A Commercial Banker’s Tickler Transition Plan

Alan WooldridgeJust do a keyword search for “bank tickler,” and you’ll quickly realize that banks are still heavily reliant on manual document tracking. In fact, not too long ago we surveyed 96 bankers, and we found that almost 70% still rely on some combination of spreadsheets, core ticklers, or other manual processes.

 

Although most banks realize there’s probably a better way to manage exceptions, change can be difficult.

In this post, I’ll share a few tips for phasing out manual ticklers at your bank.

Audit Your Ticklers

Stop and think about the countless ways that your bank uses ticklers. Virtually anything that requires future follow up is probably tracked via a tickler. For example, your commercial loan department uses ticklers to monitor the collection of customer financials and tax returns. Your trust department relies on ticklers to ensure timely processing of customer bills and dividend checks. Even your HR department uses ticklers when tracking important employee documents and forms.

With so many ticklers doing so many different things, it’s understandable why bankers can be hesitant to mess with what’s working. Here’s the sad reality – ticklers aren’t working as well as you think they are. As I’ve mentioned in prior articles, ticklers can provide a false sense of security. And, due to their highly labor-intensive nature, ticklers create many downstream challenges, including:

  • Inaccurate exception reports
  • Exam and audit headaches
  • Significant administrative costs
  • Finger pointing and hard feelings, especially when information is missing

Spend time observing which ticklers are causing the greatest inefficiency for your bank. Doing so will help you prioritize what to focus on first.

Develop Your Migration Plan

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that your bank decides to first migrate its commercial lending ticklers. (Wise choice, by the way.)

As always, I recommend that you take a tiered approach to tickler migration. This is usually achieved by temporarily maintaining two systems: (1) your legacy tickler and (2) your new loan management platform. New customers, accounts, and related exceptions should go into your loan management system, while your legacy tickler can still house existing customer information (until you’re ready to transfer existing data).

For example, let’s say your bank implements a document management and tracking software that’s integrated to your core (similar to our AccuAccount platform). Since it’s integrated to your core, the software should be able to pre-populate customer and document placeholder records on your behalf. As expiration dates occur, the software should then prompt you to take action. In other words, a well-built document management system does much of the “tickling” for you. As new documents arrive and are scanned in, your system should then clear the exception, further automating your loan management workflow.

As you can see, each new customer that flows into the new system yields countless downstream efficiencies.

Now, if your bank has many branches and lenders or a de-centralized culture, it may not be feasible to migrate all new customers into your new system. That’s OK – you’ll just need to develop a slightly more gradual migration strategy. Instead of adding all new commercial accounts day forward, you might try focusing on:

  • Select account types (such as commercial real estate only)
  • New customers meeting certain criteria (such as loan balance greater than…)
  • Specific loan officers (especially those willing to try new things)
  • Individual branches

Just don’t try to do too many things at once. As your team becomes increasingly comfortable, you can then expand the scope of your migration plan.

Move Things Methodically

As you reap initial value from your new tracking workflow, you may see value in expediting the full transition off your old tickler. To do this, you’ll of course need to transfer anything that’s still in your tickler. There are essentially two options for doing this:

  1. A data import by your vendor
  2. A manual transfer of exception data (by you and your team)

Obviously, option number one is the less painful. Unfortunately, not every software vendor will accommodate data imports. In other cases, the import may be so expensive that your bank simply doesn’t have the budget. When a data import isn’t in the cards, you’ll want to be strategic about how things are transferred. In general, I recommend banks take a three-step approach:

  1. Create a matching item in your new system
  2. Validate versus the old system (dates, exception type, etc.)
  3. Remove the item from your old system

By following these three steps for each item in your tickler, you’ll reduce the likelihood of oversights and typos.

Time is of the Essence

One final thought – time is of the essence. No one wants to maintain two systems for an indefinite period of time. (Despite your best efforts, detailed emails, and work instructions, users are bound to get confused by the overlapping processes). Look for ways to consolidate your implementation process – without overwhelming the system. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s one you’ll need to proactively manage.

Author:

Alan Wooldridge is the President of AccuSystems, LLC, a bank technology and software development firm located in Pueblo, Colorado. To learn more about AccuSystems, visit http://www.accusystem.com.

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