The Microsoft Treasury group manages $158 billion in assets, including cash and investments, account receivable, equity, and other investments. They act as an in-house bank for operations in over 190 countries, monitor thousands of bank accounts, and provide just-in-time cash management on a global basis. With a purview this large, Microsoft Treasury relies on vast amount of data in order to make fast, accurate, and actionable decisions to keep their operations running smoothly.
In the past, Treasury used a combination of Excel, PowerPoint, and third-party services to analyze and present their data, but Corporate VP, Treasurer George Zinn saw the future in the integration of a different product: Microsoft Power BI.
Power BI is a cloud-based suite of business analytics tools that make it easy to combine data from multiple sources, analyze and visualize information, and share insights. It features easy drag-and-drop report authoring for advanced insights, and online web dashboards that update automatically and can be shared with an entire team in seconds. Power BI can work together with Excel to provide innovative data cleaning, visualization, and sharing tools for existing workbooks.
For George Zinn, integrating Power BI into Treasury’s existing daily data maintenance would result in improved sharing across teams and faster reporting, automated real-time updates, and access to both new trending information and deep dives into records.
Although the adoption of Power BI started only months ago, its effects can already be felt within Microsoft Treasury. “Power BI has helped transform our team by providing us with a powerful tool for analytics and visualization,” says Zinn.
Let’s take a deeper look at what Power BI brings to the Microsoft Treasury group.
Answer questions faster
Microsoft’s Capital Markets team, including Group Portfolio Manager Alex Blackmur, manages $158 billion dollars in assets. With such a big mandate, there’s a need to have visibility on where every dollar is invested.
Previously, Capital Markets used a daily dashboard to track their assets. Every day someone would have to export data from a third-party portfolio management solution, use Excel's powerful tools to massage the data, and then save a screenshot of the current report. That report was then either emailed around, or sometimes even printed and handed out to everyone in the trading room.
While this labor-intensive process meant that the Capital Markets team was informed and as up-to-date as possible on positioning and risk, it was extremely difficult to answer any questions outside of the report screenshot.
Nowadays, the team uses a shared Power BI dashboard that mimics much of the old spreadsheet. Even though the main database for Capital Markets has over 28 million rows of data, it’s fast and easy for them to find the specific information they need. Want to know how much a specific manager has invested in a specific country? It’s all right there.
Joseph Vasen, Group Treasury Manager, faced similar challenges on the Bank Infrastructure team. Bank Infrastructure is responsible for opening, closing, and managing upwards of 1400 bank accounts (each time we acquire a medium or large company we inherit hundreds of accounts that usually have to be closed over time) globally, including coordinating the various signatories needed. Before Power BI, the team relied on canned reports that missed important details and provided little help when answering operational questions.
Vasen says that after launching even just the first iteration of a report in Power BI, his team had access to much more rich analysis. They can discover which banks take the longest to establish new accounts, track the average number of bank accounts over time, and in a few clicks anyone in Treasury can locate who the bank account signatories are.
With Power BI, you can answer critical questions faster no matter where you are. “Power BI is much more dynamic and the delivery method is much more streamlined,” says Blackmur. “We can publish [our data] to the web, get it on our phones, and even print it out if we still want to.”
Find the right level of detail for your audience
The Operations team at Microsoft Treasury handles cash operations and investment operations, and combined they oversee 24,000 trades annually and monitor up to 2000 bank statements (incl. custody accounts) each day. Jayna Bundy, Director of Treasury Operations, and Lisa Wagner, Group Treasury Manager, not only have to keep track of trades with counterparties, collateral management, and cash holdings from around the world, but they also give regular status reports to their own team, other teams, and multiple levels of management.
After adopting Power BI, the Operations team was able to create a number of different dashboards that present the same data in different ways for different audiences. Bundy’s team has dashboards for their own drill down purposes, executive briefings for managerial reviews, and dashboards oriented towards external clients and customers. She reports that with the new dashboards, her team has more visibility than ever into the bank balances with its banking partners and helps slice and dice the data in various ways.
Meanwhile, Wagner and colleagues are using KPI cards and slicers to highlight key metrics in the initial view, and providing examination points for more detail. That way if the Treasurer only wants to see, for example, total payment volume or bank diversification, it’s easily accessible, while Wagner can quickly get to the intra-quarter details she needs to do her job.
Stay updated with real time data and auto-refresh
The Structured Finance team, including Senior Treasury Manager Damaris Sardenberg, provides financial solutions to large scale customers who want to purchase products or services from Microsoft. The Cash Planning team, including Group Treasury Manager Jim Scurlock, manages global cash and banking activities, monitoring balances and subsidiary activity. Both teams, as it happens, are excited about Power BI’s real time data and automatic refresh.
