Founded in 1907, Farmers and Merchants Bank (F&M) has grown to be one of the strongest financial institutions in the country by preserving its traditions of honesty, integrity and dedication to the community. One hundred years later, F&M has started a new tradition of technological innovation, positioning itself for another century of success. By implementing an enterprise content management system from Laserfiche, F&M is getting the best of both worlds—good old-fashioned quality service, accelerated to the speed of today’s technology.
Since its founding, F&M has experienced steady growth on its way to becoming a leading financial institution in Southern California. Henry Walker, chief executive officer and great-grandson of F&M founder C.J. Walker, saw continued success—and the resultant move to a new building—on the horizon. But with 100 years of success comes 100 years of accumulated manila folders, filing cabinets and banker’s boxes.
“We have 22 branches and 26 departments,” Walker says, “so moving to a new building is a major task. We knew we needed to digitize our paper files just to make the move possible.”
A document management system was the logical solution, but there are many systems available. While it didn’t hurt that Laserfiche headquarters is just a stone’s throw from the F&M central office—both organizations call Long Beach, CA, home—Walker says that the major reason for choosing Laserfiche was its long history of helping organizations like his run more efficiently.
“The story of Laserfiche is very impressive,” he says, “as far as what they’ve done to develop their product over the last 20 years, and their list of customers.”
That experience came into play when it came time to scan boxes and boxes of signature cards, background checks, suspicious activity reports, enrollment forms and loan applications that were consuming valuable real estate. Prior to installing Laserfiche, F&M branches needed to either find ever-more creative ways to free up space or rent off-site storage for their paper documents. So far, over half a million pages have been scanned into the Laserfiche repository.
According to Roy Chung, the Laserfiche solutions engineer who’s overseeing the installation, going digital will pay the bank and its customers big dividends, both now and in the long run. “Digitizing these forms will eliminate digging through file cabinets for information—which could take days,” he says. “And by integrating Laserfiche with F&M’s bank management software, both branch and main-office staff will be able to access all these documents from the interface they’re used to working with.”
While some departments are in the midst of back-file conversion projects, others have moved right to day-forward scanning. Walker says that this practice will reduce branches’ operating costs while developing what he calls a “smaller branch model.”
Digitizing all these documents will not only reduce storage space needs, but also improve business processes for the entire organization. Connecting all of F&M’s branch offices to the central office using Web Access will improve communication between branches and promote more holistic customer service.
As Walker explains, “If a customer opens an account at one branch, but ends up doing business at another, all their information will be accessible, no matter where they are. We’ll reduce costs by shortening the time it takes to request information from another branch, and it will promote better record-keeping in general.”
As anyone who’s ever applied for a loan knows, a bank’s lending department is especially prone to paperwork bloat. Between appraisal orders, credit reports, approval statements and mandatory borrower notifications, a paper loan file can be inches thick. For F&M, however, the loan application process will become significantly more compact through the use of Laserfiche Workflow. As Debra Allen, vice president and credit administrator, explains, “No matter which branch takes a loan application, the lending and loan support departments will have instant access to the entire file—no more driving to the main office.
“We have numerous support departments that exchange information throughout the entire loan process,” she elaborates. “These departments work together with the branch staff during the loan application, underwriting and approval processes. Workflow will automatically route this shared information between departments, from the point of loan application through loan closing.”
Laserfiche is well-known for increasing information accessibility. But its security features will ensure all that information’s integrity—a must for any financial institution. The security and compliance departments will rely on Audit Trail to monitor activity in the Laserfiche repository, gaining increased oversight through automated notifications of suspicious activity. Audit Trail’s Web reporting utility will also lower the labor and transportation costs of both internal and external auditing, because auditors will be able to audit branch offices remotely rather than on-site.
Not to be overlooked is Laserfiche’s contribution to F&M’s disaster recovery plan. Notes Walker, “We already had disaster recovery measures in place, but Laserfiche helps to strengthen them. Because customers’ critical documents are stored and backed up securely, we won’t have to salvage paper files or ask customers for new copies of their private information in case of a disaster.”
With the move set to happen this September, F&M is well on the way to establishing a technology-driven culture. “Almost every department will be using Laserfiche—250 to 300 users in all,” Walker reports.
Although F&M is still in the beginning stages of its Laserfiche implementation, the ease of installing their system bodes well for future results. “We put together a Laserfiche task force for this project,” Walker says, “and they’ve found it easy to implement. It’s pretty obvious that we’ll realize both cost savings and customer service improvements in the long run.”