Bank buys room to grow

Bank buys room to grow

One of South Australia's largest lenders has gone from paper to electronic operations in one fell swoop, and is counting the benefits.

By Alicia Camphuisen

South Australian lender Adelaide Bank is aiming to increase its home loan business by 45 per cent over the next two years without increasing back office staff, after slashing its processing time with a new workflow and imaging system.

Adelaide Bank, which provides residential and business loans around the country, already has around a three per cent share of the Australian market and can receive up to 400 applications a day.

However, under a scenario where it continues to process all of its applications on paper, the lender's business would only have been able to grow if it increased its staff to manage the workload.

"We were actually becoming too successful," said Adelaide Bank chief general manager of corporate services, Glen Hickey. "We couldn't have continued processing applications on paper."

Instead, the company looked to overhauling its operations. Determined to invest in an appropriate system first time around, the bank examined the offerings of a number of vendors and looked at other implementations around the world. "The project sounded easy, but it's easy to get wrong," said Mr Hickey.


Adelaide Bank initially funded a number of preliminary tests to evaluate what solution would best match its needs. In June 1998, it dispatched teams to a number of end users overseas that had successfully and unsuccessfully implemented solutions from several imaging and workflow vendors.

"In particular, we wanted to look at the pitfalls so we knew what kind of change would be occurring," said Mr Hickey.

In August 1998, the bank selected the Tower IDM imaging and workflow product from Sydney-based vendor Tower Technology.

The solution is being used to cut the paper chase that delayed staff on a daily basis. Previous to the implementation, officers would receive an application via fax from a mortgage originator. They would then have to ensure the applicant's personal details were correct, conduct credit assessments, confirm the security of the property, and reply to the originator. The application and any annotations made to it were often handwritten, so that staff may have to recheck information they could not read.

With the introduction of Tower IDM, faxed application forms are immediately imaged into the system via fax gateways. Any paper documents are captured with a central A3 scanner.

Once they enter the system, all documents are classified, indexed and stored in customer folder files in the Tower IDM Repository and are available for instant retrieval.

The solution's workflow software controls the receipt of applications and directs jobs to an available officer. An original image of the application appears on the left side of the officer's screen, while on the right the user can add notes on the job. Any internal or external documentation relating to the application is added to the file throughout processing, and Mr Hickey said the file can eventually consist of around 15 pages.

"Forms and documents can be viewed electronically by any number of people at any time and processes are automated," said Tower Technology managing director, Noel Jones. "Workflow means that the entire process is controlled, so forms aren't misplaced or misfiled."


The solution was delivered in stages over twelve months. To ease the transition process and to transfer skills from Tower technicians to staff, all of the bank's loan officers were relocated to a single base.

"With this strategy we have aimed to reduce the number of unique skills an officer has," said Mr Hickey. "It is easy to share and learn about jobs, ultimately resulting in fewer job handoffs to other officers."

As all incoming documents are monitored and stored, Adelaide Bank is also able to quantitatively measure its business and growth, with management receiving daily reports "on every aspect" of the process, said Mr Hickey.

These reports already indicate the bank has cut application processing time from more than eight hours to around four. "We're taking a considerable volume, and we're able to respond more quickly to applications," Mr Hickey said.

With this faster response time, Adelaide Bank plans to target more business in the home loan sector. "We also aim to increase our business lending from 18 to 33 per cent of total business without increasing staff," said the bank's group managing director Barry Fitzpatrick.