We’re delighted to pass on our congratulations to the team at Bernicia whose hard work has been recognised at recent social housing award ceremonies. Bernicia scooped the top prize at the HANA awards in the category of Finance Team of the Year: Large Organisation and also at the North East Accountancy Awards in the category of Public Services Finance Team of the Year. They’re hoping to hit the hat trick in October when the Women in Housing awards takes place at Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester where the Group is a finalist in an impressive 4 categories, with Finance having representation in 2 of these.

Bernicia was formed on 1st June 2016 following the merger of Bernicia and Four Housing. The new Group consisted of four social housing providers with over 14,000 properties. The finance team came together and their first major task was to implement a new finance system, integrate and align processes and practices.

Absolute clarity

In early March 2017, the Castle team worked with Bernicia to implement their new SunSystems finance system. Janette Longstaff, Director, Finance at Bernicia commented: “Due to our product knowledge we had absolute clarity in how we wanted the system to be configured, and how we wanted to future proof the installation. Using a single business unit, we used ledger analysis to facilitate subsidiary reporting whilst benefitting from the efficiencies of running a single creditors ledger.

“We developed a new chart of accounts and worked with Castle to map our previous charts of accounts and analysis codes to our new structure. We were then able to insert 25 years of historic data into the system, thereby allowing us to report on prior year’s data with ease again despite having a completely new accounting structure.”

Appetite for change

Paul Sutherland, Director of Housing Solutions at Castle said: “The project to merge finance applications was a time critical and intensive programme for all concerned. The Bernicia finance team worked as a cohesive unit with an appetite for change matched with dedication and willingness to go the extra mile.

“The outcome of the project was a finance solution that we now use as a template for all of our clients. This was achieved simply by the dedication, knowledge, understanding and work ethos of the Bernicia Finance Team.”

Reporting and budgeting tool

And the hard work didn’t stop there. Janette continues: “In June 2017 we took a moment to catch our breath and started on a new project to implement an Infor reporting and budgeting tool from Castle, d/EPM. Phase 1 delivered budget holder reporting via a web-based system in real-time, allowing users to drill down to transactions and source documents. Phase 2 went live in September where we started our first forecasting round and worked closely with the budget holders to set the forecasts.

“d/EPM has proved to be a success as it makes the budget process much easier. The dashboards mean that we have visibility of how budget holders are progressing activity and identifies who needs additional support. Gone are the days of pulling together multiple spreadsheets – smart technology. And budget holders like the system, they have had a positive user experience.”

Continue the momentum

Paul Sutherland commented: “Taking on a new budgeting, forecasting and planning tool is a big task for any finance team, while also doing the day job. Bernicia expressed a willingness to continue the momentum from the merger project, and we had no hesitation in working with the team again as we knew their can do attitude and professionalism is something to admire.

“Once again the Bernicia team did not disappoint, engaging at all levels to ensure the project was delivered on time, within budget and exceeding the initial scope to deliver a solution to the business.”

We wish the Bernicia team good luck in October when they attend the Women in Housing awards.