Author: fernbachsoftware

The upcoming transition of the IFRS attracts strong interest in the tunisian financial sector

FERNBACH, together with its local partner Audit Risk Consulting (ARC) and the Tunisian Professional Association of Banks and Financial Institutions (APTBEF) hosted the event “Transition of the financial sector to IFRS” in Tunis on 06 April 2021. We are delighted with the participation and the great interest in the impact of IFRS on banking in Tunisia – more than 130 representatives of various tunisian banks as well as the Minister of Economy, Finance and Investment Support and the Governor of the Central Bank have attended the event.

The initial situation

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) have been established with the goal of creating internationally recognised set of accounting standards that bring transparency and efficiency to financial markets around the world. Tunisia is one of the very few countries where IFRS are not applied and this acts as a negative factor towards foreign investment. Recently, the country decided to undertake the transition towards IFRS and announced the adoption of IFRS by the end of 2021 for the preparation of consolidation of financial statements for all listed companies and financial institutions.

The challenges

This transition is challenging for two main reasons: the adoption timeframe is tight and moreover the adoption and implementation costs and the costs related to their enforcement are significant.

The solution

The audience learnt first-hand from Tunisian experts the challenges and constraints of implementing IFRS in Tunisia. Afterwards, Geert Massa and Robert Hall at FERNBACH, highlighted how a full implemented IFRS solution can make a bank stronger in a competitive market and how FERNBACH’s experience and successful IFRS implementations in other markets will help to avoid pitfalls and to implement the new standards successfully.

If you would like to learn more about our solution, please contact us and get first-hand information.


Agile Hierarchy – a universal remedy for software development?

The concept of all agile methods such as Scrum, Design Thinking, Holacracy  as well as their diverse spin-offs is based on the approach that hierarchies are to vanish and each individual is to participate more in the overall development of the company.  This process of collaboration enhances creativity, motivation and personal responsibility. When focus centres on public reporting, the impression is given that disruptive technologies/business concepts only evolve in agile organisations. Inspired by the success of Google & Co., it would seem that new ideas cannot develop unless the office equipment includes table football, a fitness club, colourful furniture and children’s slides. It is quite obvious that agile organisations assume that any form of hierarchy inhibits innovation and new ideas or at least discusses them to death.

Apparently, Laurence J. Peter was right in assuming that ‘In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence’.
Peter’s theory is that each member of a sufficiently complex hierarchy is promoted until the extent of his absolute incompetence is reached, which is usually the highest rung on the career ladder and the end of further promotion. Peter: ‘After a certain time, each position is filled by an employee who is unable to carry out his work’.

Or, perhaps the Dilbert Principle is right. According to this, the most incompetent workers are systematically placed in management since they can, allegedly, do the least damage there. The individuals in such positions have neither the social skills needed for a manager nor the special business skills necessary to head the department in question.

On the other hand, it seems to me that agility is simply a thesis contrary to those classic management theories, so popular in recent years, such as Management by Objectives or Management by Results or similar methods in which the higher levels of hierarchy set out what they expect from their subordinates. The difficulty that managers experience with classic management theories is that they have to exactly assess what is still feasible without making demands that are too simple, but rather challenging and ambitious so that workers remain motivated. Obviously, this is only possible when a manager has the necessary skills and expertise to express the targets in question. According to Peter’s principle, this would be possible in the least of all cases.

If regarded in this light, the anti-thesis ‘Agility’ would seem to be the right answer to classic management theories and leadership concepts.

However, in my opinion, there is a great danger in agile organisation that Parkinson’s law will apply.

Basically, Parkinson states that the simplest topics are discussed in greatest detail by committees because most participants know something about them. According to his law of triviality, it is stated: ‘The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved’.

What I am trying to say is precisely what Henry Ford is supposed to have said about his customers: ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!’

Interpolation from existing values is always easier and more explicit that disruption for an average decision maker or an average group. Therefore, the question to be asked is what should the mission of an agile group be: Further development or new discoveries?

The complexity of topics from scientific research, basic legal regulations, corporate innovations and the resulting business concepts is increasing more rapidly. Products are being replaced faster and markets are changing more quickly and erratically. It is also becoming more difficult for one person to possess all this knowledge.

However I do not believe that agile forms of organisation inevitably react agilely to market changes.

One of the oldest operational forms of organisation can be found among tradesmen where there are apprentices, assistants, skilled tradesmen and master craftsmen. At a first glance, it seems to represent a classic hierarchy. However, the difference is that the groups are usually relatively small and the master craftsman also acts as a foreman in the sense that he can show the skilled tradesman how to improve his work. In turn, the skilled craftsman passes on his knowledge to the assistant and the assistant to the apprentice.

