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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

How Argo Improved its Focus on People and Culture

Guest Author

By Emma Yu, Director, ERP/EPM Cloud Product Marketing, Oracle

In the most basic of terms, Argo Group sells promises. The $1.8 billion, publicly-held company is an international underwriter of specialty re/insurance, so trust is an essential part of every relationship. If Argo can’t deliver on its promises, partners and policyholders can’t stay in business.

So when employees asked for more modern technology to better meet partner and client expectations, Oscar Guerrero got to work. Guerrero, Group Deputy CFO at Argo, recognized that the company needed to embrace a cloud-based financial solution to ensure that employees always had the latest, most up-to-date technology. A little more than four months after choosing Oracle and Huron as the technology provider and implementer, respectively, Argo rolled out Oracle EPM Cloud and Oracle ERP Cloud to its employees.

“When we started this journey, it was all about the people and the culture,” said Guerrero. “These investments weren’t necessarily specific to solving the technology need, but it was more specific to solving the relationship need with our employees.”

For its rapid implementation, Argo received a 2019 Change Agent Award for Fast Finance at Modern Business Experience, presented by Oracle.

Working quickly to improve engagement and morale

Argo wanted to move quickly to show employees that it valued them and was investing in their success—and because business partners, too, had been asking for better tools for making business decisions.

“Historically we've had an Excel-driven model,” Guerrero explained. “A lot of our work was done on spreadsheets. Because of that, we have what I refer to as KOOKs, Keepers of Odd Knowledge—local historians who know exactly where to go in a file, what rows to manipulate. This created some challenges for us because we were highly inefficient and highly ineffective, but manually intensive.”

Oracle EPM Cloud and ERP Cloud eliminated the “KOOK” activity and enabled Argo to move to standardized processes. This improved consistency—which, in turn, improved data quality—and the process efficiency gains enabled the company to consolidate 90 positions into 50. Another big benefit was morale improvement because finance employees no longer needed to work late into the night to get their jobs done.

“When we first started, everyone worked until 10 or 11 o'clock at night. And now maybe it's 8 o'clock or 6 o'clock. It's hard to quantify that from a financial measure, but the morale impact, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of achievement—that's really what we're driving for.”

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Guerrero said better employee engagement helps Argo to be a trusted provider because when employees see that their employer values them, they in turn become more committed to delivering a really good product.

How an integrated cloud helps Argo be more competitive

Argo adopted Oracle EPM and ERP Cloud together because the company wanted a fully integrated accounting/reporting/planning system that made it easy for people to quickly find the information they need and make decisions—but leaders didn’t want to drag out delivery of the new capabilities.

“We looked at a number of options, and we just kept coming back to Oracle. We wanted something that, broadly speaking, right out of the box, would address most of what we needed. And Oracle provided that solution.”

Oracle EPM and ERP Cloud also were sophisticated enough to handle the complexities of the company, which has to report to regulators in multiple countries; fulfill responsibilities with many unique third-party partners; and manage countless inter-company transactions every day. Guerrero said the combination of sophistication and fast ramp-up set Oracle apart.

Another benefit was that the new solutions supported a corporate effort to instill zero-based budgeting to improve competitiveness.

“When you look at our loss ratios, they're industry-leading,” Guerrero said. “Our expense ratio is one thing that we're working on to try to improve, and our CEO Mark Watson was really pushing the organization to think about that. And so the zero-based budgeting is a tool that allows us to address some of those expense issues.”

Speeding up processes and responsiveness was also a goal that the project fulfilled, building on a core Argo strength.

“We needed tools to help us through all the data we have quickly, and we're a complex, larger organization, so speed-to-market generally wins. And when you have speed-to-market with accurate information, you really win.”

Read more about all of this year’s Change Agents of Finance winners.

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