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Document Management at a Distance — Without Breaking the Bank

The COVID-19 crisis has permanently changed the way banks do business. While many financial firms were already shifting away from brick-and-mortar branches toward both mobile and digital alternatives, pervasive pandemic priorities required a rapid shift in physical presence — forcing companies to rapidly react with remote work alternatives.

Some — such as JPMorgan — were already prepping for potential shifts in early March, deploying a pilot project that saw 10% of its 125,000 employees working from home. Banks like BMO, meanwhile, have embraced the new normal. The company says that around 36,000 staff members may permanently split their time between home and corporate offices. 

While this focus on employee efficacy and engagement is critical, productive people aren’t the only element of remote work success. Security and speed are two of the qualities that consumers now expect across all key banking functions, and firms must prioritize digital processes that streamline these processes without compromising financial requirements. 

But what does this look like in practice? How do organizations handle document management, process automation, and employee collaboration at a distance — without breaking the bank?


Facing Financial Frustrations

When work-from-home went from “maybe” to mandate, Deutsche Bank found itself racing to keep up. With just a few thousand out of its 90,000-strong workforce already working remotely, the firm was under pressure to scale capabilities quickly — from reimbursing staff for device purchase to rolling out video conferencing tools for more than 50,000 employees in less than two weeks, the bank has been under pressure to deliver remote work processes that deliver both continuity and compliance.

With finance firms historically lagging on technology adoption, however, this presents a significant problem. While cloud-based communication and collaboration tools are now commonplace — and can be readily adapted to work-from-home environments — the tools and tech necessary to underpin key financial functions are often tied to in-house server stacks and legacy applications. 

This creates a digital disconnect. While staff may have access to corporate networks, many of the secure document management and financial processing solutions they need to complete day-to-day operations simply weren’t designed to operate at a distance. Security accounts for part of this separation — regulatory control is critical for banks to ensure client privacy — but many banks have also focused on familiarity over functionality, adopting a “good enough” approach to cumbersome, on-site applications. As a result, firms now face financial frustration across critical workflows, including:

  • Consumer Vetting — How do banks effectively evaluate potential client credit histories and financial foundations to deliver tailored service recommendations at a distance? Insecure credit or personal data access could have significant regulatory and legal repercussions.
  • Credit Approvals — Necessary credit checks require secure connections and the assurance that data won’t be subject to theft or man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Loan Applications — Bank staff must complete complex forms at a distance and firms must ensure work-from-home employees have the tools they need to handle multiple file formats.
  • Account Management — Opening, closing, and modifying account information requires secure access and the ability to share key documents with specific data removed or redacted. Financial data shared outside secure workflows could result in compliance failures.

 


Solving for Scale

While many big banks are preparing partial return-to-work strategies or ramping up remote work solutions, smaller financial firms don’t have this luxury. The scale of large enterprises affords bigger budgets for IT management and deployment, giving them a deeper pool of resources to pull from when deciding how best to support staff and systems at a distance. From in-house IT teams capable of creating custom-built apps to legacy software solutions that can be updated to work with new collaboration tools, the scale of big banks offers a marked advantage.

For smaller financial firms with the bulk of their workforce already at home and a return to the office unlikely in the near future, fragmentation is the familiar framework. Many SMEs now use multiple document management applications to streamline key processes — but these apps don’t always work well together.

In the office, this doesn’t pose a significant problem — staff might lose time switching between software tools or moving data across digital divides — but at home, access and agility are both restricted. This becomes more complicated thanks to the rise of multi-cloud computing. While purpose-built cloud services empower small banks to keep pace with their enterprise counterparts, they introduce complexity as access points both multiply and diversify.


Driving Digital Dividends

To drive digital dividends at a distance, smaller banks are well-served by the implementation of advanced software development kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs). These tools make it possible to integrate advanced functionality into existing apps without compromising the security of critical banking data. To deliver remote work potential, firms need SDKs capable of:

  • Collaboration Integrate key collaboration functions including in-app document viewing to enhance data security, easy annotation and commenting options to ensure all staff are on the same page for multi-step application or approval processes, and burn-in redaction to enhance the protection of client or corporate data. 
  • ConversionAs complex, compliance-heavy processes such as loan applications, credit evaluations, and financial investments move to remote, on-demand models, banks need no-touch data processing that makes it possible to view multiple file types — including familiar Word and Excel files along with more specialized image formats — and convert these files to PDF documents for easy search. 
  • Capture Automated data capture, field recognition, and forms processing not only reduce the amount of time staff spend creating new forms and completing current applications, they also reduce the risk of human error. Enable your team to take complete control of document management functions with powerful character recognition, scanned document cleanup, and form identification — all from within your own application.

The “new normal” for banking relies on digital services. Advanced SDKs and APIs make it possible for firms to succeed over both time and distance by delivering comprehensive collaboration, conversion, and data capture without breaking the bank.