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Business Intelligence Enriches North Country Savings Bank

By: Brian Coakley, Chief Information Officer
North Country Savings Bank, Canton, NY

For North Country Savings Bank, business intelligence represents a different focus on information. Instead of asking how we can deliver information to the people who need it, we ask what information they need, because we can deliver information any time in any format they want. This has dramatically improved every aspect of our bank.

Business Intelligence literally drives our operation, shows us how well we’re doing, how much our products cost, and enabling us to answer complex questions such as the effectiveness of electronic banking channels in displacing manual transactions.

Using TotalVision from our core technology partner, COCC, we do everything from displaying data in electronic ‘dashboards’ to producing complex financial reports for senior management. We can view branch performance in terms of new money, paid off loans, deposits, originations, and more. We can also display any account that has gone from a dormant status to active, any loan customer that our collectors need to contact, and more.

We feel that information must be reported at the rate it is created. The vast payment and banking channels available to consumers have driven an exponential increase in the breadth of financial information. The “reporting’ bar has been elevated and for our staff traditional stock reporting is no longer acceptable. Intelligent, targeted, and automated reporting is no longer cool, it's critical.

This critical information is produced automatically and delivered via email on schedules that we determine. That way, our staff can receive information securely on their smart phones wherever they are.

This level of automation not only saves time, it also helps us comply with financial reporting regulations and best practices. Our specs are fully documented with a complete audit trail of changes. Because the information is fully formatted, employees can use what they receive rather than introduce additional formatting and changes. Also, by giving employees only the information they need, we have reduced distractions and limited our customers exposure and the banks overall risk.

Beyond the time savings and audit benefits, we are applying business intelligence to our purchase decisions. This is important because most vendors pitch their solutions based on generalized information; rarely do they present a cost/benefit analysis based on the bank’s actual figures. We use business intelligence to determine when our bank can reasonably expect a system to pay for itself.

In some cases we have used business intelligence to embark on ATM profit sharing ventures with local businesses. Traditionally these relationships were not possible due to tight margins and the manual steps involved in reporting and managing the monthly statistics. Business intelligence enables us to automate reports that detail the venture’s associated income and expenses for the select period of time complete with the calculated amount that will be deposited in their account. This is trusted information delivered directly from the source with very little operational overhead.

We use the same approach with bank-wide strategies, such as shifting customers away from live teller transactions toward electronic channels when appropriate. Bankers readily assume that e-Statements, direct deposits, overdraft protection, online bill pay, and debit cards will reduce cost while increasing the customer’s value to the bank.

The challenge is to see if experience matches expectation. We are using our business intelligence system to weigh the cost of online bill payment, the rate of account cannibalization, balance changes, fees collected, and teller traffic curtailed. In the end, we developed an independent view of teller performance plus a standard against which the bank can determine if it has truly displaced costs by encouraging the electronic channels.

As banking continues to grow in complexity, we have no choice but to use business intelligence to test our assumptions. Our president and CEO, David Swanson, insists that “instinct be backed up by facts.” In our experience, history offers the best chance of predicting the future.

 

North Country Savings Bank