Infrastructure is one of the world’s fastest-growing asset classes, and private equity firms play an increasingly important role in both funding and operating infrastructure projects. It’s a competitive business; a firm’s ability to benchmark asset performance and drive economies of scale can impact returns substantially, so success hinges on having accurate, accessible data on its assets.
One global infrastructure equity firm was looking for a better solution to its data challenges. They maintained validated asset data in a specialized information system for private equity firms. To generate reports, asset managers downloaded data from this legacy system, loaded it into spreadsheets, and re-validated it before sending to management.
Two things caused the firm to look for a better solution: First, the maker of the legacy solution pivoted from being a software provider to being a private-equity information provider and cut back on development of their product. And second, the asset managers’ individual spreadsheet-based processes did not provide reliable apples-to-apples comparisons between assets. “There was no reliable central repository for information,” recalls the firm’s operations director. “Every time we needed to know how an asset was performing, we had to call the asset manager.”
Moving beyond replacement to transformation
The infrastructure equity firm wanted more than simply a replacement system—the firm wanted to transform its reporting process. They contacted consulting firm Lionpoint, which evaluated their needs and recommended Anaplan. “The technical expertise and the customer references Lionpoint brought for Anaplan made a very good combination,” the operations director recalls. “Lionpoint provided personal attention and were big enough to assure me that they could do the job and support us in the future.”
The firm started by identifying 20 properties in one region, managed by 15 asset managers and with a total value of around $20 billion, for a pilot. (The company’s total portfolio includes 50 properties worldwide.) Asset data from the legacy solution was brought into Anaplan and validated. Then, an interface was built so on-site property managers could provide monthly updates using familiar spreadsheets, which were automatically fed into Anaplan for verification by asset managers.
Initially, reporting data was exported from Anaplan into PDFs that mimicked the format that management was used to seeing—the difference being that results from all properties were calculated in exactly the same way. Building on these static reports, the finance team now creates live reports from Anaplan data using Power BI for viewing on tablets.
“The challenges faced by this client were exacerbated by the global pandemic,” Nick Moore, Founder at Lionpoint Group, recalls. “Lionpoint quickly identified the data and reporting issues and created an Anaplan solution that aggregated unique asset data into a powerful management reporting platform.”
The Anaplan-based reporting and management solution has won praise from users. “One asset manager who came from a competitor to our firm says our reporting with Anaplan is much more advanced,” the operations director says. “I was surprised, because that competitor is much larger, and is supposed to be far ahead of us.” The legacy solution has now been shut down, and the infrastructure equity fund is placing its trust in Anaplan. “My guidance to our asset managers is this: If your data is not in Anaplan, it won’t appear in the quarterly report,” the operations director says.
Continuous growth, continuous improvement
In addition to creating more consistent reports, having the data from all assets in a single repository also lets the firm leverage its size for financial advantage. “Our buying power is huge when we identify items—from furniture to consulting services—that we need at multiple sites,” the operations director says. “We can now negotiate discounts with suppliers because all of the data is in one Anaplan repository.”
Other units of the infrastructure equity fund’s parent company are also using Anaplan, and the operations director foresees additional uses for the platform in his group beyond financial reporting. For example, the firm is starting to collect workforce data in Anaplan, which will help them identify strong leaders; build more effective operating structures by revealing high-performing organizations; and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals. The firm is also starting to bring environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data into Anaplan so they can manage energy consumption, comply with evolving regulations, and respond to investor questions and concerns. The customer considers Anaplan’s world-class platform security to be paramount when working with such sensitive data.
Having a wealth of data in Anaplan will enable the company to benchmark performance over time, identify and address underperforming assets in the portfolio, and reward teams that meet and exceed key performance indicators (KPIs). The solution’s value will only increase over time, the operations director concludes: “The more historical data we have in Anaplan, the more we’ll be able to improve.”