With the UK professional service sector under severe pressure (Accountancy Firms making redundancies, shock horror) the Insolvency Practitioner finds himself in difficult territory; squeeze on fee income, increasing overheads and cases hard to come by, indeed corporate insolvencies are down 50% year on year in some areas.
Efficiencies are therefore sought after and technology is providing solutions, if only the insolvency industry was not so technophobic. In my 20 odd years in and around the profession I have witnessed at first-hand how misunderstanding and fear of loss of control have stifled areas of the insolvency process where technology could and is providing enormous returns.
Some truly scary examples include an IP who on being presented with a computer generated receipts and payments statement promptly gave this to his secretary to re-type, moved a couple of figures and then said when questioned “I never trust anything produced by a computer”!
Another IP has notes of phone calls dictated and then typed, hole punched and placed in the permanent file.
If only the industry could see that properly configured and controlled technology could revolutionise a practice and those same IP’s would see instant returns with throughput, error reduction and staff satisfaction all improving.
One of the major administrative tasks involves a tonne of paper work being sent to insolvent company creditors. Why waste time, the planet’s resources and the huge postage cost when the internet can be used to store, present and even allow data to be exchanged (just think, a creditor could lodge their own claim or vote at a meeting).
How many pieces of paper does an average IP firm see in a day? Each will need sorting delivering acting on and then filing. Document storage is now a reality and this is an area that some IP’s have taken on board. Scan your incoming mail, add to this outgoing documents and emails and the system will mean that we can end up with a “less paper” office (paperless is never a reality).
The internet has other uses in the process as well, notices and statutory adverts which have to be regularly filed can now be automatically generated, checked for errors and presented for publication with the various Gazettes and local or national newspapers.
It is hard to drag some firms into this brave new world and the area where most resistance is often met is in the area of finance. You may find it astounding but most firms (even some very large ones) still hand write cheques for making payment. At the basic end of automation, cheque printers are available that will produce cheques with a pre-worded and addressed letter; it is even possible to have signatures printed on the cheque.
Advances in security and banking systems mean that electronic banking is now a reality for most of us, the insolvency profession is yet to follow suit. Payments made at the click of a button and statements read electronically for automated bank reconciliation are just some of the benefits that could accrue.
As with a lot of industries there is very much a “wait and see” attitude in the insolvency market, once one firm is seen to be doing something different then others will follow. Who will be the first?
One excuse often given is that IP’s and senior staff are often not in the office and so cannot use “the system”. Advances in communications and devices able to access systems remotely, whether it is a smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop mean that anywhere anytime access is now a reality.
If as an industry we are to prosper then new technologies cannot be ignored forever, remember the first word processors, fax machines and emails. We all survived that and indeed are better off because of them.