Intranets for cost efficiency

Internal inefficiencies, such as siloed systems, redundancies and downtime, have a negative impact on banks of any size. With fewer resources to develop and implement processes to offset these inefficiencies, smaller financial institutions face a particularly steep uphill climb. For the more than 5,800 community banks in the U.S. that have fewer than 300 employees, successfully streamlining operations is extremely critical – especially as they feel the squeeze from increased competition and ever-increasing regulatory requirements.

One of the simplest ways for institutions to streamline operations is to provide employees with a centralized system through which information can be easily accessed and exchanged, such as company intranets and portals. When utilized appropriately, intranets can reduce costs in these key areas:

Searching. Consider an activity as simple as searching for information on policies, procedures, documents or forms. For a bank with 150 employees, each working an average of 250 days per year, just 10 minutes lost per day per-employee (which is likely a conservative estimate) can cost the institution more than $90,000 annually. With 200 employees, the figure jumps to $120,000 and at 250 employees a bank stands to lose more than $150,000 each year.

In the age of cloud computing, why is this still an issue? The reality is that in today’s retail banking environment, commonly-used documents are still typically saved to local drives. Despite these documents being updated or revised, many employees continue using the information they have saved locally instead of referring to the latest version. There should be no confusion over which version of a document is being referenced for any business decision.

Training. Many banks are dealing with hundreds of employees across several regions, but operate with a small Human Relations (HR) staff that relies on excessive emails and shared folders to deliver important messages and information to employees. This disorganization degrades the efficiency with which hiring, training, benefits management and payroll processes, assessments and reporting are conducted and is only amplified in an active mergers and acquisition environment, as we have today.

It’s very common for an HR administration staff to spend hours tracking a variety of acknowledgment forms, onboarding documents and employee benefits packages. Not to mention the time taken to respond to multiple requests for misplaced information or to clarify and explain miscellaneous details. Paper-based records for ongoing employee training initiatives also require a bank to update employee records monthly, which is an unnecessary burden for training supervisors who must ensure that all requirements have been met by the end of the year.

An intranet streamlines this process and allows for training courses to be electronically assigned, while automatically alerting employees of a new course or deadline. Intranet technology also supports training managers by providing a platform to create and schedule courses and manage expectations with real-time reporting. Employees can see due dates, track completed courses, view policy updates and communicate with HR that any changes are understood and accepted. Collectively, this helps banks better train employees, minimizes the cost of off-site training and avoids compliance fees.

Paper handling. Inefficiencies also consume physical resources. While it is one of the most basic operational costs, the amount of paper and ink that is used for communication materials and newsletters each year is almost incomprehensible – especially in 2016. Outside of employee communication, an intranet portal eliminates the need to print information packets for board members at every board meeting, for example. Providing this information in a convenient, downloadable format reduces the amount of time that it takes on the front end to construct each board package, as well as the costs associated with printing thousands of pages per meeting and then lessens the overall amount of time wasted during the meetings as board members search for individual pages of content within the printed board packages.

Ultimately, bank managers should identify fragmented processes as a major risk. With so much focus on the latest technologies to appeal to customers, internal disorganization is often easy to overlook. However, by leveraging intranet technology to improve productivity and develop stronger communications companywide, banks can lower costs, increase functionality and improve the overall customer experience.

Mr. Anderson is chief executive officer of Johnson City, Tenn.-based Banc Intranets. He can be reached at [email protected]