How the finance sector can operate more sustainably and efficiently by reducing its paper usage

 To be by-lined to Colin Yates, chief support officer at WorkMobile, an award-winning data capture solution.

The finance sector makes up 10.7% of the UK economy, contributing £176bn in 2015 – one and a half times more than any other sector. It is also the country’s largest exporter and generator of tax revenues, plus it provides considerable investment to businesses to help them grow and thrive.

However, due to its critical role within the economy, the finance sector is much more susceptible to risks created by world events, such as Brexit, as well as external threats that can cause huge monetary losses, such as paper fraud.With a fifth (21.6%) of banks failing to digitalise their trade transactions, this is ultimately hurting the sector, with businesses like Standard Chartered, Citigroup and Standard Bank Group all revealing that they had lost a combined $648 million due to paper fraud.

But, the scale of paper reliance and the issues it causes doesn’t stop there.Our recent ‘Death of the paper trail’ report found that the financial sector comes in just behind the education sector as the second worst for relying on paper, with 68% of employees admitting that paper still plays a key role in daily proceedings.

Why is relying on paper such a problematic issue?

Annually, seven million hectares of forest are lost due to the production of commodities such as paper, which is just under half the size of the UK. And with 50% of all waste that businesses generate being paper-based, the environment is paying the ultimate price.

But, besides the environmental issues of relying on paper, it is also creating financial and compliancy issues for businesses within the finance sector.Our research found that 20% of employees within the sector have seen vital information and documents filed incorrectly, which has then gone on to lead to major losses within the business.

And then there’s the physical costs of printing and using paper. 60% of all employees print out physical documents, such as contracts and financial transactions, at least three times per week, with almost a third (30%) printing documents out daily. The end result means that businesses are wasting at least £2,000 per employee each year, which in an organisation that employs 100 people or more, creates a bill of at least £200,000 per year.

With paper clearly impacting the sector financially, it is important that businesses begin to explore alternative solutions to capture and store information that will be more reliable and cost effective.

Digital solutions fit for purpose 

Relying on paper in today’s digital era is both impractical and unnecessary,given how much technology is available that can reduce a business’ paper usage.

Through advancements, such as the Internet and mobile technologies, traditional communication processes have been swapped for digital versions – physical mail has now been converted into email. Further innovations, such as digital data capture solutions, have also now been developed that enable paper forms to be digitised and stored within the cloud.

One of the main shortfalls of paper is that documents can be damaged and lost easily – these could be vital contracts, receipts and billing forms, for instance. However, converting this information into digitised documents using digital data capture would alleviate this issue, as digital forms cannot be easily lost or damaged. They can be backed up and stored within a cloud server, meaning employees can access them from any point and anywhere. Businesses would also be able to keep a digital paper trail to ensure they remain compliant and adhere to audit requirements.

Moving on to the cost benefits of digital documents, compared to their paper counterparts, using this technology removes the need for purchasing printing materials and equipment. The money that would previously have been spent on paper, ink and printers could be put to better use elsewhere, such as in staff training and improving cyber security.

With the finance sector having a huge amount of influence on the economy, it needs to ensure that it is operating as effectively and as efficiently as possible. But, by relying on paper, the industry is putting itself at risk of major issues, such as compliance problems and financial losses. A more reliable solution is urgently needed to help the sector remain stable and cost-effective. Embracing mobile technology and paper-less working strategies are just two ways that the sector could regain more control over its time and money – the time to switch is now.

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