Altamaha Bank and Trust’s Chief Technology Officer Dubs ASCEND “Awesome!”
With: Shan Venable, CTO
Altamaha Bank & Trust is based in the city of Vidaila, but it has roots and branches in small-town Georgia. Founded in 1946, it hit the million-dollar asset mark in 1972, and since then, has grown to $160M. It’s the epitome of a bank that serves its community, and as Chief Technology Officer, Shan Venable combines his knowledge of technology and the financial industry to serve the bank.
When Venable came to Altamaha four years ago, the accounting department was already using BankTEL’s legacy program (with their BancPac core) to manage the books, but under Venable’s leadership, they upgraded to the newest BankTEL product, ASCEND.
“I like that it’s hosted in the cloud. BankTEL improved the approval process, and now you’ve got Expense Reports and Vendor Management that can integrate with Accounts Payable, so you don’t have to add information twice. There were a lot of reasons we were excited about moving to ASCEND,” he says.
Cloud-based System Offers Increased Flexibility
Geographic flexibility is important to the C-suite at Altamaha, so the fact that ASCEND is accessible from any place with an internet connection was a huge advantage.
“No one wants to be tied to their desks, waiting to approve invoices,” Shan says. “We use a lot of iPads. We’ve really tried to set ourselves up where I can be working on my desktop, then pop into another branch, open my iPad, and if I’ve got a notice that I need to approve some invoices, I can just do it. I don’t have to load anything special on my iPad, because ASCEND actually just uses a browser. But the great part is, it works like an app.”
Better Record-Keeping Leads to Smoother Audits
With ASCEND, the bank was able to shift its accounting department entirely to paperless record-keeping. Because it’s easier to scan invoices with ASCEND than it was with BankTEL legacy, Altamaha now scans every invoice by default.
“That process is a lot easier now that we’re storing invoices directly in ASCEND,” says Venable. “It brings everything together so it’s simple to track. You can see who keyed something in and who paid.”
Great Design Provides Excellent Multi-Device User Experience
As a CTO, there was another quality that really stood out to Venable: “The app is very well-designed. It’s written to take advantage of whatever size device screen I’m working on and it still looks like something you can work with, versus trying to use something that’s not built for a smaller device. It’s really touch sensitive.”
Detail-Oriented Process Makes Migration Easy
Venable was impressed by BankTEL’s “organized, disciplined process” when migrating the bank’s data to the new system.
“That piece went off without a hitch, and I attribute it to the level of detail in BankTEL’s process—looking at your old data, making sure everything is clean before they import it in, making sure we test before getting the files from the core, those kinds of things,” he says.
It’s Venable’s job to “make sure we have the best applications and the best processes. There were just a lot of advantages for us to go from an on-premise legacy system to a new cloud-based system that has a better interface and new features,” he says.
More Precise Searching Saves Time
The increased search functions have made the jobs of the bank’s executives and its accounting department much easier.
“I like how you can drill down your reports and extract the info you’re looking for, whether it’s by vendor or branch. The format of the queries is better than in the legacy system,” Venable says.
“I don’t have to have someone physically pull the invoices. I can go into ASCEND myself and there are invoices attached right to the bill. It makes research a lot quicker.”
Before ASCEND, if an executive needed to see an invoice, they would have to find one of the few employees with keys to the filing cabinet and ask to have the paper file pulled. “It could be a bottleneck,” Venable jokes.
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