Best automated reporting tool for financial services

How to select the best automated reporting tool for financial services

Tariq Sinnetamby
Content Specialist
April 23, 2024

Finance teams are constantly seeking more efficient ways to boost productivity when building recurring reports. As an industry where 23% of workers are struggling to spend more time on strategic tasks, an automated reporting tool is more important than ever.

The right reporting software can save your team valuable time both building the reports, transforming your ability to analyze data and ensure accuracy.

But, how do you know which financial reporting automation software is the best fit for your business?

In this article, we’ll walk you through how to choose the best automated reporting tool to suit your team’s needs perfectly.

What are automated reporting tools?

Automated financial reporting tools are designed specifically to streamline your reporting process.

The value of a reporting automation tool is its ability to remove the manual labor involved in data compilation and presentation, empowering you to spend more time on commentary and analysis.

But how can you effectively implement this reporting technology in your business? The trick lies in selecting a report automation tool that satisfies your specific business requirements.

For example, investment bankers require reporting automation tools to source market data for their pitchbooks, whereas accounting teams typically require automation to collate operational data for profit and loss statements.

To automate key reporting processes, financial services companies may turn to a range of solutions, from internally built tools to external financial reporting software. An internal tool can be tailored to your specification, built to answer the exact needs of your teams. However, to build an internal reporting tool requires time for research and development, and ample resource to invest, and the results are not always instant.

A visual showing how you link data between PowerPoint and Excel with UpSlide

There are many free reporting automation tools available, though these generalist solutions won’t stand up to the efficiency and precision requirements for finance teams.

To avoid the effort of developing in-house but still guarantee a solution tailored to the needs of your financial reporting processes, there are a few premium financial reporting tools on the market. In this next section, we’ll walk you through how to choose the best one for you and your team.

Step 1: evaluate your existing reporting process

To transform the reporting process within your team, first assess your existing workflows to ensure you make the most informed decision.

Start by asking yourself whether regular reporting is efficient within your team, and if the final deliverables are always accurate. Analyzing these factors helps identify bottlenecks or gaps that can hinder your progress.

How efficient are your current reporting workflows?

A downside to the traditional reporting process in finance teams is the time inefficiency. Manual tasks take valuable time from other vital roles like strategic planning, data analysis for decision-making, and formulating future goals.

To identify any inefficiencies in your reporting process:­

  1. Perform a deep dive into the steps involved in creating financial reports currently. Send out a survey or talk to team members directly to understand their processes and gain any feedback.
  2. Determine the total number of hours spent on data entry, exporting, and carrying out calculations manually. Again, asking team members directly can help with this, or consult any time-tracking data from your project management software like Slack or Monday.
  3. Pay special attention to any repeated actions in your reporting workflow, for example, updating data several times in PowerPoint after it changes in Excel. Identifying these as early as possible will indicate where your reporting process should be automated.

Can you improve the accuracy of your team’s reporting?

Data accuracy safeguards all financial services companies against legal and financial risk. When building valuations reports, or reporting on portfolio updates, small errors can lead to significant impacts on a company’s reputation upon audit inspection. Accuracy and consistency are also key to forging the long-term client relationships that distinguish industry leaders from the competition.

To weigh the accuracy within your processes:

  1. Enquire about frequent errors encountered during manual data exports and updates. Identifying any consistent cause for these errors will help pinpoint areas where a financial reporting tool could help.
  2. Consider how many multi-tiered reviews are required before certifying a report as accurate. If you’re spending too much time or involving too many people during these reviews, it’s time to explore a solution to automate the proofing process.

Before using UpSlide, most of our clients would spend close to a week reviewing their final reports. UpSlide provides a failsafe for data accuracy, freeing up a significant amount of capacity in these workflows.

Ella Hainsworth-Brear

Professional Services Team Lead, UK

Step 2: shortlist some reporting automation solutions

After assessing your current reporting process, it’s time to assess which financial report automation tools are on the market. Take the findings from step one and see which tools are out there that satisfy your team’s requirements. Review sites like G2 or Capterra are invaluable at this stage.

Consider which stage of the reporting process you want to automate. Is it the data extraction, the report generation, or the analysis itself? Solutions differ widely in their strengths and scopes; some might excel in data visualization but lack robust integration abilities or vice versa.

If your team are spending too much time on data extraction and transformation, you may want to consider an ETL solution like Power Query or Oracle Data Integrator (ODI). Or, if you’re regularly linking data from Excel to PowerPoint, UpSlide offers a comprehensive service tailored to financial services teams.

