About Exeter Finance

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Exeter is an auto finance company headquartered in Irving, Texas. Since their founding in 2006, Exeter has grown to over $1B in annual revenue. The company currently works with more than 11,000 dealers and over 400,000 customers nationwide providing indirect financing for both new and used vehicles. In 2021, Exeter celebrated their 1 millionth customer since their inception and reached a serviced finance portfolio of more than $6 billion.

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The challenge

Exeter was running an unsupported version of Microsoft Great Plains for their Financials. Technical inefficiencies throughout financial processes caused month-end close to take more than five days. The company faced high volumes of manual work related to regularly adding new legal entities to the Chart of Accounts (COA) and reconciling over 90 bank accounts each period close. Additionally, as a consumer lender, Exeter deals with rigorous compliance requirements and needed a system that could support them through today’s and the ever-changing regulatory standards.

Exeter was undergoing a project to take advantage of the digital age. The company was systematically transitioning different pieces of their technology stack to the cloud and had already upgraded their procurement and human capital management (HCM) systems. The next step was to replace their Financials applications.

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Exeter’s search criteria were informed by some of the major challenges associated with their current legacy system:

Process inefficiencies

One of Exeter’s biggest goals for the Financials project was to dramatically shorten their period close, which was taking five days. The long month-end close was preventing Exeter from making business decisions where timely data visibility is critical. To do this, an imperative was to eliminate occurrences of manual workarounds, as well as a heavy reliance on spreadsheets that augmented, or in many cases, were used to compensate for missing functionality in the company’s existing system.

Exeter also invests a great deal in software development. The company has a large development team dedicated to supporting and enhancing their custom solution, and Exeter requires the ability to track the buildout of the software, both in time spent, as well as development dollars invested. All of this tracking was being done in a cumbersome spreadsheet that, in Michelle Webster’s (Director of Accounting at Exeter) words, had become a “nightmare.”

Plans for growth

Exeter adds 3-4 new legal entities in the form of trusts called EARTs (Exeter Automobile Receivable Trusts) annually. The EART is essentially an entity that is created to receive cash and pay expenses related to all the individual auto loans Exeter manages, otherwise known as asset-backed security.

Exeter needed a system with a dynamic account structure. Each EART represents a new company and requires four additional bank accounts, as well as certain tracking requirements over its five-year lifetime.

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Rigorous compliance requirements

Consumer lenders like Exeter deal with the highest loan volumes and are among the most heavily regulated in an industry that comes with an already lengthy list of compliance and control requirements. In addition, Exeter’s debt covenants required an external audit and annual GAAP-compliant audited financial statements. Exeter also strives to maintain Sarbanes Oxley (“SOX”) compliant controls over financial reporting. As a result, Exeter needed a system that could support these complex requirements with detailed and precise audit capabilities, along with flexibility for process definition.

The solution

The selection committee at Exeter evaluated several solutions in addition to Nextworld. They determined early in the evaluation process that they would derive a great deal of value from the Nextworld platform, as it would allow Exeter to go beyond the benefits of the cloud to achieve true agility.

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Why Exeter chose Nextworld

Nextworld had all of the functionality Exeter needed to abandon its legacy system and transition into the digital age.

One of the main reasons Exeter selected Nextworld was its inherent flexibility, which would enable Exeter to get rid of inefficiencies across multiple financial applications. For example, Nextworld’s native integration capabilities would eliminate much of the manual work Exeter was doing within spreadsheets and ultimately, allow the team to focus on more strategic priorities.

The flexibility of Nextworld’s chart of accounts would also make adding new legal entities with the proper controls far simpler than before.

Another reason Exeter chose Nextworld? Its Automated Transaction Engine. Nextworld’s workflow and comprehensive audit capabilities for transactions, as well as for employees, would become integral to meeting the compliance demands of their industry.

