FBL Financial

FBL’s external reporting process was cumbersome, complicated and often required employees to work extended hours to finalize documents. The company needed a tool that would accelerate report development, facilitate processing late changes and simplify the review process while improving the work/life balance of employees.
  • The flexibility to create a wide range of SEC reports and corporate financial documents quickly, efficiently and accurately
  • Time savings and efficiencies from “EDGARizing” reports in-house
  • Improved morale and a better work/life balance for employees

During SEC filing periods at FBL Financial Group, Inc. in West Des Moines, Iowa, members of the filing team often worked long hours—sometimes until 3 a.m.—to get the reports completed and filed on time. FBL’s management team was trying to improve that experience with an initiative to identify efficiencies and implement changes to improve the work-life balance for employees. A big part of the initiative focused on how to streamline SEC report development and compress the document change cycle.

The problem was that management hadn’t found a better way to draft and file SEC reports. Like most companies, FBL used a combination of table-filled text documents and spreadsheets to create SEC reports that could run 100 pages or more. “It was a time-consuming, cumbersome process, but we didn’t know a better way to do it,” says Carrie Dostal, Life Accounting Manager. Dostal even asked her peers in the industry if they had a better approach. “I never heard anyone say they had a great way to handle SEC filing,” she says.

Now the FBL team has an answer: Wdesk.

In June 2009, a retired FBL executive heard about Wdesk, a revolutionary, cloud-based, platform for developing and filing external reports. He arranged for a Workiva representative to demo the solution to FBL’s upper management, including Danielle Kuhn, Accounting Vice President. “It seemed like a good application that would provide many benefits for issues we knew were challenging for our team,” says Kuhn.

But Kuhn let her team—the people who would use it every day—make the final decision about whether to invest in Wdesk. “I saw the platform’s value immediately,” says Dostal. “Wdesk was the only solution I’ve ever seen that addresses all of the issues we’ve had with SEC filing.”

A Fast Start

Within six weeks of seeing a demonstration of the product, the team was using Wdesk to develop and file reports. The company’s decision to integrate the solution right before the 2009 third quarter 10-Q deadline put real pressure on the reporting team, but the process went smoothly from the start. “Wdesk worked for us right away and was an improvement to our process the very first time we used it,” says Dostal.

Wdesk is the only solution I've ever seen that addresses all the issues we've had with SEC filing.

— Carrie Dostal, Life Accounting Manager, FBL Financial Group, Inc.

Before Wdesk, only one person on FBL’s team could access the document at a time, and the manual review and proofing process was tedious, especially as the team neared the deadline. FBL was then paying an outside vendor to EDGARize the reports, which was expensive and consumed critical days at the end of the filing process.

With Wdesk, FBL now has a powerful solution that streamlines every step of the report development and review process, which saves time and reduces stress on employees.

Streamlined Review Process

With the application’s one active document feature, FBL has up to 12 users working on a report at one time. “Another big advantage is that Wdesk uses a workbook as a starting point for all of the data,” explains Dostal. “If we report our net income number in three places in a 10-Q, we know they’re all in sync because the number is pulled from the same place.”

In the past, team members had to wait up to 24 hours to see an updated version of the report after each review cycle. Now the entire team has constant access to the most recent version of the document and updated versions can be easily distributed for review.

Wdesk also streamlines the actual filing process by automatically converting the report to the required EDGAR format and sending it directly to the SEC, eliminating the need for an outside vendor and saving time.

Director of Investor Relations, Tim Bigley, works with Dostal on SEC reports. He noted that the team cut at least two days out of the document drafting process alone because of the Wdesk internal EDGARization capability. “Now we feel like we have extra review time to make sure we’re producing a better product with less stress on the staff,” says Bigley.

Bigley notes that because Wdesk is cloud-based, it requires little or no involvement by the IT department and employees can access the reports anywhere, any time. “As long as you have the internet, you can be working from anywhere… and with Wdesk, you know you’re always editing the right document version,” he says.

Excellent Flexibility

FBL’s team is also impressed with the platform’s ability to create reports other than 10-Ks and 10-Qs. “It’s pretty unlimited in terms of use for SEC communication,” says Bigley. “It’s a big benefit to our investor relations group because we can be more responsive. As other reportable items come up, we use Wdesk to get an 8-K report drafted and filed quickly.”

Recognizing the solution’s potential, other groups at FBL are also using Wdesk. The mutual funds department is using the solution to file quarterly holdings reports and is planning to expand use to create other reports. Recently, the legal department used the solution for an S-8 filing and the group plans to use the solution for its proxy filing.

Now during SEC filing week, FBL’s reporting team can work a more normal schedule. Managers see that the entire process is running smoother and employee morale is up. “It’s going really well. The close process is working a lot better. And we are more confident that numbers are consistent throughout the report, which facilitates the review process,” says Kuhn.

Wdesk really did what we expected it would do and helped us reach our goal of a better work-life balance.

— Danielle Kuhn, Accounting Vice President, FBL Financial Group, Inc.

The report development process and morale are sure to improve further when FBL starts using the robust Wdesk XBRL capabilities. The solution completely integrates XBRL tagging into the report development process. Dostal is relieved to know that XBRL tagging won’t be a headache for her team. “During the demo we thought the XBRL piece of Wdesk was very well done. The fact that EDGARizing and XBRL can all happen in one program is very exciting.” Based on initial estimates, Kuhn expects that Wdesk XBRL capabilities will save FBL about $30,000 annually in outsourcing costs.

Wdesk has become a key resource for FBL’s finance team. As Don Seibel, Vice President, Finance, noted, “Wdesk has been an integral application in achieving our financial process improvement goals, including attaining a faster, more agile close process and improving the work-life balance for the team.”

Download case study

Read More