How Banks and Credit Unions Could Improve Governance With a Board Portal

Nicholas J Price

Technology lets you talk on the phone while driving. In fact, technology can even do the driving for you. With a little help from technology, you can buy your groceries, pump gas, communicate with anyone (nearly anywhere in the world), and much more. If you counted the minutes in a day that you save because of technology, it would add up to quite a bit. Time is exactly what busy board members of banks and credit unions need. Board portals save time and money. They have all of the features board directors need, and the portal goes with them to their homes, on business trips and on vacation. A board portal relieves the worry about lost or stolen information and guarantees that board information remains secure. As if that weren’t enough, board directors no longer need a second suitcase for the average board book, which contains more than 325 pages.

Banks and credit unions face many risks and challenges in today’s financial sector. They often need quick access to documents and other board materials. Electronic folders put just the right documents at their fingertips in seconds. Board portals are so convenient and useful, are there any cons to using them? If you get the right board portal, there’s not really a downside.

Board Directors of Banks and Credit Unions Face Complex Issues

Changes in the economy and the financial markets have complicated matters for the boards of banks and credit unions of all sizes. Larger banks and conglomerates are finding it difficult to adapt to increasing regulations. Smaller banks and credit unions are finding it harder to compete with larger banks. Interest rates continue to rise, and the weak economy makes it difficult for smaller banks to stay afloat.

At the same time, banks and credit unions are finding it difficult to provide the level of technology that their customers want and need because of the cost. Customers want 24/7 access to their bank accounts, geographically convenient ATMs, electronic bill-pay options, mobile apps and more.

As with many other types of industry, the banking and credit union boards and C-suites are filled primarily with men. Board directors face many of the same issues as other industries in creating boards that are diverse and independent. Banks and credit unions are generally aware that they need to set or improve succession plans, but other goals often put this issue on the back burner.

Boards of banks and credit unions also have to contend with many different types of risks in their strategic planning, including:

  • Credit risk
  • Market risk
  • Operational risk
  • Liquidity risk
  • Reputational risk
  • Business risk
  • Systemic risk
  • Moral hazard

With so many issue and risk decisions for banks and credit unions to make, adequate time for strategic planning is a valuable commodity. Board portals make tasks faster and easier so that board directors can devote greater periods of time to strategic planning.

Board Portals for Banks and Credit Unions Create Value Over Cost 

Preparing board handbooks manually with paper copies and binders places a huge burden of time on the board secretary. Every time a board meeting approaches, the secretary spends countless hours copying documents, collating them and filing them into the proper sections of the handbook.

Updating a board portal requires some work on the part of board secretaries, but they only have to upload a document one time. Board portals allow secretaries to permit access to certain documents only to the people who need to view them.

In addition to the time savings, board portals provide material and environmental savings. Banks and credit unions save the cost of reams of copy paper, other office supplies and the labor to assemble board books. The savings can net banks upwards of $1100 per board meeting. Board portals are environmentally friendly as well. Banks and credit unions contribute less paper to the landfills, and they expend much less electricity to produce it.

According to a recent analysis by the magazine Bank Director, boards of banks and credit unions can save up to $10,000 a year by using a board portal. The magazine calculates the savings at 24% annually.

Bank Board Portals Provide Mobility While Improving Security

There’s nothing worse than the panic that a board director of a bank feels in learning that an important piece of paper is missing from the board book. This could happen easily enough with busy board directors who travel often for business and pleasure as they juggle suitcases and briefcases in cars and on airplanes. Board portals let busy directors access their board documents with ease on any electronic device, including their laptops, tablets and phones. Directors no longer need to lug heavy board handbooks through busy airports and risk losing valuable information getting into the wrong hands. Most board portals have a double authentication process with a user ID, password and scrambled PIN code, so even if an electronic device gets lost or stolen, sensitive board information remains safe and secure.

Time, cost savings, portability and security are important, and so is efficiency. Many board portals also have a built-in time tracker where they can track how much time directors are spending on board business. This is one of many features that help boards evaluate whether directors are dedicating enough time to board service to comply with proper governance principles.

Helpful Features of Board Portals for Banks and Credit Unions

When implementing a board portal, some directors who are not adept at technology may find that they have a learning curve. Some of the board portal options are quite intuitive and user-friendly. Most board directors adapt quickly with a little training and experimentation. Look for a board portal product that is easy to use and that has customer service support that is knowledgeable and available around-the-clock.

Board portals for banks are a single tool that stores meeting materials, communications, bylaws, archived documents and more in neatly arranged files. Directors of banks and credit unions agree that they need many of the features that board portals provide, such as board rosters, board biographies, electronic surveys, board votes and shared notations. Once they get used to the tool, board members appreciate the ease of posting news items, linking documents, sharing agenda items and calendars, and using the chat and email features. Premium products may also include offline capability, which is an important feature for many bank board directors.

As with most products that consumers buy, the cheaper board portals aren’t usually the best value. Board directors will spend much time on the portal, so it’s best to do a thorough review of the features, usability, speed and functionality before investing in a portal. The right board portal for your bank or credit union will do all that you need it to do and more.

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Nicholas J. Price
Nicholas J. Price is a former Manager at Diligent. He has worked extensively in the governance space, particularly on the key governance technologies that can support leadership with the visibility, data and operating capabilities for more effective decision-making.