As financial products commoditise fast, one key to outsmarting the competition is business process automation.
After years of trying to push people out of branches in favour of ATMs and the Internet, many banks realised that they were losing touch with their customers. So banks are now focusing on the branch to help build profitable customer relationships and are converting them into centres for financial advice and sales.
Financial products, however, are quickly becoming commoditised due to new market entrants and consolidation, so banks are trying to differentiate themselves to help keep existing customers and attract new ones.
The primary tactic they are using to establish a level of differentiation is outstanding customer service. So as banks transform their branches they are employing technology to speed up transactions and better communicate with customers that utilise this channel.
But the ability to provide better service isn't the only competitive advantage banks gain from automated business processes: lower costs and improved security and traceability are also key requisites in order to outperform the ever growing competition.
The following exemplary case demonstrates how a subsidiary of one of Europe's leading financial institutions, Romanian UniCredit Tiriac, was able to hit more than just two birds with one stone: Kofax Intelligent Capture & Exchange.
Each month UniCredit Tiriac receives far more than 300,000 payment orders in its branches all over Romania. All these documents must be processed in a defined cut off time to avoid backlogs and to ensure customer queries are dealt with promptly.
The bank's previous procedure involved paper payment orders being sent three times a day from 160 branches to the headquarters in Bucharest, where the documents were manually sorted and routed to an employee in charge, a process which proved to be extremely expensive and time consuming.
UniCredit's management wasn't willing to accept this outdated process any longer and decided to invest in an automated solution in order to maintain higher efficiency in a very competitive environment.
In the context of its scattered branch infrastructure, the bank started to run a search for a so-called distributed capture solution that should accomplish a set of challenges: the potential solution should speed up the process, provide rapid access to all documents, regardless of their point of entry into the company, should provide improved document control, maximised security and confidentiality and should overall result in an enhanced customer satisfaction.
Bogdan Pipernea, IT director at UniCredit Tiriac Bank, summarises the initial situation: "One of our main challenges was to improve business processes in order to increase the accuracy of our entered data. This process had to be automated to speed up the processing of the local currency paper payments in general. We also needed to reduce the time it took for documents to get from their point of entry to the relevant employee.
Furthermore it was absolutely essential that the potential solution could be easily integrated with our new internal and external banking systems, would provide ease of use, could be quickly implemented and wouldn't affect our day-to-day activities during the implementation phase."
UniCredit Tiriac approached Net Consulting, a local system integrator and certified Kofax partner, to discuss the scope for this project. Net Consulting incorporated UniCredit Tiriac's requirements and designed a distributed capture solution based on Kofax Intelligent Capture & Exchange, the centrepiece of Kofax's strategy to help organisations streamline business processes by capturing documents where they originate, and moving the information in real time to transactional business processes.
"This project was really interesting at the time we started, because we were one of the first companies in EMEA that implemented such a huge distributed environment to a customer," explains Bogdan Mustata, deputy manager, Large Account Sales Department at Net Consulting.
Net Consulting's solution included key elements of Kofax Intelligent Capture & Exchange, including Kofax Capture, the world's leading automated information capture platform and VirtualReScan (VRS), an innovative technology that significantly improves the quality of scanned documents regardless of their original condition.
The implementation started at the beginning at 15 remote locations and comprised four additional workstations for information extraction, validation and indexing on the central site. Within a very short period of time the number of affiliated branches was expanded to 160.
The new solution now enables each branch to capture all relevant data from the payment orders and sent this information via secure web connection to the central site's core system for processing. The application was configured following "four eyes" and "user limitations" principles: in order to avoid data entry and processing errors, all payment orders have to be checked and validated by different employees.
The new solution yielded immediate results: UniCredit benefitted right after the rollout from a fast and secure processing for all local and foreign currency payment orders and foreign exchange transactions from all branches without any severe problems. All business critical data gets transferred automatically to the banking application and stored in UniCredit's document management system.
Besides the significant reduction of the processing time, the bank was able to cut overhead costs and disposes of an easily accessible central record of all documents and data.
However, the most important impact is the increased service level: thanks to the solution the bank is now able to respond to client requests much more efficiently.
Bogdan Pipernea concludes: "We are now able to serve our customers on a completely new level and without any security issues, which was one of the main tasks we wanted to accomplish. Our customers have already given us very positive feedback."
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