Connected Planning helps Unum discover the power of acting as one
Insurance provider describes how the Anaplan platform helps to break down walls across finance operations, unleashing efficiencies and supporting real-time, holistic decision-making
Insurance provider Unum is in the business of helping people through the difficult times in their lives. This isn’t just a job for the company’s 9,400 employees; Group CFO Jack McGarry calls this the “high social purpose” of the 170-year-old Fortune 500 company. Unum’s commitment to serve its 36 million customers requires constant, continuous improvement from the finance team. “We’ve always been forced to think about being competitive and providing the best value,” explains CFO for US Operations Steve Mitchell. “So we think a lot about how we can have a better process, how we can have a better set of tools.”
The Anaplan platform has been one of Unum’s key finance tools since 2016, and it has become a catalyst for dramatic process change and improvement. Anaplan was first deployed at Unum to help with financial consolidations, and the company soon expanded its use to Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) and reporting. Guided by an Anaplan Center of Excellence within the finance team, Unum is now deploying expense budgeting and reporting, investment portfolio planning and analysis, and capital models on Anaplan.
Unum’s environment is the very definition of Connected Planning: people joined together with data and plans to accelerate business value. The immediate value comes from greater efficiency; Mitchell, a hands-on Anaplan user, says the Anaplan platform gives a CFO like him the insight to ask better-informed questions. “I find it a very efficient way to go in and look at either the aggregate for the businesses that I’m involved with, or decompose it into specific businesses.” An important byproduct: saved time can be applied to high-value tasks such as data analysis.
And in the long run, Anaplan is serving as a platform for business transformation. Many business processes at Unum that formerly required finance intervention or assistance (such as reviewing expenses against budgets) are now self-service operations, and ad-hoc questions can be answered without the finance team’s help about 80 percent of the time.
There’s more to come. “We have really smart people discovering new connections and how we should respond to them as a company,” McGarry says—responses that will enable Unum to serve its customers even better in their time of need.
Jack McGarry, Group CFO, Unum: One of the great pieces about working at Unum is we really do have a high social purpose. I mean, we protect people when they are at their most desperate, people who have lost their jobs or can’t work because of accident or illness.
Our goals are to make it simple to deal with us, to be empathetic and support people, as well as give them the financial support to get through what, oftentimes, is the most difficult points in their lives.
Text: Unum insures 36 million people worldwide and pays nearly $7 billion in benefits annually.
McGarry: The insurance industry has always been a moving industry. You know, there are always new products coming onboard, there’s new methods of distribution, there’s new methods of enrollment, there’s new methods of servicing.
Steve Mitchell, CFO for U.S. Operations: We’ve always been forced to think about being competitive and providing the best value, so we think a lot about how can we have a better process, how can we have a better set of tools.
McGarry: The investment we’ve made in Anaplan, by consolidating our tools, has allowed us to be more efficient. That’s a great benefit to a finance organization because what that does is free time to really analyze what’s going on. We have really smart people discovering new connections and how we should respond to them as a company.
Mitchell: I use Anaplan and go in and see what’s the status there. I find it a very efficient way to go in and look at, either aggregate for the businesses that I’m involved with, or decompose it into specific businesses. It makes my team more efficient because I don’t have to ask them to gather that for me, and hopefully it makes me more efficient because I can ask better-informed questions.
McGarry: The most important thing that I do is to prepare the future of this organization. That means making sure that we have the right people, making sure that they get the breadth of exposure to the organization.
Mitchell: So having a modern toolset like Anaplan, where they can do so much with it and change roles without having to learn a whole new technical platform: Really important, and it takes away a barrier to helping folks with that development.
McGarry: Anaplan has been a great leap forward for us. Increasingly, the value isn’t driven by knowing how things work. It’s driven by knowing how things work together.
Scott Carter, VP, Global FP&A, Unum: The world’s changing really fast around us and it’s not just about technology. The business is running very transformative processes in how we interact with our customers, and so we’ve got business process changes in how we, uh, onboard customers, how we implement them, how we pay claims. And it’s important to understand the financial implications, so we can decide how fast to move.
Scott Charette, AVP, Expense Management: One of the most important projects we have going right now is moving our entire budgeting process onto the Anaplan platform, and exposing that to the entire organization, and using that platform to facilitate what can be a pretty iterative process, span several months, with a lot of negotiation amongst business leaders, uh, and across different areas of our organization.
Text: As Unum grows and evolves, Anaplan is helping to unite its people, plans, and data
Ray Curbelo, AVP, FP&A: Working with over 17 models and many stakeholders across the globe made it very difficult to collaborate. So we focused on how could we build a more collaborative environment, maintain the data in one centralized location so we can leverage it for reporting and planning. Now we can actually pull up Anaplan, quickly go to the right dashboard, and answer those questions, and build that insight, and collaborate. That’s a huge change.
Having the subject matter experts around the table looking at the same data really allows us to understand the broader implications of the financial analysis that we’re doing. We saw these folks diving right into Anaplan and answering those questions about 80 percent of the time.
Text: With Anaplan, Unum’s annual planning cycle is 25 percent faster and its semiannual budget cycle is two weeks shorter.
Jacob Edds, Director, FP&A: The tool is allowing our leadership team to make effective decisions quicker. They can go in and see, you know, where we’re headed as a company [and] make strategic changes, if they need to, really quick. People want to sunset other tools and move their processes into Anaplan because everyone loves it.
Ray Curbelo: When I get in, in the morning, Anaplan is the first thing I pop open in my web browser. I’m quickly able to get a snapshot of exactly where we’re at, and maybe be able to generate some questions that I can work with my partners on to understand a little bit further. And that has increased not only the insight that they’re generating from it, but also has increased the quality of those projections.
Jacob Edds: Anaplan’s ease of use has now allowed to transition that ownership over to the owner of that financial plan themselves. So they’re the ones going into the tool, loading the data, manipulating the data, and doing all of their planning and analysis.
Theresa Patterson, Director, Management Reporting: As soon as they start posting financial entries into our general ledger, then it flows into Anaplan on an hourly basis. By getting information earlier, we can see how the different areas are performing and where we need to spend additional time analyzing to understand the drivers behind the business.
Anaplan really is driving the collaborative spirit within the company, and everyone is truly embracing it. We can’t build fast enough.
Janet Suber, Director, IP&A: I see a lot more collaboration. We’re sitting different than we used to. We’re now all in a group together, sharing ideas, and talking. We’re glad to see the cube walls come down
Ray Curbelo: We’re constantly thinking about where could we get the biggest bang for our buck when we think about the next development of future models.
Scott Carter: We’ve talked a lot about finance transformation. We’ve talked a lot about what could be. And for a lot of people it’s pretty pictures and it’s words and it’s theory. And our team’s kind of taken that [and] made it real.
We’re going to do allocations for our net investment income, which is actually our first step in creating entries that will actually hit the ledger for actuals and not just forecasting. When we get to that, we do that on expenses, it’s going to be a game-changer for us.
Janet Suber: I think by using Connected Planning, we all have a better appreciation of how our individual responsibility areas are connected to all the other areas, and how dependent we are on each other. All of our success is linked together.