Introduction of an electronic credit file at DZ BANK AG

Published July 2, 2024

Annika Dölle Growth Marketing Manager d.velop

Vera Buck, project manager at DZ BANK AG, gave a lecture this year together with Maik Schwitte, senior consultant d.velop AG, at the d.velop forum in Hanover. The event is over, the content of the lecture remains exciting.

We have been diligently writing down and “archiving” in this blog article how the “electronic credit file” project went at DZ BANK. Challenges, helpful practical tips and in-depth insights included.

The phases of the electronic credit file project at DZ BANK AG

The conception phase: what’s in it for us?

“Why should we introduce an electronic credit file?” Vera Buck had to answer this question to colleagues and superiors more than once. But she always had a good answer to this question. After a detailed concept study, she was sure that optimisation potential could be secured with the introduction of a credit file. Which exactly was recorded in the objectives of the project.

  • The electronic credit file creates a uniform file structure. Various filing systems are being standardised. Files that are stored in different filing cabinets are a thing of the past.
  • A central storage location ensures location-independent access. Employees no longer have to carry files around with them. In times of working from home and at different locations, location-independent access proves to be extremely practical.
  • Uniform rules for filing and authorisation concepts ensure quality. Establishing a filing standard in a paper archive proves to be very complex. If at all, this can only be achieved with constant control. With an electronic archive, a standard file plan is set up that specifies a file structure. This makes a uniform system possible across locations. Transparency and efficiency increase.
  • The electronic credit file reduces search and filing times. By indexing electronic files, they can be searched quickly. Documents are found with just a few entries. Search times are drastically reduced. In addition, a file can be accessed by several users, so that the file no longer has to be sent back and forth. Punching and filing paper documents is also a thing of the past.

In addition to all these advantages, the electronic credit file offers another long-term advantage that DZ BANK AG recognised straight away: it is just the beginning. The electronic credit file represents the basis for further digitisation projects. The foundation for a completely digital processing process has been laid with the introduction of the electronic credit file. The following figure makes this clear at a glance:

Analysis phase: Individual structures and requirements of DZ BANK

After a detailed assessment they decided to introduce an electronic credit file, the individual structures and requirements of DZ BANK AG had to be recorded. Every company is individual and has its own structures. This also applies to DZ BANK AG. An example: DZ BANK AG includes many different users – from analysts to loan officers to collateral officers. In addition, various filing systems have been established in individual departments and locations over the years. Through a merger with WGZ BANK at the time of the project, the number of users and files increased again drastically. In addition, the filing system of the two houses should be standardised in the future.

Individual structures result in different requirements for an electronic credit file. It quickly became clear that adjustments were needed to the standard software and the standard file plan of d.velop. How DZ BANK AG’s individual electronic credit file was ultimately implemented will become clear in the next section.

Implementation phase: Professional and technical implementation of the electronic credit file at DZ BANK

1. Basic philosophy

Basic philosophy – A term that may not immediately fit into the context of implementing an electronic credit file. This is a very important aspect. Because some principles should be established before technical implementation. At DZ BANK, such a basic philosophy was developed together with the d.velop team and thus provided guidelines for the entire implementation. Constant guiding principle: “A standard filing plan for everyone”.

2. File structure: Creation of a standard file plan for DZ BANK

Once the guidelines had been established, it was clear: a standard filing plan had to be developed. 

For those who are not familiar with the concept of a digital file plan : A file structure is firmly defined in a file plan. For example, if a user creates a customer file, the file structure of the standard file plan is directly available to the users. This file structure then serves both as a research option and as a drag & drop zone. Here is an insight into the file structure in the d.velop documents smart explorer. 

Own structures are completely denied in the DZ BANK AG system. Specially created “manual files” are not desired so that the new filing standard can be fully established.

At first glance, it can be assumed that there is no difference to a file structure on a classic server. However, this is in correct. In a file server structure, there is only one vertical level. With electronic files, on the other hand, files and documents are stored together. On the basis of this bracketing, new types of files are logically created. Based on indexing features such as “business transaction”, “contract number” or “collateral object”, all files can be searched in one fell swoop and the relevant document is quickly displayed. In addition, the documents are archived in a compliant manner, unlike on a server.

