Smarter bank systems go paperlessArticle added by John Sullivan on November 1, 2008
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John Sullivan

Joined: February 29, 2008

Getting to the top in the bank advisor business requires an engagement in the type of top-down, enterprise-wide IT planning that ensures adequate resources and maximum return on IT investments. Case in point — the transition to a paperless environment that has been at the forefront of our industry’s IT mandate for years. 

Early objectives to improve data management and security were focused on scanning and archiving paper record outputs. With the explosive growth in the volume of electronic data, this mandate has moved to automating functions from business process — or straight-through processing. By authorizing “click here” as legally binding for contracts, transactions and records, the Digital Signature Act of 2000 set the stage for the securities industry’s push to paperless.    

Market intelligence firm IDC estimates data growth rates of 50 percent to 100 percent annually. This presents a massive challenge for maintaining effective, mission-critical functions of risk management, business continuity and disaster recovery — and requires a significant time and capital investment. 

To get more from these investment outlays, best practice brokerage firms put their technology, compliance and marketing people on development teams so benefits can be realized enterprise-wide.

There are three paths a firm can take to the straight-through processing and paperless goal:

  1. Engage a third-party vendor. These are industry specialists who will customize off-the-shelf solutions to fit your needs. This approach works well for medium-sized firms with lean staffs and often delivers value added based on broad industry perspective. 
  2. Hire consultants. If you can’t spare the staff or don’t have the skills in-house, you can hire outside consultants to do heavy-duty customization and programming.
  3. Do-it-yourself. If you have a large team with lots of institutional memory, you might consider building proprietary applications that build on legacy systems. This approach is not necessarily more cost effective – a host of variables such as the size of the firm and the existing infrastructure will determine if this is the approach for you.


Current IT best practices involve developing optimal architectures for information management that incorporates both maximizing business value and managing risk. With IT project funding, firms can capture more transaction data on the front end and use it in multiple processes throughout the life of the customer relationship. 

Smart systems can facilitate the supervisory review of new accounts and workflow process automation, and can lower NIGO rates. In an industry focused on regulatory compliance, the ability to capture data at the front end and aggregate it for maximum utility goes a long way toward protecting clients, as well as the firm’s reputation. And a bank that’s ahead on its paperless mission is in a better position to attract and retain the best financial consultants who see less paperwork as an opportunity to spend more time catering to clients.

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