My articles...

As you have read in my resume, as official reporter for the Luxembourg location, I write from time to time articles for "Finance Matters", the international newsletter of the Halifax - Bank Of Scotland (HBOS) group, that is distributed in all finance departments within the group and available online on the company's intranet.
You can find their original text reprinted in full hereunder. Note that the contents of these articles is copyrighted and all rights are reserved to the owner of the rights. Should you wish to use part of them, please get first in touch with me.

Thank you for your understanding.

Index :

IAS in Luxembourg

Many companies in Europe are facing this year a new challenge : IAS. Since January 1st, all European listed companies are required to present their financial statements in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards.

CMI is addressing this issue by enrolling all of its finance employees into a web-based training, provided by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants. The deadline for most participants will be the end of February. Everyone has his or her own way to cram one's head with the material, to take (and hopefully pass) the exam. Some read a lot, while others write and make summaries, … On top of that, extra training sessions have been organized, mainly on Friday lunchtimes to cover together the course and exchange ideas and point of views. E. K. has also kindly agreed to lead these meetings and give explanations when needed on the standards.

The point is that it can sometimes be a bit more complicated for non-English native speakers to correctly understand the technical terms and procedures; there are also some differences in the accounting habits between the continent and the UK. Every participant took it very seriously and always came prepared to the weekly appointments. These sessions were therefore a wonderful tool to demystify the material and have proven until now to be very useful for the attendants.

Let's hope that the final results will confirm this !

Year-end 2004 in Luxembourg

"Year end" usually means a lot of smiling, happiness and joy. At least for the persons of normal constitution. But for accountants, it is rather a synonym of nightmares, tiredness and stress.

This year was no exception and required a lot of work and efforts from most of us. It even lead some to say that finance in Luxembourg remained open 24 hours a day ! By a stroke of good fortune, the calendar was so that it did not require anyone coming and working on the first week-end of the year.

One of the big challenges that we have been facing was that, compared to last year, the team had a very different composition. For several members, it was even the first time that they had the responsibility of such an operation.
It should not cause offence to anyone to write that there was a lack of understanding, knowledge and training due to inexperience. Next year should therefore, from this point of view, run much more smoothly.

On the other hand, the deadline of four working days was very tight. A first set of results was produced within the allocated time. The pressure from the auditors was high, and not always relevant, which lead to some ajustments afterwards. These could have been avoided with one or two extra days of work.

To cope with these difficulties, the whole team demonstrated a very highly positive spirit and was never selfish in making the necessary efforts. There was also another uncommon incentive that helped us in being very effective and in keeping our energy at its highest level : a croissants planning had been instituted to enhance everyone's involvement !!!

This year-end was (and is still) very tough, but we stood the test. Some challenges should be addressed to make it better next year. Recurring remarks mention a better preparation and organization, the sharing of the knowledge (and particularly keeping the knowledge inside the walls of the company), but our best advantage remains this wonderful team spirit that makes people happy in their work, enhances their motivation and improve their efficiency. Let everyone contribute with his or her own means to make it grow and have another wonderful year together.

The £50 Challenge : what is happening in Luxembourg ?

The playbill was promising ! And we are until now not disappointed. The competition regarding the £50 Challenge contest is fierce in Luxembourg. Everyone was very enthusiastic about the idea, when it was first announced in London in January. And everyone in Finance Luxembourg ended up in a team.

For two teams were created here : The Chocolate Monsters and The Pound Factory. Therefore, the rivalry is well alive, not only against all the other 12 contestants, but also and particularly between both luxembourguish teams.

The Pound Factory had an astonishing start, being the first one on the field. Although their debut was much quieter, The Chocolate Monsters are now well in, and rapidly catching up their delay. A lot of events are organized : the Monsters seem to target their efforts towards big events, while the Factory launches much more small, limited operations. In order not to give ideas to our opponents, no further detail on these projects will be mentioned here, but keep reading "Finance Matters" and you will hear more on this in an upcoming report.

It is also worth mentioning that no act of sabotage of one team against the other one's activities has been reported until now… As far as the response of our colleagues in other departments is concerned, we can say that they were at the beginning quite surprised, not to say "stunned", especially regarding the weird emails that they received, inviting them to take part to not less weird activities… An announcement was then posted on the Source, that greatly helped in opening them to our offers. Everything is now well in place, and …

The adventure goes on…

The truth about Oracle...

For a couple of weeks, there is only one single word in everyone's mouth among the Finance department. You probably have guessed, I meant "Oracle". We have seen coming and settling down a crowd of friendly colleagues from HBOS Edinburgh in the second floor…

But what will Oracle concretely change in our lives, in our ways of working ? Will it be a revolution or a smooth change ? Exclusively for "Finance Matters", I have investigated among people in Finance Luxembourg on their opinions, hopes and fears about this big thing coming. Nothing will be hidden, and you will be made aware of everything !!!

I met in the utmost secret last Thursday around 5 pm N. and V. (let's preserve their identity), our happy AP girls, who were just coming out of an exhausting 2 days testing and training marathon. "A lot of work is still needed to ensure that the transition between Sun and Oracle will happen in a satisfying way". The fact is that Oracle will compel us to adapt our ways of working and thinking, as well as on the other hand to modify some procedures designed for our colleagues in the UK, to Luxembourg specificities. V. points out that instead of encoding a 3 digits code for the cost centres at the moment, the AP team will have to enter 8 digits. Another point is that all suppliers' account codes will henceforth be mixed together, whichever company they refer to, while at the same time the names will also have been modified.

But the move towards Oracle does not scare our girls : they have no doubt that the benefits will compensate these slight annoyances. They have already discovered that an invoice would still be available for viewing after being approved. With the current NC Procurement system, once the manager has approved it, the invoice is no longer viewable. The scanning process will also be greatly enhanced, since the system will automatically attach the .pdf file to the invoice. This will no longer be performed manually. The testing has proved very useful : our Oracle Sherlock Holmes have discovered that it was not possible to define a VAT code for foreign invoices, that the scanning gear was not working properly, or that the intercompany recharge system did not allow to select which company has be recharged.

P., our senior accountant, has had Oracle installed on his computer, and is glad to be now able to play with it. "We still have a long way to go before we can say that Oracle is working", he says. He only started to test, and is quite worried of the delays. Even if the Oracle posting tool (ADI) is very similar to Sun (they both use Excel as interface), the whole collection of Sun journals templates needs to be converted into Oracle compatible versions.

It is a commonly shared feeling that the arrival of Oracle will bring along hard times, the first live closure coinciding with the production of the interim financial results not being the least. But Oracle potential and tools will certainly improve lots of current processes, workflows and habits. It is just a wild river to cross, but we know that the promised land is on the other bank.