21st Century Bank Gains Efficiencies with Automated Accounts Payable

With: Jeff Weldon, CPA, Chief Financial Officer

Founded in 1917, 21st Century Bank is a full-service commercial bank offering tailored personal and business banking products and services. It is a top 10 SBA preferred lender in the state of Minnesota and has been distinguished by the SBA as a “Preferred Lender.” 

21st Century Bank was awarded the top spot by the SBA for its asset size ($500 million to $1 billion), and for the third year in a row, this growing financial institution ranks as the #1 TPL SBA 504 lender in Minnesota. Headquartered in Minneapolis-St. Paul, 21st Century maintains nine branches including one loan production office in the region.

The Challenge 

21st Century Bank recognized a need to move away from manual AP processes toward the end of 2019 in order to keep pace with emerging technologies and continue to offer their personal and business banking clients the highest level of service and support.

Jeff Weldon, the newly appointed CFO at 21st Century Bank, recognized that manual AP workflow was slowing down the accounting department, making research more difficult, and perhaps most critically, preventing job sharing across geographical locations.

21st Century Bank’s objective was to eliminate manual processes and automate accounts payable to:

  • Eliminate time-consuming, redundant AP workflow and increase productivity
  • Streamline invoice processing, approvals and vendor payments and management
  • Increase efficiencies by facilitating job sharing across geographical locations
  • Easily find and research accounting information

The Solution

Jeff Weldon and his team at 21st Century Bank met with their Jack Henry representative, who recommended BankTEL for automated AP solutions and support. 21st Century needed to find a solution quickly — one that could accommodate different work schedules and key officers spread out in different locations. 

The bank made the transition to a fully automated AP workflow with BankTEL from Jack Henry’s AP solutions in April of 2020. This transition helped them not only achieve their objectives to streamline AP workflow and increase productivity, but was also critical to weathering the unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The transition was marked by a simple and seamless migration directly into their Jack Henry core. 

Streamlines Invoice Processing, Approvals & Vendor Payments

Prior to transitioning to BankTEL, 21st Century Bank relied upon Jack Henry’s AP solutions. If an invoice needed to be paid, it was paid by check. Time-consuming, manual invoice management and approval workflow was preventing 21st Century from realizing their productivity and growth goals.

“Prior to working with BankTEL, we were completely paper based, had no online imaging of our invoices, and no electronic payments capabilities,” says Jeff Weldon. “Since everything was paid by check, that process — sign, mail, process, reconcile — was taking far too much time and slowing down the approval process even more. So, opening the door to better technology and streamlining through the various payment options, like AvidPay, has been very helpful to us.”

The move to automation impacted daily operations and allowed for a more process-oriented approach to AP for 21st Century Bank.  “Now we put into play a one-week handle cycle, so everyone in the accounting department knows to pull invoices on one or two days per week that we define. Approvers know what days to expect to log in and make approvals. It works seamlessly. Bills continue to flow, and the amount of time it takes to process invoices is greatly reduced,” Weldon says.

Integrates Quickly & Seamlessly Into Jack Henry Core

Heading into 2020, one of 21st Century Bank’s top priorities was to eliminate manual workflow and take full advantage of automation and digital solutions for accounts payable. When discussing how processes have changed since the migration from Jack Henry to BankTEL AP solutions, Jeff Weldon highlights improved payments options and approval workflow, but singles out a seamless integration into their Jack Henry core as the most impactful benefit.

“BankTEL has brought a lot of important changes to the bank from a payments and approvals standpoint,” he says. “We now process approximately 75 percent of our payments through AvidPay or ACH options, ASCEND makes the approvals process easy, and check writing is vastly reduced. 

“The migration from Jack Henry’s AP module to BankTEL literally took about 30 minutes. We got all of the data over and it was accurate. We had all of the history right there and didn’t lose a single payment. It was one of the easiest migrations I’ve had in my entire career,” he says.

Facilitates Job Sharing Across Different Locations

21st Century Bank implemented automation in the accounting department at a critical juncture, just before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and before remote working became the order of the day. The transition not only improved back-office efficiencies, but also created an environment in which key officers and team members could collaborate and share duties, regardless of location.

As the new CFO, Jeff Weldon recognized digital solutions as a key to unlock the benefits of job sharing from different locations. “Coming to 21st Century, I knew we needed to make some changes right away, including taking advantage of technology and automation. At the time, we couldn’t really job share between different locations because we didn’t have any digital capabilities. BankTEL helped us to begin job sharing across locations, which was especially important after the pandemic,” Weldon explains.

Simplifies the Process of Finding and Researching Information

Having a digital, centralized repository for all accounting data means that 21st Century Bank now has quick and easy access to all accounts payable information, 24/7. Jeff Weldon speaks of the significance of being able to quickly research information.

“From my standpoint as a CFO, research has never been easier,” Weldon says. “Using BankTEL for expense variances or anything that’s cleared, you can search through the GL, through vendors, and the access to your information is just tremendous, and most of all, easy.”

He goes on to explain how other team members at 21st Century Bank benefitted from the intuitive platform. “For the users of the product, especially in the employee reimbursement module we use, one of my team members said the most technologically inefficient person was able to do it the first time. That was a proof of concept for us that it’s easy to understand and work with, and that’s been a huge benefit for me. This is much easier to use than other systems I’ve used in the past, and the ability to research information is a huge improvement over what we had with Jack Henry.”

Contact us today to learn more about how some of the nation’s most reputable banks and credit unions are turning to BankTEL for accounts payable automation solutions.