Andrew (AJ) Cogan works for Heartland Financial, a bank holding company, in Dubuque, Iowa where he lives with his wife and two sons. Heartland initially implemented T-Recs a couple of years ago, and AJ signed on to be the Administrator. Recently, they finished their latest and most ambitious project yet – adding all of their balance sheet reconciliations (about 34,000 in total) into T-Recs.
Shannon: Hey AJ! Thanks for agreeing to talk with me. I’ve heard that you came up with and held a contest last year for your reconcilers. Can you tell me about it?
AJ: Sure. I was trying to get my reconcilers excited about working with T-Recs. It was March – I was trying to come up with a theme and started thinking about March Madness and from there I came up with the concept of “March Matchness.” So, I set up a bracket for all the reconcilers to compete. Once they came up with four match rules, they moved to the finals. We held a free lunch for the finalists. They even continued to come up with new match rules after the contest ended. We ended up with about 80 new match rules, and we believe that saves us about 80-90 hours of reconciler time manually matching each year.
Shannon: Wow! But, your reconcilers aren’t administrators. How did you get new match rules from them?
AJ: You’re right. It was more about them letting me know where we might be able to automate matches they were processing manually. They would show me the transactions and I wrote the new rules. But now they know what to look for and are able to provide their ideas to me.
Shannon: How did you come up with the idea?
AJ: Well, when we first implemented T-Recs, everyone was nervous. We were automating our reconciliations, the reconcilers thought they might be losing their jobs – and that was certainly not our intention with the implementation. We wanted to make things easier for our teams. I wanted to get everyone excited about T-Recs. We actually had different activities over several months. Things like – ideas for new efficiencies using T-Recs and how to go the extra mile. Everyone had fun and became more accepting of T-Recs.
Shannon: It sounds like a huge success. So, you’ve just wrapped up the project to put all your balance sheet accounts into T-Recs. How did that go?
AJ: It was a big project. We have 6 reconcilers working about 1,110 reconciliations. We’re a bank holding company and we own 10 state charters, so every reconciliation has to be done 10 times. We centralized our reconciliation department, so one department reconciles all the accounts for the company. I had to be really organized and we had some people that needed their accounts in first, so I had to prioritize.
Shannon: Tell me how you ended up as the T-Recs Administrator at Heartland?
AJ: I’m a numbers guy. I was in Internal Audit, so when they implemented T-Recs, I jumped at the opportunity to be the administrator. I didn’t have an IT background at all, so I was interested in learning about the data side of things with importing and configuration. It was a lot easier than what I thought it would be. I enjoy the puzzle of how to aggregate or translate the data to meet your needs when you import it into T-Recs.
Shannon: I agree! I enjoy the puzzle of different configurations in T-Recs too. Now that you’ve used T-Recs for two years, what would you say is the biggest benefit to your company?
AJ: I know it is huge to have the automated matching and the reconciliations all in T-Recs, but we really expected that. I’d have to say the automated communication that we’ve set up using T-Recs has really turned out to be the biggest benefit we’ve realized. We’ve set it up to email out the reconciliations so our internal customers get them in a timely fashion. We’ve set up a lot of SmartResolve procedures to automate sending out requests to people to clear up exception items so the reconcilers don’t have to keep asking them. When they reply back, it goes to the T-Recs email. It’s a huge time saver that we don’t have to pull these items, create an email to send them out and then follow up. And, the reconcilers feel like they don’t have to nag people all the time anymore. We love it!
Shannon: That’s great! It sounds like you’ve had a very successful financial transformation. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.