In this example, the hierarchy is based on skill and expertise that can be perceived and demonstrated on a daily basis. This is exactly what an apprentice or an assistant needs so as to learn and advance in their profession. To this end, they need a role model and specific instructions to improve or change their skills. Criticism from the master craftsman highlights any weak points to be remedied and praise makes the workers satisfied.

Have you not experienced this at school, during sports or as a trainee and realised how useful a certain role model, coach or instructor was?

Who would benefit if a skilled construction worker with two years’ experience was allocated to an agile working group, who was assigned the task of planning and calculating the price of a residential area under the title of ‘A new definition of urban diversity’?

I believe that both an agile and hierarchical organisation, operating in parallel, is necessary.

The master craftsman/the experienced expert should work with his equals in an agile organisation/in groups. Such individuals have the knowledge, skills and experience to discuss solutions with like-minded partners on an equal footing.

All the others are better off in a hierarchical organisation where they are trained and further trained systematically by coaches and managers.

Nevertheless, miracles cannot be expected from the agile part of the organisation in the face of a changing business world. In my opinion, it is better to further develop existing circumstances in a linear manner than newly develop a business model or a product entirely. The danger remains, however, that the ‘law of triviality’ will creep into agile teams. Football teams are also agile but not infallible; they are people with social and individual idiosyncrasies.

Besides, the mistake of putting additional pressure on the master craftsman/expert by imposing conventional organisational tasks that would usually be carried out by departmental managers, should be avoided. Departmental managers should continue to perform these tasks as assistants to the experts. These managers’ mission should be to remove all organisational excesses, such as reports and expense forms, from the experts’ workload so that the experts can work in an optimum and undisturbed manner in the agile organisation. Managers should assist in this case, and not guide the experts because they are not capable of doing this. If a manager is able to do this, then he is not a manager but rather an expert and should therefore work in the agile teams.

This procedure calls to mind professional bureacracy /expert organisation that can be found in lawyers’ offices and hospitals where experts work in a largely autonomous way with the support of a team.

In our concept for an agile hierarchy, the agile experts – only these experts work agilely- have to cooperate with the scrum/team members and find common solutions.

Only the boss is needed for disruption. Someone has to accept responsibility, be an evangelist and give everything he’s got for an idea. However, he would be well advised to discuss this with his experts. By no means should he present disruptive ideas to an agile team and allow them to make a decision.

Multi GAAP 2.0 – Nickname “Mickey Mouse Accounting”

Entities that are active in several countries require an enterprise-wide, uniform accounting policy. However, they face considerable challenges because every country imposes its own unique accounting regulations. Moreover, some entities that operate at national level submit financial statements, either mandatorily or voluntarily, in compliance with international accounting standards as well as national standards. They face the question, what is the optimal approach? A “super set of books” that unifies the accounting principles of all countries? Or adjustment accounting that involves a common core for individual financial statements in all countries and only posts the differences for international GAAP? Or parallel accounting that generates entirely separate entries for national and international GAAP in each country? In this blog, an alternative fourth way will be proposed: Multi GAAP 2.0 or, playfully nicknamed, “Mickey Mouse Accounting”.

In financial accounting, it is common practice to post business events at individual deal level. This ensures that financial statements are transparent and absolutely comprehensible. Moreover, it allows for a 360° analysis of the entire portfolio and lays the foundation for detailed reporting requirements such as FINREP.

However, accounting at individual deal level still does not answer the question, as to how an entity, which needs to accommodate for multiple accounting regulations because of its international commitments and/or business connections, can integrate such regulations into its financial accounting system.

Whereas only internationally active enterprises had to comply with multiple local, country-specific accounting standards in the past, nowadays entities that operate in only one country have to adhere to both national and international regulations.

In both cases, entities usually have a local set of books (e.g. UK GAAP or German HGB) and add adjustment entries for the purpose of additional GAAPs such as IFRS or US GAAP.

In the context of Adjustment Accounting, it is assumed that the local set of books is optimised and straightforward. If this prerequisite is not met, any incorrect entries unavoidably impact IFRS accounting, only increasing complexity. Obviously, transparency and traceability plummet as complexity rises. Simultaneously, process interdependence, which is not conducive to a “fast closure” or effective support for corporate management, is created.

The procedure becomes more difficult if valuations and valuation dates vary between accounting systems and such discrepancies have to be represented by incremental adjustment entries. For example, different requirements relating to the timing and measurement of risk provisions or varying interpretations of the “effectiveness” of economic hedges from a regulatory perspective may lead to such a situation.

