Before Vena, financial reporting was tedious for Michelle Canada, Tanger Outlets’ Director of Financial Reporting, and her team. With workflows of up to 179 actions, their financial reporting processes were time consuming.
All they had were Excel spreadsheets on a shared network drive, where they manually keyed in their general ledger data.
“When it was time to review it, you had a PDF or Excel spreadsheet, put check marks on it and that was our process.”
Every time an entry arrived late, or a change occurred in the general ledger after the schedule was reviewed, her team needed to re-save the Excel spreadsheet as a PDF before once again verifying the check marks on the list.
And when they pulled data from MRI, they received a “PDF or Excel dump” of reports. Michelle said that MRI’s reporting package complicated pivot table creation and that its format—account number at the top with transactions listed below—complicated transaction investigation and account reconciliations.
Responsible for overseeing the timely and accurate preparation of financial reports for Tanger’s CEO, their investors and the SEC, to Michelle it was clear that major improvements needed to be made to streamline Tanger’s financial reporting processes.
In 2015, Tanger had considered implementing BlackLine as their account reconciliation solution, before ultimately deciding to partner with Vena. Michelle said Vena’s automated workflow notifications and process audit features were what set Vena apart.
Remaining within a familiar Excel-based interface, Tanger has now eliminated their archaic checkmark-to-PDF checklists and integrated their general ledger data to their Excel spreadsheets to create a single source of truth.
What’s more, Vena’s workflow notifications have streamlined their account reconciliations, triggering after each action completion to accelerate workflow. With Vena’s process audit—now one of Tanger’s key internal audit controls—their auditors can easily view exactly who prepared and reviewed every checklist. And through Vena’s audit trail feature, their auditors can see transactional details that Tanger hadn’t been able to store in the past.
As a result, their month-end close has been cut from 10 days to just five, and their year-end close from three weeks to only two.
With the time saved, Tanger’s auditors have identified and resolved transaction inconsistencies. The automated process has eliminated their auditors’ quarterly and annual schedules, as well as any need for Michelle to request the report “dump” from MRI.
Michelle said she’d previously been working 50 hours weekly during month-ends prior to Tanger’s partnership with Vena, but now she’s back down to 40. With her newfound extra time, she looks at new ways she can use Vena to improve and accelerate Tanger’s financial reporting, streamlining operations to help her team perform even more efficiently.
She’s already automated rolling calculations for cash flow statements, covenants and currency conversion for external reporting and compliance. Vena has also simplified Tanger’s reporting with its automated reporting packages for executives.
“Our CFO uses Vena’s Same-Center NOI report to assess the performance of recent property additions,” Michelle explains. The report excludes data—which would skew NOI calculations—from property additions until Tanger has owned those properties for two years. “The Same-Center NOI report allows Tanger to calculate and compare NOI growth between properties with greater accuracy.”
Michelle said 30 employees were using Vena back in 2015. Today, there are 145 users. “Our CFO was so impressed with how much time Vena saved.”
After accelerating their financial month-end close process by 50% and their year-end by 33%, amid growing interest from Tanger’s other teams, Michelle continues to explore new ways Tanger can use Vena to automate workflows and processes for other departments elsewhere in the business.
Along with internal auditing, Michelle said their tax team uses Vena for retesting, and their CEO for viewing historical occupancy trends.
Their tax team previously had to print, download and add trial balances from MRI for consolidation before retesting. Now, they’ve automated the separation of non-tax-deductible and tax-deductible items, saving their tax team one week per quarter.
Moreover, the accelerated reporting of historical occupancy data has helped Tanger’s CEO decide which of their outlet centers they should allocate more resources to more quickly.
Crediting the familiar Excel-based environment for their quick user-onboarding times, Michelle said it now takes just 15 minutes to train an employee on using Vena. Today, she’s no longer the sole Tanger employee exploring the automation and acceleration of workflows. The use of Vena to improve processes—the original catalyst for its implementation—has trickled down to the company’s finance managers.
“They know the power of Vena, how great it pulls in all the information and the way they need to see it differently … people want new information,” Michelle explains, adding that the time saved has empowered their finance teams and individual employees to think differently.
“They’re looking for process improvement items now. Because that's the thing that helps with personal and professional development—there's more time to look for other ways to make things easier for us.”
Michelle is currently preparing a system implementation in which her team will integrate Tanger’s subledgers—such as debt and joint venture subledgers—to their Excel spreadsheets, having reviewed several years of pre-COVID-19 data to inform their budgeting and forecasting process.
With instant data at their fingertips, Tanger has automated adjusted EBITDA reporting for variance analysis. As a result, the leading developer of outlet centers has been able to calculate the impact of COVID-19 on their business faster, allowing them to adapt to today’s uncertain market conditions more quickly while outpacing their competitors.