By Kenny Wolf
In an increasingly digital world, banks still have to manage, print and ship thousands – if not millions – of sheets of paper each year. Creating, printing and mailing statements, privacy notifications, account alerts and other documents is still a critical function, and many banks rely on a trusted partner to help with the logistics.
Which is why Gary Welsh, senior vice president of First Bethany (Okla.) Bank & Trust ($195 million in assets), was upset when the bank’s longtime print and mail vendor unexpectedly closed shop in 2009. But sometimes unexpected change opens the door for new opportunities.
“We did not realize how much we had just accepted,” said Welsh of the previous vendor. “Sometimes you need to change the status quo, not because you need to change, but to find out what you’re missing. The other shop had been doing the same thing since 1980.”
When the bank began searching for a replacement, it was important to find a local vendor, since delivering information quickly to its customers has always been a top priority. When Welsh learned that First Bethany’s remote deposit capture vendor, Paducah, Ky.-based Computer Services Inc., also offered print and mail services through its Oklahoma City location, he knew he had found his replacement.
What he didn’t know yet was how First Bethany would soon see dramatic improvements in both its print-mail services, but also benefit from expanded and improved electronic document delivery.
Bridging the Gap Between Paper and Digital
Like most banks, First Bethany offered its customers a choice between digital and paper statements and documents. However, Welsh said that existing image statements were not advanced enough to truly be a viable solution for the bank. With that in mind, Welsh also sought a vendor that could help the bank bridge the divide between paper and digital documents.
“The biggest thing we looked for was a vendor that could not only do print and mail, but also be knowledgeable enough to help us go into image statements,” Welsh said. “We had image statements before we selected CSI, but they were very basic. There was no electronic delivery, no eStatements, just a piece of paper with all the pictures of checks on it.”
Welsh said the vendor’s advanced technology and inventive design tools breathed new life into the bank’s image statements, bringing them on par with the industry. “The images just popped off the paper. It’s a whole lot more attractive than it was before,” Welsh explained.
The improved eStatements and the ability to deliver statements electronically fueled strong adoption of digital statements from First Bethany’s customer base. Combined with the more efficient print/mail services, the bank saw tremendous tangible benefits.
“We’ve seen a huge improvement in every aspect, from delivery to cost savings,” Welsh said. “CSI’s process has saved us a significant amount of money. The first year, we saw a big drop in our paper and production costs, and now that we have CSI’s eStatements going at a good clip, we’ve seen our postage costs go down. And the great thing is, they continue to decrease each year.”
Welsh estimates that the bank has saved more than $13,000 in paper and postage costs alone. Further, personnel costs have remained steady, even as the bank grows.
“We’ve almost doubled our asset size in the last five years, and we’ve not had to increase our staff,” Welsh said. “We do have other efficiencies, but the bottom line is a more efficient document process has contributed greatly to helping us grow our bank without having to expand our staff.”
Getting Started with a Comprehensive Document Strategy
So how can banks better bridge the paper-digital divide and realize the benefits First Bethany has experienced?
The first step is to evaluate current processes and analyze where efficiencies may be introduced. One of the first key questions to consider is whether the department or vendor handling the printing and mailing of statements has the capability to design and send electronic documents. If so, how can that process be smoothly integrated into the print/mail capabilities? Are there connections with the core platform that can eliminate data entry or manual exporting of databases?
Next, banks should consider how other digital channels can support the document function. For example, a strong RDC application helped First Bethany maintain customer accounts, even if they moved out of the area. The RDC capabilities, combined with electronically delivered statements and notifications, kept costs down for out-of-town clients and prevented the loss of a key customer who relocated.
Just as cash and checks will always play a part in the payments mix, there will always be customers who prefer printed documents from their bank. But banks that strategically evaluate how they can eliminate the barriers between their mailed statements and their electronic documents will be able to best serve their customer base without sacrificing cost or personnel.
Kenny Wolf is vice president of operations for CSI Document Services. For more information, visit www.csiweb.com.