Even for an apparently simple issue, such as the time when a charge is recognised – e.g. amortisation according to the effective interest rate method or linear distribution – problems of transparency and complexity emerge. This is because the effective interest rate method under IFRS 9 requires specific cost components to be amortised over the interest period and others over the life of the deal. This illustrates that even the seemingly simple distribution of a charge over time can bring about substantial challenges for the preparation of financial statements due to the specific regulations in each case.

These issues are currently often circumvented via assumptions and simplifications, but are rarely truly solved. Consequently, the methods applied are difficult to reconcile with the accounting guidelines and as such their acceptance by auditors and expected lifespan are limited.

Parallel accounting, as an alternative, solves these practical problems by separately posting business events in each GAAP, hence multiple times in parallel. Nevertheless this introduces new problems, as redundant journal entries bloat the overall accounting system. Notably cancellations and subsequent adjustments become time-consuming and thus costly, if this parallel approach is applied.

The approach that involves merging all accounting rules in one comprehensive set of books is also difficult. The goal of this method is to jointly cover all financial reporting requirements for all GAAPs, which apply to an enterprise, in one global accounting system. This leads to a very granular chart of accounts structure („fat ledger approach“). Nevertheless, just like adjustment accounting, this approach will fail as soon as business events need to be recognised at different points in time in the various accounting standards that need to be complied with.

The “super set of books” may be a viable solution for such plain vanilla instruments, the accounting of which does not require risk provisioning, for hedging relations that are not governed by regulatory regulations or where different amortisation methods are irrelevant. In all other cases, the “super set of books” is blurry, demanding and fragile. As such, this approach can be a short-term quick fix which will, however, not stand the test of time.

Multi GAAP 2.0 was designed to counterbalance the flaws of the above-mentioned methods. The basic idea is the segregation between GAAP-identical and GAAP-unique business events. In a central “basic” set of books, all GAAP-identical valuation components are exclusively posted in an event-based way. This builds the head of the mouse. The two ears of Mickey Mouse are then added metaphorically. One is the national GAAP, in which all GAAP-unique valuation components are calculated and posted in compliance with local regulations. The second ear depicts a separate set of books for every international GAAP applicable to the entity, in which all GAAP-unique valuation components are calculated and booked in compliance with international regulations – e.g. IFRS. If more accounting standards are required, they can be added as independent sets of books.

Below is a graphical representation of mouse accounting, which illustrates the merger of all sets of books.

The views for the balance sheet and the profit and loss account for each local and international accounting standard then consist of the basic set of books and the respective local or international set of books, for which the balance sheet, the profit and loss account or the financial report needs to be produced.

This method ensures that GAAP-identical events are consistently valued and posted only once. The generation of transaction-based, event-driven journal entries assures drilldown to individual deal level, its business events and valuation details for all GAAP-identical and GAAP-unique valuation elements in every single GAAP.

The end user does not observe that GAAP-identical valuation components are only “virtually” added to the basic accounting set of books.

In Multi GAAP 2.0, the end user is not aware of the adjustment: GAAP-specific balance sheets and profit and loss accounts consist at technical level of the basic set of books and another set of books that is based on specific regulations. Both are unified for the purpose of presentation and evaluation. Hence, at no time does an accounting standard depend on another standard, but rather it is complete in itself and can be traced for business events, single deals and the underlying valuation methods. If the set of books for GAAP-identical events requires a chart of accounts that is different from the basic set of books, it is possible to prepare the balance sheet and profit and loss statement via simple mapping at individual deal level.

Multi GAAP 2.0 can be used universally for simple and complex, small and large portfolios. As such, it constitutes the optimal solution for enterprises that operate at national and international level.

Author: Dr. Karl Kirchgesser, Director, Executive Vice President at FERNBACH

Successful omni-channel sales strategy for lending operations along with SAP CML

A survey of German banks that focused on the time from 2008 to today showed that the majority of banks generate most income from interest. Many banks would like to increase the income contribution from commission deals, however, this is rather difficult in volatile markets. Plans to increase business volume were often not fully implemented.

Due to new players, the lending market had become highly competitive. Since the market has been stagnating since 2008, there is a need for optimisation in order to achieve target margins. There are only two options:

  1. either to reduce costs by streamlining processes and/or
  2. increasing sales with diversification

Currently, everyone is talking about “omni-channel sales“. This means sales via various channels, e.g. branches, the internet, mobile devices, etc. that access the same data basis. For example, customers are given access to a self-service portal where they can configure their own loans – including all approval workflows and legal requirements. This reduces the workload in the branches regarding standard business and, at the same time, fulfils customers’ wishes for a relationship on equal terms with a bank.

