The Debt Management team with the City of Memphis does important and impactful work, securing the funds for major projects across the City. Recently, that work included funding for a major renovation of the Renasant Convention Center, a $200 million project that spanned two years. Soon, it will also include securing another $200 million in bonds to fund Accelerate Memphis, a series of community projects designed to improve quality of life, drive equity and inclusion, increase connectivity, and solve problems that are deeper than any single capital budget can solve. Accelerate Memphis includes plans to invest in the parks system, housing and broadband infrastructure, as well as efforts to revitalize citywide assets and improve neighborhoods.
“Debt Management ensures funds are available to finance great ideas that are being generated in this City. What we do is very important,” explained André Walker, Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the City of Memphis.
And that means data accuracy, integrity, and accessibility are vital.
Walker and his team have long understood the issues that come with using spreadsheets to track financial information, so several years ago, they purchased three licenses for another debt management solution.
They later realized they needed additional functionality.
The issues the City of Memphis experienced with its previous debt management software included:
A lack of collaboration
The City of Memphis purchased three licenses for its first debt management solution, which meant that only three people had access to the platform. It wasn’t accessible outside of the City’s Debt Management office.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us into a remote work environment, but that’s just one reason why work needs to be done outside the confines of the office. With the previous debt management solution, Walker and his team were unable to easily access certain bond documents from home.
Walker searched for another solution, but none met his department’s needs.
“I thought about contracting someone to develop something based on my vision, and then I got a call from DebtBook,” Walker said. “It was what I envisioned, but actually a little bit more.”
DebtBook solved a few key problems for the City of Memphis, not just for the team, but for the accounting department and city officials who needed greater access to critical financial data.
DebtBook doesn’t limit the number of licenses to access the platform, and you’re also able to share controlled access with an unlimited number of outside stakeholders. So Walker granted access to those who would benefit from up to date and accurate information — the CFO of Memphis, the City’s financial advisors, lawyers, and accounting staff, among others — to review and use the information inside the platform. DebtBook also includes functionality to allow the City to post a graphic representation of outstanding debt on its website, giving the public access to some of the City’s most important financial information. Walker plans to incorporate that level of visibility in the near future.
All of Memphis’ outstanding debt is now on DebtBook, including its $100 million in state revolving fund (SRF) loans, its commercial paper and all debt administered by Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW). The result is a single source of truth for all the debt information relevant to the City as a whole.
DebtBook allows Walker and his team to store important documents and transcripts right in the application. Now, when they need to review bond and loan documents to answer questions and analyze opportunities for the city, they can review all the necessary documents within the DebtBook application to get their answer.
Value across departments
Memphis’ accounting department will also make use of DebtBook, particularly when it comes to compiling Annual Comprehensive Financial Reports (ACFR). DebtBook’s ACFR Notes feature streamlines a process that can take weeks. In addition, with the arrival of GASB-87, DebtBook has incorporated lease management functionality to our platform, which will add value to the accounting department as it navigates that transition.
DebtBook’s software is based in the cloud, meaning that Walker and his team can access it any time, from anywhere. It’s also protected from security breaches and cyber attacks that impact computer hardware systems, ensuring critical debt information is as safe as it is accessible.
Carol Ward, the Debt Coordinator for the City of Memphis, calls DebtBook a "game-changer" in her work.
“DebtBook provides the end user the opportunity to retrieve reports on an as-needed basis, whether the information requested is an aggregate for one bond series or several bonds. Because the software platform is cloud-based, I can work from anywhere, at home or in the office,” she said.
Cherrell Hawkins, Debt Analyst, appreciates the ability to store documents and transcripts on the platform.
“I like that everything is accessible. The ability to export Excel files is a good feature, too, because usually we start from scratch to create a spreadsheet. Having that automatically generated is very helpful,” she said.
For Walker, he appreciates the fact that DebtBook is run by people who understand the nature of his work and the need to adapt to what government finance professionals need. “DebtBook has a lot of people with a lot of experience in the industry, and they can better understand our perspective on things, which is appreciated,” he said.
“No matter how big or small you are, you have nothing to lose by taking a look at DebtBook.”