Security Federal Bank Upgrades to a More Sophisticated Approval System within ASCEND

With: Tony Ateca, Chief Administrative Officer and Margaret Hurt, Controller

Security Federal Bank has been serving South Carolina since 1922 and Georgia since 1973. Soon the bank, which holds 880-million in assets, will open its 16th branch. The bank has programs to help children learn to save and branches that operate 7-days a week, in order to better serve customers. In fact, “Do what’s in the best interest of the customer” is Security Federal’s slogan, and both executives and associates exemplify it. In 2010, the U.S. Treasury recognized Security Federal’s contribution to underserved markets by certifying it as a Community Development Financial Institution.

Perhaps this shared commitment to customer service is why BankTEL and Security Federal have such a strong relationship. Tony Ateca has been Chief Administrative Officer with Security Federal since 2008, which means he handles IT and compliance, and Security Federal has been a BankTEL customer since 2012.

Ateca came to Security Federal from the higher education sector. He was shocked to discover that the bank’s accounting process, even in 2008, largely consisted of transferring paper files.

Before BankTEL, Security Federal wasn’t using a specific accounting software at all. It was simply using Jack Henry & Associates—it’s core system—to handle accounts payable.

“Jack Henry wasn’t doing any updates, so we were having to pay for customization,” says Margaret Hurt, Security Federal’s Controller. BankTEL gave a presentation at a Jack Henry conference, and Hurt liked what she saw.

In February of 2018, Security Federal upgraded to BankTEL’s latest software, ASCEND. They’re using Accounts Payable, Prepaid & Accruals, Vendor Management, and Fixed Assets.

“BankTEL keeps all the info,” Hurt says. “Before, we would have to periodically purge, because we had paper files.”

Now Security Federal employees are more independent. They are able to run their own inquiries rather than having managers look up information for them, which saves time.

“We have remote scanning, and the reporting is great. We don’t have to go pull paper files for our auditors. BankTEL just makes everything easier,” Hurt says.

“We can give our users just the authority they need. In the old system, I think there were 20 different authorities. In ASCEND, there’s something like 100,” says Margaret Hurt.

“We’ve just now, with ASCEND, instituted an approval process for invoices. We are able to put our mileage reporting on the system and enable the approval, without having to send docs through inter-office mail. That was a huge advancement,” says Ateca.

Now employees can submit reimbursement requests remotely, from their phones.

Ateca doesn’t deal with paper files at all anymore.

“It’s very helpful, just having quick access electronically to all those files and a history on each invoice, and having vendor management info accessible in the same platform as we have the vendor doc.”

Security Federal has 212 employees who use ASCEND for milage, and 50 of those employees will soon have other permissions, as well. The precision of the permissions is one of the things Hurt appreciates most about Ascend.

Ateca likes that the updated approvals system will make it easier to track invoices at every step of the process.

“There is a more sophisticated approval system within ASCEND than there was previously, so that’s going to enable us to use it in a broader way,” says Ateca.

“When I approve an invoice, I’m going to check its history, make sure it hasn’t been paid previously and verify prices against previous invoices, etc. It enables you to take proper precautions and have the information accessible.”

For Security Federal, the upgrade was accomplished with minimal downtime. Data migration took a single day, and testing took a couple more days.

“We were able to re-establish the use of everything within a few days, without much interruption at all,” says Ateca.

“Banks deal with accounting every part of every day. It’s a core part of the business.  To be able to maneuver through the system and have the detail of records, the tracking and reporting that are available at BankTEL, was long overdue. ASCEND is leagues ahead of where we were previously.”

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