First National Bank of SC, Steeped in Tradition, Seamlessly Migrates to ASCEND

With: John Wiggins III, Vice President and Cashier

First National Bank of South Carolina is based in Holly Hill, where it’s been around in some form since 1905. It was chartered with $15,000, primarily because the town had a huge need—cotton farmers and merchants were burying their savings for safety. The bank survived the Great Depression and now, over 100 years after it’s inception, it remains a strong community lender, with eight branches and $195 million in assets.


First National is steeped in tradition, which is why its leaders were reluctant to move away from the accounts payable system they had been using for over two decades. But John Wiggins III, Vice President and Cashier, knew it was time for a change. The two-person team behind their old software was ready to retire and unwilling to update the software to run on a 64-bit processor—a processor that has been a desktop standard since 2003. This meant that First National kept a 32-bit computer around just to run their antiquated accounts payable software.

But First National’s leaders didn’t want to make any reckless decisions. They looked for the perfect software for five years before finally deciding on BankTEL’s ASCEND. Their initial go-to was their core provider, Fiserv Precision’s, accounting software. But that software was too complex and expensive, so after asking some other banks for recommendations, First National decided to try ASCEND.


First National hasn’t transitioned to direct deposit and paperless billing yet, but Wiggins is looking forward to the time savings that will come with that step.

The data migration was easy—according to Wiggins, “We just sent BankTEL a spreadsheet, and they handled it”—and right now the bank only has three users and the most basic version of ASCEND available (Accounts Payable and Prepaid).

Wiggins knows that ASCEND offers a lot of possibilities the bank hasn’t explored yet, but they’ll have time for new modules later.

“I just wanted to get off the old platform as seamlessly as possible. We print the checks, get the reports, upload the file—that’s all we do, and that’s all we pay for,” Wiggins says.


First National will go through its first audit with ASCEND in a couple of months. ASCEND has more report-generating options than their old software, which Wiggins expects to make audits less labor-intensive. “If the auditors want a report by vendor, we can do that. If they want to report by expense category, we can do that, too,” he says.

“We are currently only running the Accounts Payable and Prepaid modules of ASCEND – when we are ready for other modules, they will open those up for us. It’s much better than paying for modules we’re not using, and feeling pressured to go ahead and get started before we are ready.” says Wiggins.

“This way, it happens on our schedule. We can do it the way we want to do it.”

Human Error

With ASCEND, it’s much easier to recover from a data entry mistake than with their old system. “Say you reversed two numbers in a check run. In the old system, if you made a mistake, our recovery process was much more involved and could take hours. With this program, you just delete that file, recreate it, and run it again.”

Wiggins also likes the built-in feature to catch duplicate invoices. Already, it’s alerted First National to two double-scanned invoices—the result of branch managers mistakenly resending invoices they had already sent to HQ.

“Everybody’s busy. They’re just trying to get it off their desk and onto somebody else’s,” Wiggins says.

In the past, the bank has paid the same invoice multiple times. With ASCEND, when a duplicate invoice is scanned, a warning pops up to let the user know that invoice has already been paid.

Customer Service

“BankTEL’s customer service is great. When I called I got somebody right away. And when I went online and filled out a customer support request, within the hour I got called back. I think that’s a big plus,” says Wiggins.

Ready to see how automating AP can help your FI streamline workflow, save time and eliminate inefficiency? Request a demo to find out how BankTEL can help.