March 10, 2004

Document management and its primary tool, imaging, is hardly a new technology area to bankers. Yet, as mundane and broad as the segment may sometimes seem in comparison to other "bleeding-edge" tech categories, document management looks to be a primary area of focus for banks in the coming year-due to the emergence of a host of new document-related regulations and technology developments.

Banks are looking into electronic document management systems to prepare for check imaging, to comply with current and new regulations, and, most importantly in this ever-more-competitive market: to find cost-effective and time-reducing ways to collect, distribute, access and store documents.

Those were all important factors for Stephen Irish, vice president of Enterprise Bank and Trust (Lowell, Mass.; $1 billion in assets). But the bank emphasizes the big picture instead of the point solutions.

"Instead of looking at document management as an electronic filing cabinet, take a step back and look at the entire life cycle of that document, from when it first gets created to when it gets filed," says Irish. "By doing so, that's where we say, from an operational standpoint, we are able to reduce costs, because we become more efficient in handling those documents. It also translates to improved customer service, even though it is tough to measure directly. But any time you improve customer service you are going to retain more customers and be more successful over time."

To be sure, regulatory compliance was also a top priority. "We have to retain records for seven years for availability," says Irish. "In complying with this and moving towards an image-based electronic environment, one of the challenges is choosing a provider so that you don't have to maintain multiple systems and multiple platforms in order to manage and retrieve those documents."

For its solution, the bank recently selected the Premier Director document management solution from Information Technology Inc. (ITI), a subsidiary of Fiserv, Inc. (Brookfield, Wis.).

Irish says the right technology was essential for preventing fraudulent activity and protecting customer data. "The other aspect is using the proper technology so that those documents are imaged so that you can always rely upon the authenticity of those documents and that those documents have not been changed or altered," he says.