A digital file can be made up of many different sub-files. Even better, a specific document can be contained in numerous digital files and still only exist once in the entire DMS. This also ensures that users always have the latest document available in all files. A single point of truth.

3. Creation of files: Learn to index 

A new file is created in the process portal. For this purpose, a form was created based on the desired criteria of DZ BANK AG. This allows users to create files conveniently. Certain indexing features must be specified at this point. This is for easy searching and more precise identification. Many features are already filled out automatically by the system and only require a quick check. As a first bridge to the paper file, many characteristics were initially queried, very similar to the old filing structure. This happened at the request of the users. However, over time it became clear that so many features were not necessary and they were reduced.

4. Interfaces: Integrate existing systems sensibly

The electronic file should be ideally integrated into the existing systems. To make this possible, interfaces are required. At DZ BANK AG, interfaces to the credit template system and the master data system were created. The connection to the credit template system was made to ensure three synergy effects:

  • Enabling the direct storage of credit templates (including attachments) in the electronic credit file
  • Automated filling of the indexing mask avoids multiple entry of data
  • The interface is open in both directions: documents from the electronic file can be attached to a loan template

The connection to the master data system was necessary in order to process data from business partners when creating files and to implement the authorisation and role concept.

5. Access permissions: Who can see and edit what?

With 1200 users it requires a sophisticated authorisation system. To ensure this, the DZ BANK AG master data system was accessed. The supervisors encrypted in the system were used as the basis for the authorisations. The associated group including the manager is also entitled. Functional authorisations (read, change, etc.) are derived from the employee role. Access authorisations are updated on the same day.

Individual adjustments are still possible. The electronic credit file allows reading and editing rights to be extended or restricted at various levels. On the one hand, the approval of the delegation according to the four-eyes principle and, on the other hand, the flexible adjustment of those authorised to access without having to change the care types in the master data system.

6. Digitisation of inventory files: Say goodbye to paper

Over the entire project period, more than 38,000 inventory files and thus around 13.4 million sheets of paper will be digitised. These inventory files are scanned by a service provider. To reduce process costs, documents are also scanned in batches during inventory digitisation. Original documents are stored centrally. DZ BANK AG’s electronic credit file currently contains more than 600,000 documents.

DZ BANK AG has decided to forego a “residual file”. Employees will not receive their files back, meaning documents can only be found in the electronic credit file. The only exception is that original documents that need to be retained are kept in a central warehouse and documents continue to be stored in the vault.
In addition to indexing features, documents in the electronic file can also be searched based on document content such as individual words or text passages. A combination of full-text and index searches is possible. In the view, the search terms of the full-text search are highlighted in colour and can therefore be quickly located. You can navigate between the hit locations.

Piloting & rollout

Before the electronic credit file was introduced company-wide at all locations, a pilot test took place at one location. This approach was chosen to put the software through its paces. In daily use, scenarios may arise that were not considered in the conception phase. A pilot is suitable for such cases and for collecting further feedback. Adjustments can be made before the system is fully rolled out.

Involving employees: arousing enthusiasm among users

An important aspect that ran through Ms. Buck’s entire presentation was the involvement of future users and admins. The project depends on user acceptance. Many employees have been working with the paper files for decades. Replacing a tried and tested methodology in this case can cause upheaval. The critical factor is educational work, excellent communication and taking employees’ concerns seriously. Feedback from employees should always be obtained.

A pilot project can help to further increase user-friendliness and ensure greater acceptance among other departments and locations. It also helps not to completely change old processes in one fell swoop, but to proceed gradually. For example, DZ BANK initially made many categories available for searching and indexing new files in order to create a bridge to the previous filing system.

However, opening a parallel world is not an option. Paper files and digital files should not exist at the same time. A clear change is necessary in order to establish the innovation/new system company-wide and also to achieve the set goals.

Conclusion: Was the project a success?

The conclusion from the project? This can probably not be described better than with the final slide from the lecture. Because this makes it clear that all goals have been achieved.