In the past, the Structured Finance team pulled data manually to create graphics. For a team that uses trend-spotting as part of their toolkit, it was an inefficient system. The Cash Planning team had a similar process, exporting monthly reports out of SAP, and later using Power Pivot in Excel. With Power BI, it’s easy for both teams to have access to fresh, automatically updated data from most of their sources, including Excel.
For her part, Sardenberg is thrilled that once the initial report and dashboard views are set up, she doesn’t have to waste precious time and resources to manage data. Instead, the exported reports are saved in a SharePoint site, and Power BI automatically updates from the file per the team’s preset schedule.
Scurlock is equally happy with the benefits of switching to Power BI, and how easy it is to update data. “As a middle manager, I have teams that have to quickly report to me about 400 subsidiaries, monitoring cash and volumes in multiple countries. Seeing the data as fast as we can upload it is key way to get the temperature of the landscape so I can be more proactive. Instead of waiting to get numbers, I can see spikes and quickly address them.”
Share results easily
If there’s one thing that every Microsoft Treasury team has in common, it’s that before Power BI, they all used spreadsheets or slides that had to be shared in some way, be it via email, screenshots, or printed paper. That was certainly the case for the Risk team. A small team of four people, including Group Manager Michelle Sue, found themselves sending files in emails across Treasury and other Finance teams. Some audience needs to see an updated report daily, so sending the link of the file, rather than uploading the file to SharePoint, seemed more efficient.
The team had to ensure that the distribution process allowed secure access for the right people. When your job is to analyze monthly returns on billions of dollars in investments, security counts! First, they had to manage email distribution lists of a varied audience due to people movement across groups. Furthermore, the spreadsheets that Sue’s team used were on machines that people did not have access to, so they had to grant people the access to the machines.
With Power BI, the Risk team can develop a dashboard with high level insights and a second one with more low level data, and share them safely and effectively to the right audience within different Office365, email, and security groups. Revising permissions when necessary can be handled with the click of a mouse, and changes are retroactive, so dashboards shared last week are still held to this week’s updated permission changes. In addition, they do not need to manually upload any files as data delivery is handled automatically and securely.
Grow along with Power BI’s rapid innovation
Power BI already brings value to any finance team with its instant unique insights, automatic updates, and easily shared dashboards. But for some members of the Treasury group, it’s the promise of rapid innovation that most excites them about the product.
Joel Combs, Director Corporate Finance & Investments, recently implemented Power BI for his team, bringing together data from spreadsheets, SQL databases, and third party services to create dashboards that can dynamically slice critical data on equity, commercial paper, and bonds. He was so impressed with the platform that during a recent meeting he recommended it to his colleagues at a counterparty bank with which he works.
When Combs passed along the bank’s feedback to the Power BI team, he was surprised to learn that many of the requested changes were already underway! Power BI’s cloud-based infrastructure and scheduled monthly updates mean that new features are constantly being added, and suggestions from users are always being taken onboard for future development.
Dennis Crispin, Senior Credit Manager, and Justin Surina, Senior Credit and Business Analyst, both with the Credit Services team, are also impressed by Power BI’s rapid innovation. Together their teams help manage $10 billion in accounts receivable and mitigate credit risks, and while they’ve already started to see the benefits of being data-driven through Power BI, they both are also excited for what’s to come.
“What I love about Power BI is that it’s always evolving,” says Crispin. Surina adds that while the Credit Services team is getting the most use out of Power BI now as a managerial reporting dashboard, his goal for this fiscal year is to take advantage of the new features to integrate into relationships with BPOs, vendors, and everywhere in between.
Combs too is excited for the future. “We didn’t even have this software 18 months ago,” he points out, “and now it’s the best in the [data] industry.”
George Zinn’s initiative to integrate Power BI into the daily routines of his Treasury team has already seen remarkable results. Through the use of reports and dashboards, team members are able to find the data they need, discover new predictive insights, and report and share their information with colleagues and managers, all in minutes. Power BI makes it easy to collect real-time data together from multiple sources, use drag-and-drop tools to create informative visuals, and maintain optimal security and access with built-in group and sharing tools.
When asked about Power BI, Zinn said, “During Brexit, our team managed to answer critical questions to Finance Leadership Team using Power BI. Power BI is a best in class self-serve on demand analytics tool.”
If Power BI is doing that for Microsoft’s world-class financial team managing billions of dollars of assets, what could it be doing for your business?
For more information on Power BI, see our Financial Solutions website.