Since its inception two decades ago, Sterling Bank Services has been providing security and ATM services to the largest financial institutions throughout the United States, and they are still growing.
Lost in the shuffle of such substantial operations, however, was its purchasing process. Far-flung employees had credit cards and made routine purchases – but there wasn’t any strict oversight. Sterling needed to establish strong internal controls to streamline its purchasing. Sterling needed Procurify.
Sterling Bank Services and Procurify run their newfound, streamlined purchasing process.
We’d like to start off with a discussion about your company. Can you describe what Sterling Bank Services does? And, can you give us a sense of the history of the company?
Sterling Bank Services has been around , in one form or another, for about 20 years. We started off in guard services – foot patrol, that type of thing. Over the years, we have evolved and eventually got into the banking industry. Really, the core focus of our company is services to some of the nation’s largest financial institutions and their contractors. Those services we provide are really divided into two main areas: ATM services and electronic security services.
So, we provide services related to the exterior maintenance and upkeep, as well as compliance issues for a nationwide fleet of ATMs. We also perform fire and burglar alarm inspections for financial institutions and a few other markets in the United States.
Can you describe the size and scope size of your purchasing process? Who oversees it?
Before Procurify our procurement was pretty haphazard and pretty loose. From a total purchase volume, if you look at expenditures made on an annual basis, I would say it is around US$3.5 million. For the most part, our historical purchasing system was simple – people had credit cards, they filled out expense reports and submitted it. And, there were only handful of vendors – one or two, really – that we had contractual purchasing relationships with. All the rest of our spending was done on credit cards.
So, what we’ve tried to do, and one of the main reasons we moved to Procurify, was that we had no purchasing system before. There was nothing in place that would be considered a classical purchasing system. Moving to Procurify has allowed us to have a set of controls in place – reporting and insight into how our spending is going that simply did not exist before.
And, historically, the accounting department oversaw the process because they ultimately paid the bills that came in. So, they were the ones that would raise questions and advise company leaders about what they saw in regards to spending. But, for the most part, oversight was pretty broadly spread out. It was managed by nobody in particular, but it was monitored by accounting.
In the current world, now that we have got everything into Procurify, the functionality of monitoring the system and reporting will be the responsibility of the accounting department.
Is there anything unique to purchasing at Sterling Bank Services?
We buy tools, equipment and supplies for our employees. In that regard our purchasing is fairly standard.
But, one of the things that we do, is we actually procure and obtain a large amount of inventory from our customers, that is owned by our customers. We use that inventory in the process of doing our jobs. Essentially, it isn’t a cost to us – it is materials and supplies that is provided to us – but we have to order those supplies, re-order them and supply estimates. But we don’t have to pay for it.
Sterling Bank Services is a large company, with users across the United States and multiple locations. Can you elaborate on the challenges of purchasing in such a large, widespread company?
We are in all 48 continental states and we have just expanded into Alaska – so , yes, we are a fairly big company.
The challenge for us is that we only have one physical office in the company. So, essentially all of our employees – field employees and field management – all work from home. There is no central location that they would go into. So, in the past, it was kind of the wild west when it came to purchasing. There was an expectation as to what you could buy and what was allowed, but, for the most part, all of our purchasing was post-purchase approval.
So, the challenge was that we really didn’t know what our expenses were until well after the month was over. That made things very difficult from a financial monitoring standpoint to understand where we’re going to wind up for the month and how much purchasing was being done.
As far as cultural norms or supervisions, there was no enforcement or no regulation when things weren’t approved. Now that we have moved to Procurify, there is a very strong expectation in the company to move as much purchasing and expense reporting through Procurify in order to have the controls that we lacked before. Procurify, being a web-based system and available on the phones and on the web to our employees that are remote, makes it very easy for us to have a central system that is distributed across the entire country for our workforce. The cloud-based model that Procurify offers really is the only way that we could get our company to work on purchasing.
You just touched on it, but I was wondering if you could quantify how important having remote access to Procurify is for your company?
It is absolutely essential. We do not provide any access for employees to remote or VPN into our central office. So, the only business model that we have for all of our remote, disconnected workers is web access.
Sterling Bank Services has an IT department with the resources to host technologies on-premise. What influenced your decision to go with a cloud-based software solution such as Procurify?
It was several things. We want to move more and more of our resources into a cloud-based environment because we do not want to maintain the staff or the computing resources in-house to support systems. So, even though we have the capability to spin up systems and to install software and to maintain that, we believe that it is a no-brainer to offload the software to a cloud-based provider.
And, finally, we believe that we will see the benefits of cloud-based software such as frequent updates more often than if we installed software on premise.
How did Procurify help?
The most clear and visible benefit of Procurify has been, thus far, on the expense report side. Just having all of our POs go through Procurify, as well as the implementation and recognition of the software has made people realize that they do have to put things in the system and they do have to get expenses approved.
The knowledge that the software is there, and that there is an expectation to use it, has caused purchasing control to be much tighter than it was before. The software is accessible – purchasing is no longer a back-office process, it is something that we extend to everyone in our organization. Procurify really takes purchasing from being a specialized back-office process to being something that is accessible to all of our employees and makes it possible for all of them to participate in the purchasing process. I don’t think that level of participation would be possible with a traditional ERP system.
Was there anything in particular about the Procurify experience that most impressed you, or that you found most beneficial? User experience? Customer Success? Onboarding?
The usability and the accessibility of the software is the number one reason we chose Procurify. The user interface and the simplicity of the software coupled with the ability to provide all of the core purchasing functions that we need was a huge benefit.
The onboarding process has also been great. Working with Kurtis Warren and Kenneth Loi and others has been a pleasure. The ability to contact someone directly within the software is especially important.