THE SITUATION: Growth and an IPO prompt a new approach to equity compensation management
Ranked one of the best banks to work for by American Banker, Atlantic Capital Bank’s ethos since its inception in 2007 has always been to provide superior levels of service and local market expertise for mid-market and emerging growth companies.
Like many other banks, it offers equity compensation to attract and retain talented employees. But as a relatively small bank, there was not a dedicated full-time employee to administering its equity compensation plan, which was managed using spreadsheets and paper documents.
Things changed in 2013, when Atlantic Capital embarked on a growth strategy. An acquisition of Tennessee-based FSG Bank was on the horizon, and an IPO after that. Spreadsheets, with all their potential for error, were no longer suitable for managing and reporting on equity compensation.
“As a company with a view to an IPO, we needed stronger control of our environment,” says Shannon Morrison, the bank’s Senior Vice President and Director of Risk Analytics. “The risk of accounting errors is much higher in spreadsheets, and equity compensation requires complicated calculations—especially with stock options. If we had stayed with spreadsheets, there was a greater risk of making a mistake in our financial statement.”
THE TRANSFORMATION: From manual processes to comprehensive control, reporting and self-service
With the acquired bank also bringing its own equity compensation plans, it made sense to invest in a software solution – both to manage the combined plans and to apply the appropriate accounting treatment for disclosure to the SEC. After evaluating the options, Atlantic Capital Bank chose Certent Equity Management, a comprehensive, web-based solution that can handle many different types of equity compensation—from stock options to performance share awards.
“At the time, we were using restricted stock and stock options, but we wanted a solution that could move us forward if there were other types of equity awards that we were going to explore,” says Morrison. “In fact, in 2017 we were able to start offering a hybrid performance share award in full confidence that Certent could handle the complex calculations involved.”
Certent Equity Management delivers many other benefits, too. The software automates much of the admin that was previously manual—from setting up the plans to producing accurate figures for internal and external reporting. Time spent handling inquiries has also been minimized, as the Certent Participant Portal allows employees to log in to review their awards, accept the terms, and keep track of their plan’s performance.
“Before, people had to print and sign documents,” says Morrison. “Now, they sign off their awards through the portal. If they haven’t completed their agreement, we can ping them a reminder. It’s removed a great admin and compliance risk.”
THE RESULTS: An intuitive system that unlocks a world of equity compensation possibilities
Today, Atlantic Capital Bank is using Certent Equity Management on a weekly basis to administer its equity compensation plans and export accurate data for internal and external reports. It’s enabled the finance team to stay lean, too. “If we were still managing equity compensation with spreadsheets and documents, we would have needed another head count,” says Morrison. One additional benefit of choosing Certent has been the wealth of expert advice and support available to Atlantic Capital Bank—particularly when it comes to introducing new award plans.
“The performance share award was very new for us and no one here had any experience of setting one up,” explains Morrison. “Certent helped me set it up in the system and handle what we thought was a very complicated equity award. It turned out to be really straightforward because the system allows us a lot of flexibility and functionality.” Atlantic Capital Bank is confident that with Certent, they have an easy-to-use equity plan management solution that minimizes admin and risk and ensures financial statements are accurate. What’s more, they have an expert partner on hand to help with any inquiries and enable the bank to add new types of equity awards in future if required.
“The folks at Certent are very knowledgeable,” says Shannon Morrison. “I’ve used their support when I’ve just had a question about an accounting or tax-related matter and received a prompt answer. Sometimes I feel like I need some expert backup—and with Certent I have exactly that.”
Atlantic Capital Bank
SVP, Director of Risk Analytics
Certent User Since:
Reliable equity compensation
data for internal and external
reporting powers-up a lean
“Before Certent, people had to print and sign documents. Now they sign off their awards through the portal. It’s removed a great admin burden and compliance risk.”
“If we were still managing equity compensation with spreadsheets and documents, we would have needed another head count.”
“The folks at Certent are very knowledgeable, I’ve used their support when I’ve just had a question about an accounting or tax-related matter and received a prompt answer. Sometimes I feel like I need some expert backup—and with Certent I have exactly that.”