Paychex Inc. may have mid-market revenues close to $2 billion, but when it comes to automation and risk management, the Rochester, N.Y.- based payroll services provider thinks and acts like a large company with 10 times its sales volume–at least a large one that strives for a best practices treasury and finance operation. With six Alexander Hamilton Award entries–three of which snagged one gold and two silvers this year–Paychex proved its commitment to creating holistic solutions to corporate-wide problems. “Paychex developed its agenda from the standpoint of how the finance function could help the business better service its customers,” says Tony Carfang, a partner at Treasury Strategies Inc. and an AHA judge. “It had such a comprehensive agenda; not piecemeal or ad hoc. And it had a real sense of urgency.”
The array of programs, ranging from creation of an operational risk department to building a client retention model to implementing a back-up and disaster recovery plan all have one thing in common. They revolve around risk management, notes Frank Fiorille. As director of enterprise risk management, Fiorille manages a team of about 200 employees throughout the company who manage all types of risks.
The strategy has paid off in more ways than one. Besides winning awards, Paychex halved its losses from annual operating and credit risk problems–to $3.5 million from about $10 million three years ago. “The losses were starting to get higher than where we would like them to be,” recalls Paychex CFO John Morphy. “So we reviewed our processes in detail and developed programs that would monitor all transactions,” he explains
AHA judges emphasized the scope of the projects, and the entrepreneurial spirit in which they were planned.
Take, for example, Paychex’s creation of a single centralized department for operational risk mitigation, in which a corporate-wide team assumes risk responsibilities and reports back to a new shared services department. “Their approach would be a lot to undertake even for a big company; but it’s amazing for a small company,” says Craig Jeffery, managing director of Strategic Treasurer LLC, who acted as a special consulting judge on the middle market award. “Paychex recognized an enterprise-wide system would help the bottom line.”
Some big banks and insurers could learn something from Paychex, says Jeffery. “As opposed to just protecting assets,” he says, “it uses the systems it creates for sales retention and profit growth.”