Remember that technical compatibility matters more than a flashy interface. If your team largely report out of Google Workspace or Microsoft 365, it’s best to choose an approved provider for each platform.

Discover the benefits of working with a Microsoft Partner

Step 3: assess what makes a good automated financial reporting tool

After reaching a shortlist, it’s time to determine which reporting solution is best suited to your organization’s specific requirements. We recommend exploring online case studies and reviews to help you compare how tools are performing in real-world scenarios.

Make sure to consider these five qualities when evaluating your shortlist:

  1. User-friendliness: Even the best automated reporting tools would be useless if it requires specialized IT knowledge to operate effectively. A top-tier solution empowers individuals across varying skill levels by emphasizing intuitive design and simplicity.
  2. Customization: Consider whether your team would benefit from a tool that’s customized to your processes and brand guidelines. It may lead to greater adoption of the tool within your team and higher ROI in the future.
  3. Scalability: The software must have the capacity to grow alongside your teams and workloads to guarantee future compatibility.
  4. Security: Ensure you choose a reporting automation solution that is compliant with current financial services regulation such as SOC2, the GLBA (in the USA), or DORA (in the EU). Your chosen tool should retain zero visibility of your data, leaving you with full control.
  5. Support: Good customer service can make or break any product experience — especially with software solutions where troubleshooting may frequently be needed.

After you’ve found a tool to tick these boxes, you can then move into the testing phase.

Top tip

Adoption support is crucial to ensuring long-term ROI. A provider that offers specialized training sessions or onboarding plans for employees will help your team see more consistent results down the line.

Step 4: test the tool in action

Integrating any new technology into your business comes with an element of risk. Ensuring there is an effective testing period before you roll it out company-wide can help mitigate this risk.

The testing process for your chosen automated reporting tool should involve several steps:

  1. Settle on key performance indicators (KPIs): Determine what success looks like for your organization. Identify KPIs tied directly to your business objectives and the current performance of the reporting team to measure performance effectively.
  2. Run user acceptance tests: Test the tool across your teams to ensure any compatibility gaps are identified and resolved in good time.
  3. Roll out your new reporting automation tool: Align with your internal IT team and launch a communication plan so your test group of employees can use the tool from day one and know exactly where to provide feedback.
  4. Review the usage and results: Evaluate how accurately and efficiently your teams’ reporting workflows are performed based on your KPIs.

The insights provided from this process should reflect the impact the reporting automation tool will have across your business.

Testing a reporting automation tool

Gather feedback

Employee buy-in goes a long way in determining the successful adoption of a new tool. Gather feedback from your team and measure their confidence in the automation tool as part of your evaluation.

If you get to the end of the test period and everything has gone well – great! If not, then it’s time to share this feedback with your provider and explore opportunities for improvement.

Collecting both qualitative and quantitative feedback from our clients helps us understand both the impact on their productivity, but also how we can optimize our solution to cater to the needs of finance teams.

Ella Hainsworth-Brear

Professional Services Team Lead, UK

How UpSlide automates report creation for finance teams

BNP Paribas

The International Financial Services (IFS) function within BNP Paribas produce regular reports throughout the financial year to forecast and interpret figures, focusing on budgets, estimations and final outcomes.

Once a labor-intensive process, the team has now freed up significant capacity when it comes to exporting data from Excel to their reports in PowerPoint.

Read BNP Paribas’ story

American Tower

American Tower’s FP&A team spend a significant amount of time in Microsoft 365 producing regular reports on earnings, forecasting, budgeting and more. The team identified the risk and inefficiency of relying on manual work in this process, as well as the impact it was having on employee wellbeing.

Now, with UpSlide, they save over 17 hours per employee per month building their recurring reports while guaranteeing both the quality and the accuracy of all deliverables.

Read American Tower’s story

Ensuring quality control and data accuracy used to take the team hours. Now we just UpSlide our reports, giving us full peace of mind before we share to senior leadership.

Andres Carcamo Atria

Director, FP&A

What is the best tool for financial reporting?

Deciphering which tool stands as the best automated reporting software can be a challenge at first.

While no universal “best” exists, there is definitely a “best fit” for your needs. An informed approach, taking into account each of the above factors, will lead you down the path to an optimal selection.

If you’re a finance professional who spends too much time on regular reporting, discover UpSlide for reporting automation.

Tariq Sinnetamby
Tariq is a Content Specialist at UpSlide. A branding enthusiast with a keen interest in emerging technologies, Tariq sits within our Marketing team. He also has over 2+ years of marketing experience across the online food delivery, travel, and technology sectors.

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