FAST Standard: Making spreadsheets transparent and consistent

  • Panos Magkafinis
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FAST Standard: Making spreadsheets transparent and consistent

We’ve signed up to FAST standard for all our financial modelling.

The FAST Standard is a set of rules that dictate the structure and the detail design of spreadsheets trying to promote uniformity and consistency across the financial modelling universe. The Standard is regulated and administered by the FAST Standard Organisation (FSO) that was set up in 2011 with the “specific aim of protecting, promoting, and further developing the FAST Standard”.

The primary focus of the Standard is outcomes, ie how the model is structured and how the finalised product is going to look. The principles, therefore, are high level and don’t try to dictate how the modeller is going to use Microsoft Excel but rather what needs to be produced, allowing the modeller to be creative in design.

The philosophy of the Standard can be encapsulated in its acronym, Flexible, Appropriate, Structured, Transparent. Any FAST model needs to be:

  • Flexible, allowing future additions and amendments without jeopardising the robustness of it;
  • Appropriate in the sense that it should reflect key business assumptions and produce relevant and useful metric for decision making;
  • Structured in the way the Standard dictates; and finally
  • Transparent in its calculation logic that should use simple enough formulas that other modellers can follow and understand.

At 31ten Consulting we take financial modelling very seriously. It is an essential part of what we do, and we take pride in our analytical capabilities. As we are growing in size and our pool of talented financial modellers is expanding it is very important that we are creating models that can be passed on, maintained and scrutinised both internally and externally.

As an organisation we’ve been a FAST signatory since April 2018. This means that:

“We believe financial models must be as simple as possible, but no simpler. Any model that is unnecessarily complicated is not good. Without simplicity supported by rigorous structure a financial model will be poorly suited to its sole purpose – supporting informed business decisions.”

In practical terms the adoption of the Standard helped us move from a person-centric approach where the architect of each model was solely responsible for the development and maintenance of it to a ‘modelling pool’ where the strengths and expertise of each modeller can be easily replicated and utilised within the organisation. Moreover, work handover, intrateam collaboration and covering for each other has become easier than ever. Finally, by agreeing on a consistent design principle we are moving towards a trademark ’31ten output template’ that our clients can recognise and trust.

We are always trying to improve, innovate and deliver top quality, fit for purpose solutions for our clients. Adhering to the FAST Standard has helped us increase modelling transparency within the organisation and enabled us to create a debugged, tested pool of financial modelling resources that is readily available throughout the organisation, minimising the risk of error.