Avoiding human error with integration (sponsored)

Apr 01, 2019

Banks are improving the speed and accuracy of the confirmation process and lowering costs by integrating with the Confirmation platform.

By Barry McCall

Banks and financial institutions are operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Advances in fintech are facilitating the rise of competitors from outside the sector and the pressure to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve the customer experience has never been greater.

However, many banks are hampered by legacy processes and old systems and are unable to meet these challenges. One unnecessarily inefficient process is audit confirmation, with large numbers of institutions still relying on paper and other outdated technologies to handle this work.

Every day, auditors and accountants send millions of audit confirmation letters to banks around the world. A huge number of these requests are still sent by post, email, and even fax, as some banks do not have the systems in place to receive them in any other way.

These inefficient communication channels hinder a financial institution’s ability to handle audit confirmations efficiently, while also increasing risk, decreasing productivity, driving up costs, and impairing customer relationships.

“Banks are increasingly competing on customer experience,” notes Confirmation’s Commercial Director for Europe, Zoi Therapou. “When a bank is handling large volumes of requests received by post or email, it is inevitable that the customer experience will be compromised. Some of these requests will get lost, requiring auditors to submit repeat requests and clients asking the banks why their auditors haven’t received a confirmation. The sheer volume of requests means that banks take longer than expected to respond to them, leading to missed audit deadlines and angry customers demanding to know why the bank didn’t provide a better service.”

These challenges have led to a growing trend in European banks seeking to integrate their systems with the Confirmation platform. “Responding to letters and emails is inefficient, increases costs and negatively affects the customer experience,” Therapou points out. “There is also a risk of human error. Sending sensitive client information through the post or email is not secure enough. Banks want to become more efficient and provide a better service to their clients by automating the process.”

Confirmation’s computer-based processes can remove that risk of human error.

Support from the banks

For some banks, this is a journey they’ve been on for quite some time. “I’ve been working in our London office for the past three years and I’ve seen a marked change during that time,” says Therapou. “During the first couple of years, the banks were mainly interested in using our platform as a service where they logged in securely and dealt with confirmation requests more efficiently. In the last year and a half or so, we have seen a new trend where they want to fully integrate with us to further improve their efficiency and the service they provide to their clients, as well. They have already experienced the efficiency gains by using the Confirmation platform and now they want to take it a stage further.”

That stage further is nothing less than 100% automation. “The trend is to move to fully automated solutions,” she continues. “That’s where integration comes in. They want to take out the manual element of the process completely and they are coming to us and asking to integrate. We are already integrating with banks in Europe and have many more in the pipeline, which will be integrating during 2019 and 2020. This is part of the digitalisation journey for many of them.”

Benefits for auditors, banks and customers

Confirmation’s Product Owner for Integrations Mike Baum explains how integration is a benefit for auditors, banks and their customers alike: “It’s a big win for auditors. Response times are faster and the service from the banks is much more reliable.”

The efficiency and productivity gains for the banks are also significant, particularly during traditionally busy times of the year. “The January to March period generally sees the highest volumes of confirmation requests coming into the banks,” Baum notes. “We always receive more inquiries about integration after a busy reporting period. The banks are always looking for a way of doing things better and we help them with that.”

That solves a particular headache for banks who can ill-afford to divert staff to deal with manual confirmation processes and do not wish to incur the heavy cost of hiring temporary cover.

The integration journey

European banks are following their US counterparts on the integration journey. “We have some very long-standing integrations with US banks and we are now seeing these grow with global banks, particularly in Europe and Asia,” Baum says. “They are looking for a solution that eliminates manual processes and improves the quality of service for customers.” 

It is crucial to note that the integration process itself is quite simple. “Integrating with us is not very difficult”, he explains. “We have mature and tested APIs which allow banks to retrieve and post queries. It’s quite easy and we have a series of steps to help banks get through the integration process.”

While Confirmation’s technology is highly advanced, that is not always the case with banks. “It can vary quite widely. Some banks have systems in place that allow them to integrate easily and quickly. Some other banks are not really doing anything but integrating with Confirmation to get data in and out securely, which is not difficult. We provide a lot of guidance to banks. I personally spend quite a bit of time with banks on the technical aspects of integration. I help them look at the tools they already have and how to make the best use of them. We are there to provide as much guidance as possible.”

Meeting your goals

Integration can offer other value-added benefits to organisations with more advanced systems. For example, they can take the data and feed it through their own analytics applications to improve performance and customer service. But every bank can benefit, regardless of the solutions they employ.

“Each bank has its own goals and objectives”, Baum concludes. “We work with them to achieve them. Our services range from automating small pieces of the operation to full integration with internal platforms – whatever the customer wants.”

(This article is sponsored by Confirmation)