Lastly, Nextworld’s Construction in Progress (CIP) functionality would allow Exeter to track internal software development costs at the asset level with very minimal manual work. The capability of tracking changes from one asset to another would give rise to enormous time savings

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The results

Exeter began implementing Nextworld in early 2020. During the implementation, COVID-19 hit the United States and forced both teams to shift to remote operating structures. Not only were all parties able to finish the implementation remotely, but the project was completed by the original scheduled go-live date.

Since the implementation, Exeter has enjoyed a close-knit relationship with the Nextworld team.

“It’s like a family. It really is,” Webster said. “If I have a problem, I pick up the phone or I ping on Teams, and somebody gets right back to me. I don’t ever have to wait.”

By implementing Nextworld, Exeter has realized a host of benefits.

Shortened period close

With Nextworld’s Workflow Orchestration, Exeter’s accounting team has been able to reduce the period close from five days to two. Details of the automation include:

Bank integrations. Previously, Exeter had to manually reconcile banking activity, a rigorous process exacerbated by a growing number of bank accounts. Every EART has four active associated bank accounts, and Exeter continues to add 3-4 EARTs annually. Before Nextworld, two people spent four hours a day reconciling bank statements. With Nextworld’s BAI integration for Bank Reconciliations, Exeter has been able to automate this process for over 90 active bank accounts and cut down this time to only two hours a day

AP invoices. Each week, Exeter receives about 450 invoices from an asset remarketing vendor which previously had to be input manually to the system. With Nextworld, an importable file was easily created to automate the creation of these invoices.

“Everything that we did was Excel-tracked, and it took about a week to reconcile that one account in our old system,” Webster said. “Now, with Nextworld, it’s half a day.”

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Managing capitalized software for improved bottom line. Exeter can now track the development of new software much more easily. When a new release of the software is put into production and delivered to the company, it is treated as a fixed asset and its amortization is tracked. Using Nextworld’s Construction in Progress (CIP) functionality, Exeter saw a reduction in CIP spend by 3x the original amount.

Ultimately, Nextworld’s CIP functionality drastically reduced the amount of manual work required to track internally developed software customizations from their “in-progress” state through to capitalization, resulting in enormous time savings for Exeter’s accounting team.

“Being able to utilize the CIP application to track and manage software development was a major lift for us,” Webster said.

IT landscape simplification

By using Nextworld, Exeter was able to replace several point solutions to bring a greater level of simplicity and budget efficiency to their IT landscape.

In addition to simplifying Exeter’s overall IT landscape, Nextworld also reduced work for the IT department. Previously, the accounting team needed the IT department to manage inbound and outbound Great Plains system integrations. Using Nextworld coupled with SnapLogic, Exeter is now able to automate those integrations and get more timely data into its reporting system for timely executive review.

“It helped the business because upper management could see the financials information faster and adjust accordingly,” Webster said.

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Passed first audit after implementation with no findings

As stated above, Exeter operates in a regulated industry with rigorous, and oftentimes, costly compliance standards. Everything involving the audit of data, processes, and approvals are necessary pieces to manage for control requirements. As a part of this, preventative measures must be in place as well as the ability to review historic transactions.

After the implementation, there were two key aspects of Nextworld’s platform that were instrumental in helping Exeter complete their first audit since the implementation with zero findings.

Workflow and approvals. Nextworld now gives Exeter the ability to customize workflow and approvals in a single application to support multiple control processes. Systems outside of

Nextworld are responsible for generating the majority of invoices. Rather than requiring approval of these invoices in two separate systems, the Nextworld workflows were set up so that invoices already approved would not need to go through an approval process a second time.

Audit capabilities. With the Nextworld platform, Exeter can audit every record within an application for a full transaction history. “Before and after” snapshots of data are now visible as well as user logins and activity.

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Exeter considers their selection of Nextworld a success in the scope of the company’s larger digital transformation project. Overall, Exeter achieved their automation goal of shortening their period close, built their compliance and control requirements into the system, and eliminated several point solutions to bring great simplicity to their overall IT landscape.

Exeter continues to make use of new features delivered through Nextworld’s platform and expects to see even more automation improvement as they expand their use of the platform.

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