Banks revolve around money, but their processes run on paper. Minimizing paper forms and customer frustration is key for the financial future.
The issue isn't one just for the large money center banks. D.L. Evans Bank, based in Burley, Idaho, has been serving farmers, families, and businesses in Idaho since 1904. With more than a dozen branches spread across the southern part of the Gem State, D.L. Evans isn't Bank of America but it isn't a tiny bank, either. It is, in fact, a solid representative of the hundreds of community banks that serve large parts of the country. Gerardo (Tato) Muñoz is VP/IT director for the bank.
In an interview with Enterprise Efficiency, he said that D.L. Evans's role in the area helps define everything they do. "We're a community bank, and customer service is the main focus of everything we do. The customer and their information is the prime asset of the bank," he maintained.
Muñoz says that the customers are so important to the bank that it would be impossible to consider the activities of the enterprise without them.
" 'Enterprise' is joining all the different units that make up the business. We can't define this, either, without including our customers," he said. As he talked about the nature of the business processes he has worked to improve, Muñoz said that thinking of customers as partners, rather than an outside force, made every process and change easier and more successful.
One of the decisions that has helped make their customers happier began with a problem that was purely logistical. Muñoz said that around the time he began his job at the bank they were facing a problem with physical storage of paper records. "Our vault was getting overwhelmed and to expand the vault was going to end up costing more than $150,000," he said. They began exploring digital storage options and ended up becoming the first US financial institution to user Laserfiche as a medium for storing record images, and as of today the original vault is still only two thirds full. Even with the success, though, there are limits to how far the paperless trail can go.
"We'll never go fully paperless because there are some things where there simply have to be paper copies," Muñoz said. "Even the fact that you don't want a paper copy of the statement has to have a paper form confirming it," he explained. The biggest factor standing in the way of fully paperless banking is the regulatory structure, he said, noting that banking has many more levels of regulatory bookkeeping than most other industries. "In banking we have to keep our processes happy and keep the government happy," Muñoz said.
The needs of the regulators don't mean that D.L. Evans Bank isn't trying to minimize the paper in its system. Muñoz said that the stack of forms that once were duplicated for each member of the loan committee are now projected onto a screen for everyone to view, and that the board of directors receives board documents on iPads rather than in folders. Even account signature cards, once the very definition of the paper banking record, are now generated and stored electronically. "Now, when a customer signs a signature card the only paper copy is the one we give to them," Muñoz said.
In an era of transnational financial institutions and banks that are "too big to fail," smaller banks get little press or government attention even though they still sit at the center of business transactions for hundreds of thousands of businesses and consumers. Muñoz said that strategies like minimizing paper provide his institution with the ability to provide customers with levels of service that are at least the equal of the national banks.
"It's interesting because not just the big banks are using technology. We don't have the budgets that the big banks have, but technology allows us to stay more even," he explained. For customers in smaller communities in southern Idaho, the D.L. Evans technology helps make them more financially equal with those in large urban areas, too.