In recent years, comprehensive software projects were executed, particularly for the introduction of state-of-the-art core banking systems, e.g. SAP solutions. These are useful and laid the foundation for modern process management. However, despite their volume, these projects did not result in a direct optimisation of sales processes

FERNBACH applies a different approach to optimise sales processes. We offer a cutting-edge front office system with omni-channel sales functions that can be used either in a branch, online, via self service or mobile devices. Lending products can be configured in the system and process models can be presented. The FERNBACH Lending solution provides a modular view of data that enables bidirectional inclusion into SAP CML as well as the creation of interfaces to many core banking systems.

Thus a bank can quickly increase its income from lending operations without having to adapt its back end system landscape. Our customers saved about 50% of process costs after the implementation of FERNBACH Lending and, at the same time, were able to improve quality and comply with legal requirements. A return on investment within 24 months is realistic.

FERNBACH will be organising a number of webinars in the months to come in order to present the different aspects of lending systems and their consequences.

Author: Jens H. Mackscheidt, Managing Director, Germany and Switzerland

IFRS: Challenge and opportunity for Asia’s financial sector

Asia has recently been making financial news headlines for good reasons. To the south of the continent, the Asian Development Bank is assisting Sri Lanka’s financial industry in implementing IFRS for accounting purposes. This development will, undoubtedly, strengthen the country’s position on the international capital markets.
Further afield in Maritime Southeast Asia, Singapore’s Accounting Standards Council has announced that all companies on the Singapore Stock Exchange “must apply a new financial reporting framework identical to IFRS for annual periods beginning on or after 1 January 2018.”
With almost two decades of management experience at a top IFRS software company, whose business activities stretch across three continents including Asia, I have closely followed, with interest, the events and activities related to the continent’s uptake of IFRS.

At present, roughly two-thirds of Asia’s 50 countries are either in the process of upgrading their national reporting systems, or have begun to switch over directly to IFRS-compliant financial statements that can be compared at international level. In this respect, the macroeconomic opportunities associated with these changes are highlighted while the numerous challenges at microeconomic level are the subject of controversial debate.

It goes without saying that the introduction of IFRS poses a serious challenge to the banking industry. New valuation methods, which, in general, are neither automated nor integrated in current procedure, have to be introduced. Besides the technical integration of these methods, the organisational impacts also need to be considered because in the future, financial departments and risk management teams will need to ensure that consistent results and a sound basis for integrated reporting are made available. In this case, the focus should not only centre on the impacts of external requirements imposed by central banks. In doing so, the opportunities that the implementation of IFRS can bring for financial institutions could be overlooked. Depending on how IFRS is embedded in an organisation, the financial statements, which ensue, can better reflect the economic truth, business value and risk involved in business operations. These statements not only provide salient facts to external stakeholders but also valuable information to decision makers within an organisation.

Furthermore, the introduction of IFRS presents a good opportunity to review current accounting practices. Additional valuation elements in financial reporting procedure allow new perspectives for the analysis and valuation of business operations to develop. Hence, risks are identified more easily, while the effects on liquidity are made more transparent. All in all, a solid decision-making framework based on an integrated reporting approach is formed. Ultimately, this leads to an increase in profitability which is, of course, the driving force behind any thriving financial industry.

To facilitate this, IT departments need to adopt a pivotal role due to the complexity of requirements and the need for multi-dimensional breakdowns and traceability of results (drilldowns), a comprehensive data set is required. The fact that artificial intelligence is most effective when combined with a competent user interface is also true for IFRS implementation.
Developments in other countries have shown that the capabilities of IT departments are instrumental in enabling organisations to reap the benefits of IFRS. In the long term however, companies that are able to overcome the initial challenges benefit from consistency of financial data across their organisations as well as a decision-making basis that has been improved considerably in terms of quantity and quality.

The IFRSs have been advancing at global level for many years now. Asian countries can now profit from the international best practices that have resulted from the experience of early adopters who are long-term users of IFRS.
Nowadays, ready-to-use, fully developed solutions are available which ensure compliance with IFRS requirements and help improve business decisions at the same time. These solutions do not necessarily need to be installed locally in a bank but rather can be provided as “software as a service” (SaaS). This approach ensures that all market players can participate in development and even cost-conscious banks can immediately promote their products as fully IFRS-compliant in a fast moving financial industry.

