Bringing Financial Document Management Back into Control

Christina Bowe, Regional Director UKI from Perceptive Software

Christina-BoweOver recent years a number of financial businesses have experienced technological issues that have not only impacted them financially but also damaged the public’s perception of them. In the UK alone we have seen reports of potential fraud, price fixing and large banks ‘losing’ important transactional data. The inherent high value of financial transactions, along with the increased visibility of such challenges, means it is becoming ever more important to ensure that financial document management processes are under control and fully transparent.

With an increasing amount of information and processes, it’s difficult to maintain a 360-degree view of your organisation. When basing business critical decisions on the information stored within your organisation’s system of record, it’s imperative that the processes generating this data are sound and accurate.

One of the simplest but most costly problems is simple human error, such as mistyped data entry. Invoices may be returned due to mismatched information and order or delivery issues can arise from incorrectly processed delivery notes. However the mistakes occur, the common theme throughout is inaccurate information at the first point in the process.

Many institutions make substantial investments in enterprise software applications for their core business requirements but overlook the processes that provide the vital data to these applications. By utilising complementary solutions that provide true process automation these organisations can improve financial performance, ensure data quality and effectively manage all the data necessary to run a thriving business.

While serving the critical role of being your system of record, big enterprise software can be limited by inflexibility and the inability to accommodate all the facets of how you do business, limiting the value that can be returned to your business.

Today, virtually inaccessible unstructured content provides organisations with a major headache. When combined with restrictive processes, it can prevent your organisation from effectively managing potential risk. Furthermore both electronic and paper-based files are increasingly stored across multiple physical and virtual environments, meaning simple processes become labour-intensive challenges. Email trails, returned invoices and stacks of paper shuffled between offices essentially become a pile of missed opportunities and blind spots. This is all created by your enterprise applications’ inability to quickly and cost-effectively adapt to processes and cases that don’t always follow the rules, waves of new content created by a mobile workforce and changing regulation and compliance.

Addressing these issues requires an effective process and content management solution.

Tactically speaking, content management technology allows users to retrieve the documents and information they need, while protecting critical information from unauthorised access. From a broader perspective, it lets you manage the life cycle of enterprise information by applying records and retention policies, ensuring faster response to audits and enhancing compliance. Because enterprise content can be integrated with applications throughout an organisation, it also fosters better communication and collaboration amongst departments.

Business process management deals with the people aspect of tasks as well as more system-centric activities that need little or no action from knowledge workers. Robust solutions allow process analysis and mining for ongoing improvement, using data from your system of record to analyse current practices and then model and test alternative methods for completing key business tasks.

But the most important benefits are realised when process and content management are integrated into one solution. When used in conjunction with enterprise applications, this allows your organisation to:

  • Automate standard tasks to achieve‘straight-through processing’ or ‘touchless pass’
  • Make information and documents readily available to handle exceptions or tasks that knowledge workers are required to complete
  • Gain the insights needed to identify bottlenecks and remedy them before becoming major issues
  • Ensure more complete compliance with business rules and regulations.

One such company that has embraced this financial document management process is Ageas Insurance Limited. Insuring approximately seven million customers in the UK, they are the country’s third largest private car insurer. With more than 5,000 weekly pieces of incoming mail and 450 employees handling over 60,000 claims, the claims department was inundated with inefficient paper processes. Implementing document management, imaging and workflow technology resulted in:

  • More efficient secure automatic claims handling process
  • Improved customer service due to faster document retrieval
  • Growth in staff’s multi-dimensional skills
  • Advanced ability of management to monitor staff work rate
  • Regained office space previously used for paper storage
  • 20 percent reduction in claims admin head count
  • Enhanced compliance with the regulations set by UK regulator FSA; for example enabling swift adaption to revised regulations like Solvency II, which aims to establish a set of capital requirements and risk management standards across Europe.

Many organisations choose accounting and finance for their initial efforts to improve process and content management. Perhaps that’s because manual data entry is still common for accounts payable and receivable. Even occasional errors can take hours of valuable time to rectify. Also, this area’s workflow can be complex, involving diverse departments and adherence to strict business approval rules. The combination of these two factors can mean a quick return on investment (ROI) for deploying new technology based on improved cash management alone, not to mention faster response to audits and enhanced compliance with both business rules and governmental regulations. 

But a bolder step that’ll deliver longer sustainable gains is to embrace a strong intelligent straight-through document capture solution as an integral element of a shared services strategy. Centralising financial document and critical information capture can be a tool to eliminate error and protect sensitive data.

The choice of capture technology is key because error rates can be seriously exposed when capturing so much information from documents. If you rely on technology that can only offer a 50 to 60 percent capture rate, the results for the rest of your initiative could become compromised by errors due to the significant amount of manual intervention still required. Automated intelligent capture systems help eliminate errors occurring from manual data entry as well as speeding cycle time, offering much-needed scalability and visibility and improving access to information. These systems work by learning from a small sample set, which then allows a hugely diverse range of document layouts to be processed, comparable to a human learning approach. What’s more, centralising data capture across departments allows for a consistent and coherent approach across an organisation as a whole.

Finally, don’t feel you must scope your project to include every problem in your organisation – or even your department. Taking a phased approached to adopting process and content management technologies has been very successful, achieving substantial, albeit incremental, ROI. In fact, when you’ve demonstrated the values and benefits in one area, you may find that it quickly leads to demand for additional implementations. In this way, enterprise-wide improvements may occur more quickly; as additional deployments are smoother than if you’d broadened your initial project’s scope.

For more information visit www.perceptivesoftware.co.uk