Never in human history has such advanced technology been available to so many. We unlock our phones using facial recognition technology, check the weather using our voice, and operate home appliances remotely. With so much incredible technology available to all of us, why are we still relying on old fashioned technology like spreadsheets at the office?
From loan portfolio management to covenant tracking, bankers everywhere are using spreadsheets to track, compile, and organize important data. In our view, this is a serious problem, as spreadsheets can represent a significant threat to your organization. Here are 8 reasons you should ditch spreadsheets and upgrade your software systems to mitigate risk at your bank.
- Poor security
Spreadsheets have limited security options, and files can easily be emailed outside the organization. This is a violation of GLBA/NPPI regulations, and we are routinely surprised to receive emails with GLBA data included in attached spreadsheets.
- Prone to manual error
Copy and paste issues are a common problem that can lead to material errors in board reports and call reports. And the opportunity for simple mistakes, like deleting partial rows, is extremely dangerous. We’ve seen at least one case where a user deleted information and “shifted cells up”, which then attributed the balances and addresses of accounts to the wrong customers. The bank only realized the problem when they started getting calls from customers complaining about incorrect statements. Not good!
- Risk of data loss
Spreadsheets are often stored on a shared drive, or worse, a local hard drive that may not be backed up or properly secured. Bank employees are risking data loss by choosing to store critical information in spreadsheets stored in unmanaged locations.
- No access control
Spreadsheets offer few controls on who can read, update, and delete data, compared to a multi-user software system where varying levels of user privileges can be established.
- No data versioning
Users can’t easily see prior versions of data without saving multiple dated copies of the same spreadsheet. There’s also no audit trail, so there’s no way to tell what was changed and by whom. This is a common criticism from examiners and auditors.
- Single user model
In most spreadsheets, only one user can edit the information at a time, leading to data locking or a “last one wins” model for data entry. This discourages collaboration and again risks data loss.
- Data is not easily reportable
It’s difficult to report on data that is buried in spreadsheets. If a spreadsheet is acting as the “system of record” for key data values across the bank, this can present real headaches for enterprise reporting. How many hours are wasted “rolling up” data in spreadsheets for monthly reports?
- Data is not easily integrated
Spreadsheets are static and can create “mini-silos” of information that it difficult to share across systems. Poor system integration is a key problem in today’s community banks, and the widespread use of spreadsheets is only compounding the problem.
How to minimize the use of spreadsheets
With all the problems listed above, it’s easy to see why spreadsheets are less than ideal and should be avoided if possible. So, why are they so prevalent in banking today?
For starters, it’s important to recognize that spreadsheets are probably not the first choice for most people. Their use is predicated on the fact that many banking systems are outdated and difficult to use. Because core banking systems can be frustrating and limiting, many bankers feel they have no other option than to use spreadsheets to track and report on critical information. It should be noted that this problem isn’t limited to smaller community banks. In working with larger banks across the country (over $10B), we’re always surprised to see a reliance on spreadsheets.
No matter the size of your organization, the key to avoiding spreadsheets and their related problems is to upgrade your technology stack with more modern solutions. Systems like BankPoint can provide unparalleled data visibility across your organization while providing an outstanding user experience through an intuitive user interface. The result is happy employees that are empowered to do their jobs better and faster.
Spreadsheets can be useful tools for organizing data. But relying on spreadsheets to manage critical data at your bank is a recipe for disaster. By upgrading your software systems, you can help eliminate spreadsheets, thereby minimizing risk and achieving better outcomes for your bank.