:46.4:

I think one of the things that it’s very helpful on is we’ve made a lot of investment in senior talent at PJT on the banking side. Banking has an incredibly expensive and long cost of sales. You might cover a client for a year or two before you make a single dollar, but you might be travelling all over the world in support of that coverage effort. When bankers transfer firms, which obviously virtually everyone at PJT on the senior side for now has come from somewhere else, they come with heavy non-competes and all of these terms and conditions about when they can engage with their former clients and clients of former firms. Just the other day, we were looking at our travel expenses, and being able to combine who have we invested in recently into the platform and their teams, how much are they travelling, what that’s costing us with the revenue pipeline, when you can start looking at those things all together, then you can really start to understand whether you’re making the right investments in the right places.


Henry Bourgeois 0:19:51.8:

I think one more point that you had made about how we’re able to turn insights pretty quickly is that we were, I think, very lucky in terms of our timing with Anaplan and PJT just given that we weren’t really pulling an old system out and implementing Anaplan on top of it. Our data-driven CEO and CFO were very focused on we want to use the right product at the right place, so Anaplan was just a natural tool that we had leveraged and implemented. Then on top of that, Josh and I, Josh came before I did, but having the in-house expertise of how to build Anaplan models, how to talk with your stakeholders, things like that, I think makes a very big impact and differentiator in terms of getting the use cases and uptake in Anaplan within the organization.


Sree Kumar 0:20:42.0:

That’s great. Based on the use case map you see, you started with the FP&A use cases then branched out and built so many use cases within the connected ecosystem. Is there anything you’d like to share about how you transformed the connected ecosystem from when you started in 2018, 2017 to now, and then do you anticipate the future of connected ecosystem for PJT?


Josh Baker 0:21:08.5:

I can start on this one, I think. For us right now, I think we’re uniquely positioned, and we do have a lean corporate function which is why we lean heavily into Anaplan. To Henry’s point, we’ve set up the foundation where a lot of these use cases are working in silo, and they still may transfer the data through a manual process once they’ve confirmed the numbers. I think our 2024 road map is really on the buzzword of connected planning and saying, ‘Now that all of these folks are in there, let’s link them systematically,’ but we still want to be nimble. We don’t want to make connections where they’re not needed, and I think that’s the value. Like the travel exercise, for instance, our CFO stepped in and said, ‘I want to do some analytics across the whole firm on the travel.’ We had never built anything like that to date, but we knew that we had the data structured from our ledger, we knew we had the overlay from the COO reviews. We knew that quickly between the two of us we could spin something up.


Josh Baker 0:22:08.7:

It was two or three iterations of her coming in and out, but we keep our models, and our FP&A function is well versed, we have one of our key team members here, and they’re going into the models and building on their own. I think it would scare a lot of people at the larger organizations, but I think for us it’s a really great way to drive value quickly.


Sree Kumar 0:22:30.4:

Thank you.


Kurt Peterson 0:22:32.2:

Thanks. Nothing ever runs smoothly. We’ve got some people in the audience here that are probably early on in their journey with Anaplan. Can you just talk about some of the challenges or hurdles that you experienced in the beginning and what you did to overcome them?


Henry Bourgeois 0:22:50.1:

James and I became close friends


James Sheldon 0:22:53.8:

I think it was funny, what you said Henry, I think, and I know there’s lots of different models of how to do this, but I can’t imagine that not having an in-house team – I can’t imagine that having an in-house team doesn’t make it easier to get over some of those challenges and hurdles. One of the other things I think that PJT has done which I think helps is Anaplan, and the Anaplan team, is very much part of, at a minimum, an FP&A organization, but at maximum the center point of the organization as a whole. It’s not a tech team that sits off in a silo. I think when you treat the technology and you treat the team like that, half of the ideas and opportunities to overcome challenges come from Josh and Henry and their team, they don’t come from the users or the directors of the program. I think that’s really important. I think that’s the first point I would make.


James Sheldon 0:24:01.3:

The second point I would make is show me, don’t tell me. If we did this, if we did this, if we did this, then I could give you this, and that will get round the problem. The other thing that Josh and Henry do is they – here’s an example, I took this finite piece of maybe a much larger data set, process, or workflow and I tried it, what do you think? Well, I either hate it, or it’s okay, or I love it, but let’s iterate from there. The idea I think, especially in a young organization that’s moving quickly that’s very nimble and agile, that we could sit down in January and plan out everything we’d want built for the year and how to overcome all of the challenges and speed bumps we might meet, I think that’s a very old-fashioned way of looking at things. We have to be nimble enough to change constantly because the organization is changing constantly. I think though you can set out your big projects, you really need to be nimble about it, then you’ll probably face less challenges anyway because you’ve got more flexibility. Josh.


Josh Baker 0:25:17.2:

I think one thing to add, and I appreciate the shout out of our team, I think…


James Sheldon 0:25:23.3:

You’re welcome.


Josh Baker 0:25:23.4:

…for us, one of the biggest hurdles is that interplay with technology, and Anaplan gets a lot of its value from the data it consumes. We use some of the innovative approaches James was talking about, or the live-working models that we have, to go down and work with our technologists on how to be better at doing that type of approach. Whether it be with integrations or with a workflow tool that may complement Anaplan, we want to deliver them the same way, so that a stakeholder like James who says, ‘I need this approval flow in this workflow tool,’ and the technologist says, ‘Okay, I’m going to take all of your requirements, I’m going to go in and build them.’ While we’re doing that, his requirements can change, and so we’re kind of changing the technology function as a whole to get over these hurdles.


