With BankTEL ASCEND, Expense Reporting is a breeze for the accounting department of $1.8 Billion Seaside Bank
With: Nicole Hulbert, Senior Accountant
Florida’s 13-branch, $1.8 billion asset-sized Seaside National Bank & Trust once used Fiserv Prologue for accounting and SAP Concur for employee expense reporting, but recently, they switched to BankTEL’s ASCEND (which integrates with their CORE, FIS IBS Insight) for all of their accounting and employee reimbursement needs.
“If my CFO comes in and says, ‘Can you tell me what we’ve paid in a specific region in mileage?,’ with ASCEND I can do that in two minutes. With Concur, that would have not been possible, or it would have taken me a day to extract the same data and write a report,” says Nicole Hulbert, Senior Accountant.
Seaside switched to ASCEND because Hulbert had worked with BankTEL software at her previous bank and knew it was easier and more efficient than Prologue.
Faster Expense Reimbursement & Less Stressful Audits
Because ASCEND is cloud-hosted, there is no limit to the number of allowable employee-users. Hulbert has 164 employees submitting expense reports. Thanks to the Expense Reimbursement app’s smart receipt function, these employees can photograph a receipt with their cell-phones, attach it and submit a request from anywhere, and managers can approve the request on-the-go.
ASCEND uses OCR to pull data and merchant info directly from a receipt image and automatically generate an invoice, which means employees rarely have to enter additional data. But when they do, ASCEND allows managers to set “exceptions” that remind employees to add additional information or documents in specific situations. Then ASCEND automatically funnels the invoice up the approval chain, and any user with the right permissions can log in and check on the approval process, which means no one is wasting time with unnecessary calls and emails.
According to Hulbert, ASCEND’s thorough but simple-to-use reporting functions regularly save her time. During “budgeting season” (August to year’s end), she’s often asked to provide reports on mileage, meals or entertainment. From April through July, she is asked to provide information for internal and external auditors.
“Expense reports are audited very closely. With ASCEND, I can pull most reports in five minutes. This probably saves me at least four or five hours a month in finding information.”
Recently, Seaside had its first external audit with ASCEND.
“I scheduled a 30-minute sit-down with the auditor to look at specific items. This process would have taken about six hours before ASCEND. The auditor couldn’t get over how easy and accurate it was. She said at least 10 of her bank clients immediately came to mind, that should start using ASCEND. She took a stack of my cards, to give to the accountants at these banks, in case they want to call with questions.”
BankTEL Listens to Clients
At her former bank, Hulbert used BankTEL’s legacy software. She appreciates that with BankTEL’s new ASCEND software, “You no longer have to log in to each module separately. All the modules are synced, so everything is in one place. If I pull up a vendor, I’m going to see all of my fixed assets, all of my vendor activity, all of the invoices I’ve created, all of my pre-paids, anything associated with that vendor. And at the very bottom, I’m going to see an audit trail, and that’s going to include who has ever made a change or even viewed that vendor.”
Hulbert has put in multiple enhancement requests over the years, and “BankTEL implements a lot of those changes,” she says. ”They do a really good job of just listening to their clients. As far as what’s happening in the industry, they’re always at the front line.”
She appreciates BankTEL’s annual user conferences and how it allows bank employees to network with similarly-sized institutions and troubleshoot even non-BankTEL related issues.
“When I call BankTEL’s support line, more often than not, it’s an issue on our end—our firewall or something like that. And they’re patient; they’re never condescending. With the product they put out, it’s obvious BankTEL cares for the client. You get personalized customer service, even up to the top management team. I think that’s why they’ve seen the success and the growth that they have,” Hulbert says.
Now Hulbert saves hours she once spent retrieving information.
“I can create access for my enterprise risk management team, so they can go in themselves and pull reports, without being exposed to any information they don’t need to see. With Concur, I would have had to open the whole system and make them a full admin,” Hulbert says.
She also uses ASCEND to create reoccurring monthly reports for the enterprise team (which assesses internal risks), and uses ASCENDS “public” and “private” feature to give the bank’s internal compliance department access to just the information they need. This feature also allows her to keep employees’ account information safer during routine accounting tasks and guards against internal fraud.
Hulbert uses ASCEND’s OFAC module to check each payment to vendors and employees, to insure that Seaside remains in compliance with the latest sanctions and regulations.
“We just had our first external audit with ASCEND. I scheduled a 30-minute sit-down with the auditor to look at specific items. This process would have taken about six hours before ASCEND. The auditor couldn’t get over how easy and accurate it was. She said at least 10 of her bank clients immediately came to mind, that should start using BankTEL. She took a stack of my cards, to give to the accountants at these banks, in case they wanted to call with questions.”
“I’ve been through the conversion process to new software before, and it’s usually a nightmare. Nothing balances and nothing works. But with ASCEND, things balanced and things worked. It was a very easy move.”
“With BankTEL, everything was more streamlined, there was better reconcilement, better functionality and better security on the user-side of things. It was a major step up for us.”
“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.”
“One thing I like about BankTEL is that they always want to know what you want and how they can make their product better. They like to listen to customers.”