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How to take advantage of your banking partner

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Is your bank helping you make money?

Optimism is on the rise among business owners. This is the first year coming out of a down cycle in the economy and businesses are ready to grow. They are looking to expand operations, hire new talent and purchase new equipment. But they are also searching for new strategies, financing options and ideas for better market penetration. In today’s economy, one of the best partners a business can have is their banker. Ask yourself if your banker is:

  • bringing more to the table than monthly reports or the weekly “how’s it going” call
  • strategizing with business owners on how to expand operations, create more efficiencies and generate more revenue
  • understanding every aspect of a business, from cash flow to risk management and payroll to IT services.

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Here are a few areas bankers can help businesses strategically grow and profit in today’s economy.

How Does Your Cash Flow?

Most business owners talk about the importance of cash flow, but not many go deep into the process and determine how to make it better. Businesses need to ask questions such as: How many days does it take to collect on receivables? How long are you paying on collectables? Are you getting discounts for paying early?

A lot of companies are operating inefficiently.  They are duplicating internal steps or making extra steps to receive money. It costs $2 to $5 to mail a check, whereas sending an Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment costs less than $1. Businesses need to review how much time it takes to print, stuff and mail a check versus using a card or ACH payment.

By working closely with a banker, businesses can gain cash flow relief and create better efficiencies in their operations. Bankers also can help business owners create a profitable and logical cash flow system.

Risk Management and Efficiency

Risk management is exactly what it sounds like. Anything businesses can do to manage risk will ultimately benefit their bottom line. This includes having dual controls with employees, doing regular inventory checks, having different people sign off on checks and having a process to detect and deter internal and external fraud. So much risk can be diverted simply by paying attention to the small, everyday details.

Risk efficiency is something bankers also should discuss with businesses as it relates to items such as outsourcing payroll or return collections. Often times there are functions that businesses can outsource to save time and money. One of the main things to be outsourced is payroll. A payroll provider can help save a company time and money. They may also accept tax liability so the employer isn’t responsible for tax penalties.

For companies with large receivables, it may be more efficient to have a lockbox or outsourced collection system. Bankers can greatly reduce time and efforts for clients that have high receivables. Another area to outsource is IT. Businesses can outsource their IT needs to a third-party group in order to save time, headaches and money.

Creating Operational Efficiencies

Bankers understand cash and business cycles. They can help a business create operational efficiencies in several areas, including payments, cash flow cycles, commercial cards, reconciliation and so on.

One example is the process of purchasing equipment. As businesses expand their work, make repairs or replace units, they may find themselves making multiple purchases throughout the year. Rather than go through the process of taking out a separate loan for each investment, companies should map out their anticipated needs for the year and take out a line that will cover all potential investments. Not only will this save time, but it also provides flexibility to buy new or used equipment and to proactively plan for capital expenditures they may want to make during the year.

Purchasing cards are another item to consider from a processing standpoint. Not only does the right program provide valuable rewards, but it also cuts down on check writing and provides increased flexibility in cash flow. Additionally, it creates a more streamlined tracking system for accounting departments. By allowing job numbers to be attached to specific expenses, companies can easily allocate costs to the appropriate projects, which results in more effective planning and budgeting.

By working closely with a banker, businesses truly have the opportunity to expand and grow through creating efficiencies in areas they never knew could be improved. Any operational, cash or risk management improvement will ultimately improve a company’s bottom line and their outlook for future growth opportunities.


Mr. Bibens is a treasury management officer for UMB’s Commercial Deposits department. He is responsible for providing consultative technology and cash flow management solutions to companies and public entities throughout the Greater Missouri area. He joined UMB in 2010 and has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry.



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Internal Fraud: How to protect your company

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You don’t want to believe it. But the numbers just aren’t adding up. You want to trust the people who work for you, but eventually you have to come to terms with the fact that someone in your company is stealing money. Not only does it hurt your business, but it’s often a heartbreaking realization for you as a manager or owner.

It’s not always easy to figure out who is the culprit, but there are steps you can take to detect and hopefully prevent fraud within your company.

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Dual control and separation of duties

Understand who is in charge of what financial responsibilities and make sure there are no gaps. Create a system of checks and balances so that the same person who is running payables (bills, invoices, expense reports) isn’t the same person who is reconciling the accounts (balancing the company checkbook, so to speak).

It’s also a good idea for business owners to review financial statements on a weekly or monthly basis.

Automated fraud detection

Consider implementing Positive Pay. This automated fraud detection tool is offered by most banks. It’s a relatively simple process. Your company issues checks every month and you send the bank a list of all those checks, including check numbers, amounts and payees. The bank makes sure the checks match up as each one clears. This eliminates any fraudulent or altered checks. Automated fraud detection is a great solution for companies as long as they already have dual controls in place.

Anonymous tip line

Businesses should also consider setting up an anonymous fraud tip line. Internal fraud is most often detected by a tip from another associate. As a business owner or manager, you can’t know everything that’s going on in your company. Giving your associates an anonymous way to notify you is a simple, effective way to detect internal fraud.

Other processes and procedures to consider:

  • Reputable third-party audits
  • Periodic reviews of policies, procedures and controls
  • Diversity of associates’ job functions, including rotation of job duties at times
  • Periodic spot checks of your account payables/receivables, payroll, etc.

Don’t think it will happen to you? Keep this in mind. 61 percent of financial professionals reported that their organization experienced attempted or actual payments fraud in 2012. And 26 percent of fraud is committed by an organization’s own associates (Source: Association for Financial Professionals). Even though you want to assume the best from your associates, you should have systems in place to ensure that you don’t become another internal fraud statistic.

 

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Mr. Bibens is a treasury management officer for UMB’s Commercial Deposits department. He is responsible for providing consultative technology and cash flow management solutions to companies and public entities throughout the Greater Missouri area. He joined UMB in 2010 and has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry.



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