May 04, 2005

Facing increasing competition for corporate customers, which want more control of and information regarding their disbursements and deposits, Troy, Mich.-based Standard Federal Bank sought to retain and attract clients with state-of-the-art treasury and cash management capabilities.

"We wanted to differentiate ourselves in order to win new business," says Cindy Murray, EVP, service products group, ABN AMRO Services Co., a subsidiary of Netherlands-based ABN AMRO, Standard Federal's corporate parent. The services company provides treasury and cash management products to Standard Federal ($39.1 billion).

One way for the bank to differentiate itself was to offer business customers a better way to identify and reconcile disputes between receivables and actual remittances, according to Murray. Payments often are different from the associated invoice, she explains. In business-to-business transactions, the payer may deduct for damaged or missing items, for example, before submitting payment.

While some banks have attempted to help corporate customers handle these discrepancies with imaging services for checks and remittance items, the images often do not explain a discrepancy, and annotations attached to the original invoices and payments are difficult to read when imaged in black and white, according to Murray. "Customers were looking for better quality images so that they could self-service rather than needing to call the bank when there's a discrepancy," she says.

So, in December 2002, Standard Federal received board approval to enhance the bank's cash management offering. After examining five potential vendors, bank officials opted to develop a proprietary product in partnership with Calabasas, Calif.-based Digital Insight Corp. "We had worked with Digital Insight before to develop other [proprietary] products," Murray notes.

It took about four months to redevelop the bank's online treasury management platform, CashProWeb. The receivables management module was a complete rework, relates Murray. "A considerable amount of time was spent understanding client usage and designing a solution around day-to-day accounts receivables processes," she says.

Programmers developed a J2EE-based platform to replace the previous Cold Fusion-based environment, and the bank added color cameras to scanners that could be retrofitted and replaced other scanners. The application was used in pilots starting in March 2003 and the production rollout began a year later, according to Murray.

CashProWeb enables users to access check images and color images of remittance documents processed through a company's wholesale lockbox. Customers can choose online retention options ranging from 45 days to one year, after which the images are archived. Images can be retrieved by check amount, check number or some remittance detail specified by the customer (e.g., invoice number).

The application allows users to add annotations to exception items - similar to electronic "sticky notes" - to explain discrepancies and build an online history of adjustments for any account. The addition of color images further enables users to highlight annotations.

The platform enhancements enable users to resolve exception items quickly, make the necessary adjustments to their books and apply cash faster, contends Murray. Split and dual-screen capabilities allow customers to view CashProWeb and their own accounts receivable systems simultaneously.

Administration is managed by the client. Clients access the platform through a Web browser; there is no need for installation of specialized software.

"On the payables side, customers like it because they can go online, access the image and send that to the supplier as proof of payment," notes Murray, who credits CashProWeb for helping Standard Federal's customer retention efforts.

Snapshot

Institution: Standard Federal Bank (Troy, Mich.), a subsidiary of ABN AMRO.

Assets: $39.1 billion.

Business Challenge: Offer corporate customers better treasury/cash management tracking capabilities.

Solution: CashProWeb, codeveloped with Digital Insights (Calabasas, Calif.).