Back office automation is aiding the $1.3 billion Royal Credit Union with its critical compliance activities and at the same time, executing several key growth strategies.
The credit union in Eau Claire, Wis., is using the WatchDOG Wire solution from ATTUS Technologies Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., to automate the background checks that come with wire transfers, including Office of Foreign Assets Control, Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering requirements.
The services are used by private individuals, title companies, manufacturers and professional services. Business members at Royal are also using the automation, said Jeni Brantner, the credit union’s product settlement and services supervisor. Royal has been pushing for more use of the compliance service within the industry, she added.
Nearly 175 people across Royal’s enterprise including financial services representatives and tellers are using the Web-based solution to conduct real-time screening on incoming and outgoing wires. One person used to be devoted fulltime to the job when it was a tedious, manual process, but that has changed, Brantner said.
“It used to be an all day job, keying in the same information over and over again” she said. “Now, we’ve integrated the ACH and wire positions into an ACH [and] wire specialist, handling all those processes, exceptions and returns.”
Errors also have been reduced, since information is not repeatedly rekeyed.
“[It] also helps us in a lot of other ways. Say we want to grow a relationship with a particular business. It helps us do that, too,” Brantner said.
For instance, a branch staffer can spend more time focusing on how to help the member than running checks on transactions.
Using technology to help keep the focus on growing relationships and business has helped Royal propel its growth spurt over the past few years, including handling the increased volume that came with its 2010 acquisition of 11 branches in the St. Croix Valley area from AnchorBank in Madison, Wis.
“We were able to nearly double our wire volume without adding any staff to handle it, which speaks loudly to how this is a good example of using technology tools to increase our efficiency,” Brantner said. “Among credit unions, we were very big [early on] into building a business lending portfolio and this has helped us do that.”
Lee Thomas, customer relationship manager with ATTUS, said empowering staff like Royal’s is the idea behind creating WatchDOG Wire. He said the company now has nearly 4,000 customers through direct and indirect channels.
“In a lot of institutions, processes can be very manual and involve a number of different touch points,” Thomas explained. “That can mean the member fills out a form and then someone checks the information in a spread sheet and types in names that are then run against an OFAC checker or the list, all before the wire can be approved internally and sent to the FedLine system.”
Now, instead of a wire being handed off from a teller to a customer service representative to an approver or OFAC check or wire person, the whole process can be viewed online instead of through paper being passed along, Thomas said.
All the wire transfers created in the WatchDOG Wire system are kept in one central database that is accessible through the Internet. It also minimizes tech resource requirements at the credit union and provides extensive reporting capabilities.
Keeping up with changing rules and regulations is an automated process directed by an ATTUS compliance specialist who has 20 years of regulatory experience, Thomas said.
“She stays on top of changes and alerts us to what needs to be done so we can address them in our product in time,” Thomas said, noting the changes in the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT messaging system late last year as an example.
Automation involves people, of course, and they have to be trained. Bringing each new staffer up to speed on the wire transfer compliance tool is a process in itself, said Brantner. It includes on the job training, having someone in each branch able to facilitate things, creating test cases that involve inputting wire transfers and more, she said.
“It’s a pretty intensive process,” Brantner said.
But once that person joins the team of staff across the credit union’s expansive branch network and in the back office that can move the wires along, the results are quickly worth it, she noted.
“This has definitely been of value to our business, especially to companies like title businesses or [those that] maybe have a lot of foreign vendors they work with. It’s definitely an awesome part of our payments work,” Brantner said.