Lana Ilchenko joined Active International in 2003 as part of the media team. In 2005, she moved to the finance department where she had a variety of roles until eventually becoming Head of U.K. Finance. She completed industry training to specialize in the financial side of the business and is an FCCA qualified accountant. She started developing an FP&A role for the International division 3 years ago with her current role of SVP, Global FP&A starting in 2018. Ilchenko graduated in 2000 in Ukraine with a master’s degree in international economics, before moving to the U.K., and also holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School.
With 35 years of experience, Active International (activeinternational.com) is a global financial solutions company that drives performance and improves business outcomes for leading brands. A data-driven company, with media as a core competency, Active operates a full-service omnichannel media agency. In addition to media, Active brings to bear a broad portfolio of competencies such as Asset Disposition/Merchandise Sales, Real Estate, Retail Marketing, Travel and Hospitality, Freight & Logistics, and Lighting. Through the application of its core business model, Active is able to create financial benefits to serve its clients. Active International is based in New York and has offices in 15 countries.
What attracted you to the finance side of Active’s business and what is the focus for financial planning and analysis?
Active was my first job. I started on the media side where I learned how the business was operated. I then became a media trader in our U.K. office. However, my training is in finance and Active’s business model is so fascinating that I wanted to experience the finance side of it.
Since I started in media and understood how the commercial side of the operation worked together with my finance experience, Active gave me an opportunity to work with our International Division leadership to develop a new area – financial planning and analysis.
I began doing this for the U.K. office and have since been tasked with expanding this to other international offices, culminating in making a move to the U.S. to handle this role on a global level.
Is technology playing a major role in how you are conducting analysis and will you discuss the investments Active has made in technology?
We have a dedicated IT department that builds much of our technology in-house, mainly because of our very complex business model. We can’t buy software off the shelf. If we do, we still have to adapt it to our business model.
Our original objective was to make sure we could capture information from every office globally and apply it to satisfying the local clients’ needs. Once that was achieved, we then invested in platforms to capture all of this global information to analyze and use it to predict the future and make our clients’ lives easier going forward.
How does financial planning and analysis help provide customized solutions for clients?
The most important motto for this company is “helping clients achieve more,” which is the whole reason behind this new role. We work with our clients to understand what the problems are and then try to resolve them.
We don’t always know in advance what the problem is going to be. However, creativity at every single Active office is deeply encouraged. Even though we have a basic business model, it evolves as necessary.
The solutions we offer clients are completely tailored to those clients.
The issue is collecting the data and making sure we can have a system that will process all of it and make our planning for the future easier. Until recently, we didn’t have a coordinated approach to collecting all the data on everything we do.
That is where I have come in. I have been asked to make sure that we can collect the data, analyze what we do and, as a result, make better decisions for ourselves and for our clients going forward.
It’s a work in progress. It has been streamlined, but because ours is a complex business model, there is a lot of work still to be done.