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Back Office Spring Cleaning - A Little Organization Goes a Long Way

Strategically Speaking
Jun 12, 2013

Rob Hudecek Author: Rob Hudecek,

Back office…when did we get a back office, I thought we outsourced?”  Even though most of
the transaction processing for financial institutions has moved to electronic, there is still a lot of paper being utilized today.Paper PilesWhether your institution’s item / check processing runs in-house, is hosted through a data center, or is handled by a hybrid model (a common mixture of locally installed software, and outsourced operations), a little refinement can go a long way.You cannot completely automate customer service, but you can automate many processes to better serve these customers.

Scan Once - Serve Many

Can all scans be created equal?  With the latest generation of imaging hardware, it is difficult not to get a high quality image, whether it’s a check or a full page loan document.  Though institutions typically employ several capture tools based on the operational requirements (e.g. teller line, remote deposit, lockbox, proof of deposit, document imaging), often times customer service representatives require research from all sources.  An important step toward streamlining the labor expense in capture and research is employing a “scan once” image integration wherever possible.  Often this can be accomplished by importing images to an enterprise document imaging system, however many times additional sharing across other software applications is needed.  Some integration considerations include:

  • What is the native image kind (color, greyscale, or black and white), quality (DPI – dots per inch), and type (PNG, JPG, TIF, etc.) needed?
  • Can the initial scan handle the highest image quality needed and downgrade when necessary (i.e. scan greyscale and downscale for sending the cash letter)?
  • Can other systems “point” to a central image depository (minimizing the need for storing an image more than once)?

Let the Paper Work for You

Another way to increase efficiencies is a review of all institution controlled documents (e.g. loan applications, general ledger tickets, counter deposits, payment coupons) and how standardizing some formats can assist in both image processing and research:

  • Full color pages work great when pulling the correct form to use, but can cause challenges to imaging systems (causing text to read poorly or disappear entirely).  If color coding documents are important, apply them only to the header or footer away from important text that needs to be processed or researched.
  • For all non-check MICR documents, consider using a different internal (non ABA) routing number such as “555555555”, for each document type (cash-in, cash-out, count deposit, etc.) to increase the effectiveness of software systems recognizing the application.
  • For fill in areas, where possible, employ the use of fixed location boxes with dropout ink.  This will increase handwriting readability and provide enough space between fields to improve character reading by software applications.
Fixed location boxes

Organized Chaos

Whether you are processing loan applications, deposits, or lockbox remittance for your lockbox; document preparation often remains the most tedious and expensive element in processing.  This includes mail opening, extraction, cleanup (removal of staples, paper clips, etc.) and batch separation.  Work process improvement can begin with opening the mail:

  • Post Office Box Sorting
  • Letter Openers, Bins, & Stacks
  • Automated Mail Opener / Extractor Hardware
  • One Touch Automated Mail Opener / Extractor / Scanner / Sorter Hardware
  • Workflow Monitoring
  • Distributive Capture

Distributive, Not Just Branch Capture

Since the adoption of Check 21, most financial institutions have embraced branch and merchant / member capture in some capacity.  With the decreasing cost of imaging hardware and increased software functionalities, a review of current processes could lead to a greater adoption or “distribution” of the capture load:

  • Bring back office scanning to the front counter through the utilization of teller scanning or remote application scanning.  While many Tier 1 banks are looking at ways to minimize branch foot traffic, many community institutions have found successful business models in bringing in new customers by accepting and scanning payments for local utilities, tax offices, and businesses.
  • Remote check deposit capture has traditionally been a reactionary offering – presenting the solution if requested and only for “good customers”.  Many software solution providers today offer a suite of remote deposit module applications.  With the adoption of enhanced risk features, and pairing the solution module that best suits the individual depositors’ needs, there is little reason today to not consider a wider adoption.

What operational efficiencies have you adopted this spring?

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