Financial Accounting and Reporting: Behind the Scenes at Merchants Fleet

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Written By: Eric Goldfisher, Content Manager

Financial Accounting and Reporting

With the mission of enabling the movement of people, goods, and services freely and responsibly, there is a lot that needs to go on behind the scenes at Merchants Fleet to make it happen. Walk the halls of our Hooksett, NH or Rosemont, IL headquarters and you’ll encounter bright minds and collaborative teams leading the charge at Merchants.

While every department plays a role in pushing Merchants to be the most flexible and innovative end-to-end fleet services and technology provider in North America, the Financial Accounting and Reporting team keeps a close eye on transactions and data to ensure the financial health and success of the company. There are a lot of moving parts in an FMC, and everything gets funneled through their department, in one way or another.

To learn more about the team and how they contribute behind the scenes at Merchants, I got the chance to talk with Katie Dionne, CPA, Director of Accounting. She shed insight on how she ended up in the fleet management sector, what her team does to keep the organization moving, and how it feels to have hands on experience developing processes that have a significant impact on the overall business. (Read to the end to learn where to find the best burgers in New Hampshire.)


Q: Hi Katie, nice to meet you! How long have you been a part of the Merchants Fleet team? 
A: I’ve been with Merchants in the finance department for just about four and a half years. I was originally hired as the Senior Manager of Financial Accounting and Reporting, and about a year later I was promoted to Director of Accounting.
Q: You’ve held financial management roles in quite a few different industries. What was the draw to come work for Merchants? 
A: My career has taken a bit of an unconventional path and intersected with Merchants before I became an employee. After college, I went into investment banking with Credit Suisse and worked in asset backed securities – which is funny since Merchants issued its first asset backed transaction last year, so it has been nice to be able to leverage that experience. Anyway, I was in public accounting and the non-profit financial world for a while after that, and that’s where I got to know Merchants and all the work they did in the community.

Donna Talbot, who used to be the Executive Director of Client Services at Merchants, is like family to me. She worked here for over 30 years and always had wonderful things to say about the company. When a Finance position opened, I jumped on it and got to meet Kristin Parshay, Vice President of Finance & Controller.

During the interview, Kristin told me about the new CEO [Brendan P. Keegan] and what he wanted to do with the company, his vision, and his plan to get us there. Her enthusiasm for this vision got me very excited about the opportunity. At that time, I was the Controller at a liberal arts college, which was an increasingly competitive landscape without a lot of room to grow. Merchants’ focus on growth, innovation, and their tech investments was appealing to me and gave me the push to take the leap back into the corporate world.

Looking back, it has been extremely exciting and rewarding to be a part of this growth and to contribute to the company’s transformation.
Q: How is fleet management accounting any different from the other industries you’ve worked in? 
A: Accounting at a fleet management company is complex, challenging, and very rewarding.

Since lease accounting isn’t a simple concept, the finance team didn’t just throw me into the deep end. I worked closely with Bill Shaub, our technical accounting guru, who shared his deep knowledge of lease accounting. The whole department is full of intelligent and motivated people, so it’s a great place to be if you love to learn like me.What stands out for me at Merchants is the investment in technology, specifically automation, that gives us the ability to analyze large amounts of data and efficiently meet compliance requirements.
Q: What impact does your team have in the day-to-day operations of Merchants Fleet?  
A: We’re embedded in the day-to-day operations and have a unique perspective to understand the bigger picture. Whether it’s reporting out the financial results to show how we performed relative to forecast... or answering questions on how things transact in the system... or coming up with new ways to maximize revenue and reduce expenses in certain areas. There is so much opportunity to contribute. We’ve become a large organization, but in finance you get to see things holistically, and get the full picture of the business. I never feel pigeonholed in one area, and that’s very gratifying. 
Q: Innovation and flexibility are a part of everything that Merchants does. Do you have a favorite project that helped clients, or Merchants, stay true to these values?  
A: It’s great to see some of the programs we implement have a genuine impact on the financial stability of our clients. We decided to start offering a re-amortization program to clients a few years ago, which allows customers to tap into the equity of their leased vehicles to access cash and extend their lease terms to reduce their monthly payment in some cases.

I worked with our Fleet Consulting group and sales team to understand the analytics behind what the product could look like for the client, and what the financial side of things would look like for Merchants. Being a part of this project was great because both Merchants and our clients win.
Q: With as fast as Merchants has grown over the past five years, have there been any especially challenging scenarios you are proud to have helped your team overcome?  
A: One of the biggest endeavors in the past decade was called “customer structure.” Our systems just weren’t ready to grow to the size that some of our new clients expected. This was a very challenging project, but we pushed it over the line, and now the entire organization is better and stronger because of it.

One way this helped was during the onboarding of our largest client (at that time). They presented a huge leap in data size when dealing with a single fleet. We helped the business get through the ingestion of the data, allowing Merchants to meet every one of their needs.
Q: Merchants has grown tremendously over the past five years, have you encountered any challenging scenarios you and your team have had to overcome?
A: Merchants has experienced so much growth that we’re dealing with a much higher volume of transactions. This presented a challenge and got us all working on ways to scale up and move towards automation technology. The acquisition has had an impact behind the scenes, too, since our financial statements have changed, and we need to account for that. 
Q: Now it's time for a curveball, what recommendation could you give me for a great Hooksett, NH (or Manchester) area restaurant?   
A: I highly recommend The Crown Tavern in Manchester. They make some of the best burgers you’ll ever have....and make sure to add the truffle fries.
Q: What’s your favorite movie or TV show and have you watched anything good lately?   
A: I love documentaries, since I always like to learn, and recommend My Love: Six Stories of True Love on Netflix. The series is inspiring and gives insight into life in other parts of the world.
Q: And finally, what is your favorite part about working at Merchants Fleet?  
A: The people and the challenges that we face. It keeps things interesting. Working with Kristin, Bill and Russ, and my whole crew on the accounting team is amazing. We have a lot of fun and laughs. We work hard and we play hard, and it’s nice to be able to come to work and be yourself.

If you’re interested in joining the Merchants Fleet Financial Accounting team, review open positions on our job board.

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