Sree Kumar 0:26:14.0:

I’m going to switch gears a little bit into self-sufficiency. You’re one of the customers that’s been the most self-sufficient and really fast. I want you to share your secrets, but would you share anything with prospects and customers about how you became self-sufficient?


Kurt Peterson 0:26:35.1:

Josh, just before you answer that, every now and then I get pinged by Sree saying, ‘Listen, is PJT okay? I never get a call from them. Is it all right, everything going…?’ ‘Yes, they’re – Josh is Mr. Hypercare, he’s Mr. Everything, he does it internally,’ but if you want to go ahead?


Josh Baker 0:26:52.2:

Hey, look, I think Anaplan has given us a lot of support, and I think we had some partners really early on that gave us some great support and great foundation. I think to any new customer, lean into your partner to train your people and get them up to speed fast. We have our head of FP&A who, I would call him top three Anaplan model builders at our firm still, and that gives a lot of self-sufficiency. We have folks like James who are coming up to speed on reporting and self-sufficiency. What we do, Henry and I, like Henry said, we’re definitely the Anaplan experts but most of the time we sit down and say, ‘We’re going to give you two options to build it and the person who wants the deliverable is going to lead that.’ I think that builds a lot of both buy-in and the success.


Sree Kumar 0:27:37.9:

That is remarkable. That has definitely made my job lots easier, so thank you so much. Especially some of the customers who have my phone number on speed dial, there’s a lot of self-sufficiency tips you can learn from PJT.


James Sheldon 0:27:49.6:

I didn’t know that was an option, to be honest.


Sree Kumar 0:27:52.6:

Now you know.


Henry Bourgeois 0:27:54.9:

I think it’s also important to not be afraid, it sounds cliché, but to make mistakes in Anaplan. It is obviously a big platform that it can feel cumbersome and overwhelming, but just getting your hands dirty within the – writing formulas and how different modules speak to one another definitely was the thing that really turned, I think, our team into a best-in-class deliverable team. Just because we throw a million things at the wall, see what sticks, and bring it to James, and if James likes it then we build it out officially.


Kurt Peterson 0:28:28.2:

We’re just at time here, just to wrap things up, again, there’s a number of us in the audience here that are early on in their journey, considering Anaplan. I know the RPs that are out there right now, any advice that you could give to somebody out there who’s not using Anaplan at the moment but considering Anaplan?


Josh Baker 0:28:48.5:

I think the diligence on what goes into Anaplan is really important. I think we’ve driven success by just picking the use cases that fit well at the time and sidetracking as a team to get people with a readiness assessment and get them up to speed to go into Anaplan. I think when you try and push something in too fast, it can fail.


James Sheldon 0:29:09.4:

I think as well, you have to go all in. It’s a big investment in Anaplan. It’s a high-cost platform. If you have a team to support it, in-house consultancy, that also comes with a cost. People are always going to resist the change, people are always going to resist doing something different. There’s that famous quote, I think it was maybe Henry Ford, one of the early car makers who said, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse,’ and it’s so true. I think that’s what PJT did which was smart, even though I was resistant, is they gave us no choice. ‘We’re going to invest in this platform and you’re going to come along for the ride.’ I think that’s really key, because if you half-effort it then it’s going to fail because it’s a lot of work, especially at the beginning.


Kurt Peterson 0:30:02.2:

Thank you. Are there any questions in the audience today for PJT?


Audience 0:30:12.7:

Is this on? Yes. Quite an evolution that you have outlined here. I’m assuming you had a center of excellence set up at the beginning. If not, or if so, I would love to hear the evolution of that center of excellence and how that played into your success.


Josh Baker 0:30:35.0:

We don’t have a center of excellence, but we are definitely leaning in on…


James Sheldon 0:30:40.5:

What is a center of excellence?


Josh Baker 0:30:41.9:

I think it’s a core group of team that has the main vision for Anaplan.


James Sheldon 0:30:48.9:

We kind of have that.


Josh Baker 0:30:49.9:

Yes. Well, we have a pseudo center of excellence but I think now, as we scale this map a little bit and it’s becoming more of a need, we are definitely assessing a more traditional center of excellence, and we’re working with our CTO to design what the support model will look like, and have technology take over a little bit more of the post-go-live. We’re also working with a partner network to see what does a managed service look like.


Kurt Peterson 0:31:19.1:

Any other questions? Over here?


Audience 0:31:33.9:

Hi. You mentioned that you do everything internal now, but at the start, were you using external support, and at what point did you make the decision to say we don’t need the external support anymore, we want to do everything in house?


Henry Bourgeois 0:31:48.9:

That’s a good question. We have used consultants in the past. We’ve used a variety of, I think, four of five different providers, and they’ve kind of helped build the groundwork and the backbones of most of our models, but then when Josh joined in 2019, and then I joined in 2021, we started to phase out the reliance on consultants, just because we both came from an Anaplan background, and we were able to bring all of that knowledge in house and build from there.


Kurt Peterson 0:32:19.6:

Thank you, guys, very much. Again, thank you for your seven-year journey with us. Again, all of the reference calls, really appreciate it. Thank you.


Josh Baker, Senior Vice President, PJT Partners

Henry Bourgeois, Assistant Vice President, PJT Partners

James Sheldon, Managing Director, PJT Partners

Sree Kumar, Principal Business Partner, Anaplan

Kurt Peterson, Enterprise Account Executive, Anaplan