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Edith Cowan University (ECU) is a large multi-campus educational institution based in Western Australia, with annual revenues in excess of $370 million and an asset base of $1 billion.

It has more than 23,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, with approximately 4,000 international students from more than 80 countries abroad.

In 2011, ECU tendered for the provision of Transaction Banking Services that would add functionality, improve on the efficiency of existing processes and realise reduction of overall administrative costs.

Most of the high volume incoming funds paid to the University consisted of student fees, course related fees, parking and administrative payments. A large volume of these transactions were processed as cash payments at the University cashiers.

International students predominantly made payments by electronic funds transfers using bank account details published on the University website. Payments were often made with details not matching the student records which mostly required ECU staff to spend a great deal of time trying to match the payments with the payers.

These processes were staff intensive and often caused delays in allocation of some of the funds to the applicable students due to the lack of information.

With the new provider of Transactional Banking Services, ECU sought solutions that would eliminate the use of cash, and instead manage these payments via electronic and off-campus (such as bank branches) channels.

The transaction banking platform that was in use was not integrated with the University Finance systems and required manual intervention to upload payment batches and banks statements. With the new provider, ECU sought straight-through processing solutions that would link its Receipting and Finance Systems to its banking platform. 

CommBiz helps ECU go to the top of the class

The Commonwealth Bank’s CommBiz online business banking platform and related straight through processing solutions stood out as one of their key strengths.

The Bank’s solution addressed most of the challenges, was cost-effective, highly secure and met the University’s additional criteria of a transaction banking provider that offered a strong relationship – not just a service.

“Rather than having a single point of contact, who would then contact a subject matter or solution expert, during the implementation, we wanted to deal with a relationship team who were the subject matter experts themselves,” ECU’s Manager of Financial Services, Mehul Gandhi said. “The Bank has a relationship team based in Western Australia and, within the team, they had the relevant subject matter experts that facilitated a smooth implementation.”

Smooth roll-out of new solutions

Despite the implementation requiring a wide range of enhancements across the University’s campuses that involved staff at all levels, including changing corporate credit cards and introduction of straight-through processing, Mr Gandhi said the implementation process was “a lot smoother than we thought it would be”.

The ECU implementation of their Commonwealth Bank transaction banking solution was completed in less than three months.

Mr Gandhi said the Bank’s team attended ECU’s project management meetings and consistently offered effective solutions to deal with any technical issues.

"We received excellent support from the Bank. We faced a number of challenges on our side, and the Bank played their part extremely well,” he said. “We got the CommBiz platform up and running quite easily and concluded the transition to CommBiz quite smoothly.”

ECU’s cashless campus

As part of the solutions package to reduce the use of cash on campus, the Bank developed a customised solution that allows staff and students to make payments to ECU over the counter at selected Commonwealth Bank branches conveniently located near the University.

To make these payments, clients and students are able to make payment using their invoice or Student Identification Card.

ECU also implemented the Bank’s e-Lockbox solution which allowed electronic funds transferred to the University using bank details that are unique to the Student/Client and is automatically allocated in the University Finance systems.

The e-Lockbox solution meant that ECU could remove its bank details from its website and avoid the hassles of identifying a large number of unidentified deposits from students, parents and other parties who transferred money to the University. This reduced the time staff needed to correctly allocate payments.

"The Bank facilitated and trained tellers at six branches to receive cash payments for ECU from students and staff, who still wished to pay in cash,” said Mr Gandhi. “And they did this at no extra cost – it was an added part of their overall service offering.”

Straight-through processing and easier reconciliation

Switching to the CommBiz platform has enabled straight-through processing of payment batches and bank statements between ECU’s Finance systems and the CommBiz platform.

The implemented solutions have removed the need for ECU staff to manually upload payment batches and loading bank statements, making the processes more secure and efficient.

“One of our staff members spent two hours each day uploading and allocating incoming funds.” Mr Gandhi said. “These processes are now automated and run through an overnight process with all ECU Finance systems updated and funds allocated to the relevant student records.”

Building a partnership

One of ECU’s main goals in changing transaction banking providers was to develop a productive relationship with its bank. This was quickly achieved with the Commonwealth Bank.

For example, during the implementation process, the University received same day or next day answers to most issues it encountered.

"Even though the Bank is a large organisation, it has been focused on dealing with us individually, and finding customised solutions to our needs,” Mr Gandhi said. “This was exactly what we wanted from the relationship.”

A total working capital solution

The CommBiz online banking platform and e-Lockbox receivables solution implemented by Edith Cowan University is just part of an integrated working capital management solution with the Bank, including cash and treasury management, payables and receivables, and online payment solutions. ECU is continuing to work with their banking partner, the Commonwealth Bank, to increasingly innovate and enhance the student and staff experience, drive costs out of their operating model and mitigate risk.

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