Blackpool Council is a local unitary authority located in the North West of England on the Fylde Coast.
As a public sector organisation, Blackpool Council is responsible for ensuring that all of its 142,000 residents benefit from its services and that direct debit payments made from the Council to community members and vice-versa are transferred smoothly and without failure. In order to improve its financial management processes, Blackpool Council implemented COA Solutions’ financial management system in 2001 to manage all ledger items and to keep track of all financial transactions. In 2009, the Council recognised the need to further improve its financial processes and chose Experian Payments’ Bank Wizard solution to validate bank account details at the point of capture.
Facing up to payment challenges
Prior to the implementation of Bank Wizard, Blackpool Council experienced a large number of failed direct debit payments. This was mainly due to the lengthy manual processes involved in setting up payment instructions and incorrect data supplied by local residents, which resulted in inaccurate customer bank account details being recorded. Bank account details that are not validated at the point of capture are costly and time-consuming to resolve, and may impact negatively on the customer service provided. As public sector organisations are under ever-increasing pressure to deliver efficiency and cost savings, the Council required a solution that helped to reduce the number of failed payments, as well as the associated costs and time taken to reissue rejected payments. In addition, the Council needed a solution that was compliant with Bacs’ Automated Direct Debit Instruction Service (AUDDIS) to send or cancel direct debit instructions to customers’ bank accounts electronically, instead of using the traditional paper format. It was also important that the solution integrated seamlessly with COA Solutions’ existing system.
The solution - Bank Wizard
In 2009, Blackpool Council implemented Experian's Bank Wizard which has over 80 per cent coverage of worldwide SWIFT payments and has been implemented by some of the largest users of automated payment solutions. Bank Wizard ensures the accurate recording of bank account details and checks the validity of payments data before it is submitted to an automated clearing system such as Bacs, Faster Payments or EBA STEP2. The solution also helps improve Straight-Through-Processing (STP) rates by reducing errors in data up-front in the payment process.
Benefits - Reducing the number of failed payments and increasing efficiencies
Prior to implementing Bank Wizard, Council staff had to spend a significant amount of time contacting individual residents to rectify incorrect bank account data. This meant that payments for trade refuse, council tax, business rates and leisure memberships often needed to be cancelled and reinstated, causing unnecessary delays and additional work for Council staff. Following the implementation of Experian's solution, however, Blackpool Borough Council is able to identify duplications or errors in residents’ payment data, reducing the amount of failed direct debit payments by 80 per cent. In addition, the Council has reduced the amount of manual intervention and time spent inputting bank account data and initiating payment instructions by 40 per cent. Bank Wizard has removed the problem of managing updates to complex and constantly changing payments data within the Council’s existing financial management systems, avoiding duplication of bank account details or errors in the database. With major regeneration projects for schools and highways being planned and carried out in the area, Experian's solution also enables the Council to process more invoices in a shorter amount of time, helping the region to progress quickly with important improvement works.
"Implementing Bank Wizard for our direct debit payments has resulted in a substantial decrease in the number of returned payments for services such as Trade Refuse, Council Tax, Business Rates or direct debits from our local leisure facilities. We have also been able to remove paper and manual intervention from our payment processes, significantly improving our customers’ experience by speeding up the payments process."
Transactional Services Manager