Christina Bates — How the Finance Team Transformed in Response to Home Working

Published: January 13, 2021

Like most of us, Allstate Northern Ireland have been working from home since March last year. As Northern Ireland's largest IT company, they're used to working remotely to deliver services to their parent company in the US. As a result, most departments found the transition smooth with minimal disruption to their day to day tasks. However, changes were required in some business areas to respond to the pandemic. We spoke to Christina Bates, Chief Financial Officer at Allstate Northern Ireland to find out how the Allstate Northern Ireland Finance team streamlined processes and the programs in place to support employees.

Christina Bates, How the finance team transformed in response to home working.

On 16th March 2020 all employees were notified that they were to work from home until further notice, but I don't think many of us expected to still be at home now in January 2021. Allstate Northern Ireland had been preparing for the pandemic prior to that date and the Finance team had also been working to ensure that processes could operate smoothly and securely online from the safety of employees homes, rather than the office.

The first priority was to ensure continuity of service from Allstate Northern Ireland to business partners in the US and Canada. Employees were all able to work from home very quickly and the Field Support team worked tirelessly to ensure employees had all the equipment they needed. Business services were not interrupted and normal work delivery could occur.

Having responsive and remote-enabled Finance processes was crucial. Some processes had to be moved to new tools very quickly and digital signature processes implemented for a variety of processes. We built new workflows, re-designed and enhanced exisiting policies and implemented several new systems and policies over the course of 2020. It was one of the busiest years ever, but was also rewarding, seeing progress, improvement and collaboration among business areas, to implement solutions quickly.

Employee welfare has always been the number one priority for Allstate Northern Ireland. We regularly survey all employees to get a feel for the morale and listen to their voice. Throughout 2020 we ran several surveys and the responses informed us that the greatest need for employees was office equipment to support the homeworking arrangements.

In response to this and to prepare for future potential hybrid working arrangements, Allstate introduced a companywide initiative called the 'Good Office Program'. This entitled every employee to spend a fixed sum on equipment like desks, chairs and monitors to help them work from home more effectively. This enables employees to have an excellent, permanent home office set up to keep in place even when we return to the office, so that hybrid working can be effective and productive.

This initiative accelerated the implementation of SAP Concur, our new expense system. This allowed employees to easily submit their expense claims from their laptop or on their mobile device, at a time that suited them, with successful processing of Good Office claims for more than 2,000 individuals in a short timeframe. The application allows for quick repayment to all employees and improved visibility for managers.

In December, Allstate launched the Covid Holiday Support Scheme, for employees and their families, with the aim of helping those who had suffered financial hardship in their personal lives, as a direct result of Covid-19. This global programme was well received across all locations.

We're proud as a team to have kept regular Finance activities like payroll and operational accounting moving along smoothly, but also provide financial analysis to enable decision making in an uncertain time, to make changes to almost everything we do and keep the financials of the company in check while implementing these new initiatives and tools to improve process and employee wellbeing.

2020 will certainly live in our minds for some time as a challenging year from a business perspective, but we know that our situation was much easier than many companies have faced and we wish those in more difficult business circumstances, the very best for 2021.