Good teamwork between product managers as well as financial, risk management and IT departments, which are responsible for providing the necessary data basis and the technical support for the processes, is essential for a successful transition to IFRS. A study of first adopters shows that integration was initially planned as a type of “patchwork” in existing heterogeneous organisational structures. Instead of being a uniform and transparent solution, the introduction of IFRS requirements resulted in an additional level of complexity that often caused the projects to fail.
Therefore, IFRS should be considered as THE company-wide solution and not as just another regulation prescribed by central banks. It is only when this attitude prevails that the implementation of IFRS can be conducive to identifying, minimising and monitoring risks. The switchover to IFRS has to be very well prepared and is generally associated with a lengthy process of learning and gaining experience. It is advisable to use well-proven methods in order to shorten the process and reduce or even avoid the costs incurred. To this end, international software providers offer “out-of-the-box” solutions which have been developed using the experience gained from projects in countries that have already changed to IFRS-compliant procedure.
Rather than being an additional obstacle, the implementation of IFRS will present an opportunity to Asia’s financial industry to create financial institutions that can compete at international level.
* Dr. Karl Kirchgesser, Director, Executive Vice President at FERNBACH

Finance, Risk & Compliance – FlexFinance rounds off your core banking system perfectly

FERNBACH provides a ready-to-use solution out of the box for Finance, Risk & Compliance (FRC). FRC is a management approach that encompasses the most important activities in a company into the planning and management strategies for business operations. Hence, business processes are analysed to determine how they influence profits, show resilience to risks and conform with corporate targets and supervisory requirements.

If profit-making is introduced as the corporate driving force and further levels of activities are included, it can be ensured that the opportunities and risks generated by business operations can be analysed in equal measure in an integrated management approach. This forms the basis for a sustainable increase in efficiency and effectiveness.

By involving the sector “Finance” in the management processes, a difference is made between Finance, Risk and Compliance and the approach Governance, Risk and Compliance. (,_risk_management,_and_compliance).

Business sectors

FRC covers the following three business sectors.

  1. Finance refers to the effects of corporate activity on profitability and profits, and hence the key motivation behind business activity. In particular, investment, funding as well as cost and performance accounting come under the sector Finance.
  2. Risk refers to the potential risks resulting from the way in which a company uses its capital. The integrated approach ensures that the effects from business activity on a company’s counterbalancing capacity are taken into account.
  3. Compliance: Fulfilling internal and legal requirements. For example, this involves GAAP requirements such as IAS/IFRS in the Finance sector and capital requirements in the Risk sector. These requirements may be issued by national or international supervisory authorities. IAS/IFRS are standards that specify how reference values are to be determined for the Finance sector. The European Banking Authority then used these as a basis to define reporting standards (reporting positions, layout) for Financial Reporting (FINREP).

The term Finance, Risk and Compliance covers the logical sequence of business activities that are also accounted for by the integrated approach for the analysis of business processes.

Drawing up a management strategy from all three business sectors

From the perspective of business economics, a business is an autonomous economic entity that is established with the objective of satisfying demand and making profit.  From an economic perspective, the business processes based on the principle of satisfying demands and making profits are involved in various levels of business activity.

The activities that come under the sector Finance in Finance, Risk and Compliance include the following topics:

  • investment,
  • funding,
  • cost and performance accounting,
  • accounting,

but also in the broader sense

  • organisation
  • human resources or
  • Marketing.

An integrated management strategy can only be successful if the sector “Finance” is considered in conjunction with the sectors Risk and Compliance. In order to successfully manage a business, it is simply not enough to identify and quantify risks to assess their impact on the capital used by the company. Viewing counterbalancing capacity in isolation usually leads to risk-averse behaviour.  Only by extending the analysis to include the contribution that a business process makes to profits, is it possible to weigh up the necessary opportunities and risks resulting from business operations.

Practical implementation

The FlexFinance solution for Finance, Risk and Compliance rounds off your core banking system perfectly. It organises your entire historical period management and stores the historical data sets over a number of years. All weekly, monthly and quarterly reports are archived. The data and reports are available for comparison purposes and historical analyses at any time.

An integral part of FlexFinance is a library with hundreds of ready-to-use reports. You do not have to activate the FlexFinance functions you would like to use but only deactivate the other ones. This saves implementation costs considerably. You can use the solution at our computer centre or at one of our partners’ premises (SaaS/ASP). Otherwise, we would be pleased to provide you with a typical in-house installation.

FlexFinance supports multiple accounting practices in parallel, IFRS, regulatory accounting, Basel 2, Basel 3, interest rate change management (ALM), credit risk and market risk as well as cost accounting and FTP. A workbench for models and simulations as well as a KPI library complete our solution.

The application features an autopilot which controls all operations, thus reducing the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Since we automate your standard daily work routines, you can save time to deal with other tasks.