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How people, process and tech bolster compliance for the frontline and back office


Frustration: It’s not the word you want to associate with your financial institution. But your frontline staff often feels frustrated when they search for in-the-moment answers to help a customer in person or over the phone.  Managers endure it when they repeatedly hear basic procedure questions. The back office wrestles with it when the hundreds of policies and procedures they create languish. Perhaps worst of all, consumers gag on it when left on hold or forced to fix mistakes.

‘Open New Account’ … and a can of worms

Frontline staffers open search for “Open New Account” when that task arises. The pages of search results that appear point to myriad documents—among them the training department’s “accounts help guide,” marketing’s “account placement guide” and the retail operation team’s robust “account guidelines.” Without proper versioning requirements, those multiple documents muddy the waters as to which is most current. The result: inefficiency and confusion for your frontline.

Meanwhile, these versions of the truth lack clear titles, leaving the frontline associate to either a) painstakingly page through numerous documents and piece them together, or b) ask their manager or co-workers to venture their best guesses. All the while the customer languishes on hold (or in person) and a simple request has turned into lost time, potential errors and poor customer experience.

Fixing this problem requires bridging the frontline-back office gap.

Key action steps: First break down long documents into short, simply stated, clearly titled steps. This guarantees anyone can follow them, regardless of their years of banking experience. Anything short of this limits the staff’s ability to create and manage one consistent, compliant version of the truth. Then make sure frontline staff can find, follow, and use procedures in the moment.

People: creating centralized content

People will always form the heart of your institution. Depending on their function, they may create and execute policies and procedures, or train new employees. Regardless of their role, consistency remains the secret to creating overall adoption across departments.

The most successful approach involves a centralized content assembly line. This approach bridges gaps between content management and usability. It steers small- to medium-sized enterprises along a path that develops and maintains complex policies and procedures that frontline staffs can easily find and follow.

This effort requires content architects who oversee all policies, procedures and product information entered and managed in your employee portal, intranet or knowledge base. They work with the SMEs to frame accuracy, schedule review dates, create approval workflows and manage version control. This also  incorporates best practices for titling, descriptions, keywords and formatting—with an end result frontline staff can easily use and find.

Key Takeaways: Leaving content management in the hands of multiple SMEs leads to inconsistency. Leverage content architects to fashion an end product that’s accurate, consistent and usable.

Process: efficiency, efficiency, efficiency

Successful organizations understand the importance of processes to scale and grow. In a regulated banking industry, this documentation does more than avert frustration; it could make the difference between compliance success or failure.

While people are critical to create policies and procedures, easy-to-follow processes benefit employees, new or tenured. While these will vary from institution, generally they should include:

  • Basic service level agreements between departments—the process for requests, expected turnaround times, and information requirements
  • Content responsibilities—based on department and including formals edits, approvals, and rules for publishing
  • Frontline staff technology—used to find policies and procedures, and facilitate escalation process based on question types.

Key Takeaways: Creating understandable, easy-to-follow processes is a must for all financial institutions to become consistent and efficient. Without defined processes, one version of the truth will never emerge.

Technology: the tool that puts it all together  

Lastly, financial institutions need a central repository to house policies and procedures. Typically, institutions rely on an intranet or knowledge base to upload PDFs, Excel files, JPEGs and more. Yet a typical intranet or document management solution often fails to account for both frontline and back office needs.

Thus a centralized repository must combine certain critical features. For starters, the technology must allow staff to import and display content in small, user-friendly steps, rather than in long documents with multi-step processes. To accomplish this, break down policies and procedures to optimize searchability and comprehension. Content structured this way  with the right technology empowers frontline staff to find and follow the information it needs in quick, effective fashion.  

Moreover, audit history tools stand as key features for the back office. A centralized repository must allow employees to document policy and procedural changes. Back office professionals also need to see who made changes and when: critical features for ongoing compliance and version control. Reporting tools that produce analytics around usage and feedback (that is, how helpful an answer is or isn’t) are also key. Finally, a centralized repository that automates day-to-day tasks (such as notifications, workflows etc.) further improves efficient flow between the frontline and back office.

Key takeaways: The right technology makes frontline-back office adoption possible as it creates and maintains one version of the truth. While many institutions try to force their intranet to handle this, reality might require a purpose-built solution—a centralized content repository—that meets everyone’s needs.

Parting thoughts: The truth is telling

Bridging the gap between the frontline and back office requires people, processes and technology. Institutions that fully commit to this approach will:

  • improve service levels
  • reduce errors and exceptions
  • increase efficiency ratios
  • decrease training time
  • upgrade customer experience

The advantages won’t stop there and the positive results will only multiply with time—outcomes that form another singular version of the truth everyone can rally around.

DJ Haskins is vice president of marketing at SilverCloud, specializing in brand strategy and demand generation. He also teaches digital marketing at the University of New Hampshire.

Caroline Platkiewicz is SilverCloud’s marketing manager, specializing in content and campaign strategy.

BAI gives financial services leaders confidence in managing compliance and a passion for professional development by providing powerful tools and subject matter expertise you can rely on. Learn more.