The following post was originally published on the Commercial Finance Association blog.
Your bank likely receives hundreds (or thousands) of documents each day. Customer files, invoices, contracts, and legal agreements are just a few common examples.
Unfortunately, some documents fail to arrive on time. Others never arrive at all. In an industry as compliance-focused as banking, overlooking a single document could cause serious ramifications for your institution.
How do you ensure everything is properly accounted for? Consider these three tips.
1. Stop Relying on Manual Tracking Processes
We recently surveyed 96 community banks to learn how financial institutions manage their document exceptions. The results were astounding. According to the study, 69% of those surveyed still use some type of manual exception tracking process. Of those relying on manual processes, a majority use spreadsheets and/or core banking systems.
What’s wrong with manually tracking missing and expiring documents? Although better than nothing, spreadsheets and manual ticklers create excessive administrative burdens and are subject to human error. For example, consider a commercial loan that necessitates the annual collection of financials and insurance. As the loan’s anniversary date approaches, your staff must remember to generate notice letters. Then, if the customer ignores the letters, additional reminders must also be sent. If there is still no response, further action must be taken until the customer submits proper documentation. Even after the customer’s files are received, staff must remember to manually clear the exception in the tickler.
Now, multiply the work performed for a single loan across your entire portfolio. It’s therefore understandable why so many banks struggle to efficiently collect customer documents.
2. Seek a More Integrated Workflow
For these reasons, some community banks are turning to a more “integrated” approach to document tracking. Rather than maintaining separate imaging archives and exception tracking databases, consolidating everything into a single document management portal can be extremely beneficial.
How so? Let’s consider the same situation, but this time imagine that your bank uses integrated document management software (such as our AccuAccount platform). Unlike a manual tickler, which relies heavily on the user to identify and resolve exceptions, an integrated system does the work for you. When a document due date approaches, users are prompted to collect the missing or expiring item(s). Notice letters are sequentially queued up, drastically reducing the amount of work for your loan administrative team. As customer documents arrive, your staff can simply scan or upload the files to the correct customer record, instantly satisfying the exception. This increases the accuracy of your exception reports, while reducing the number of steps for your team.
3. Create Reporting Automation
Speaking of reports, you’ll also want to seek a solution that streamlines the exception reporting process. Given the nature of missing and expiring documents, it’s possible that a broad spectrum of stakeholders at your bank need this information. Lenders, loan administrators, senior management, and even auditors have varying uses for exception reports, and each group usually asks for the data at different times of the month.
When comparing software vendors, be sure to seek a system that offers exception report automation. Ask plenty of questions during the discovery phase, as to ensure that each stakeholder can receive his or her own unique log on credentials. (Some systems fail to offer a user-based approach, which makes reporting automation nearly impossible.) In addition, find out if the vendors you’re considering offer subscription-based reporting. Daily, weekly, or custom-defined reporting should be high on the list of must-have features for your bank.
Invest in Your Tracking Process
The first step toward improving your document tracking process simply involves understanding your current bottlenecks. Invest time to understand your workflow and identify opportunities for improvement. Then, once you’ve developed a solid plan, consider matching technology to your ideal process.
Remember, the ultimate goal of this initiative should be focused on two primary outcomes: reducing exceptions and improving efficiency.