How AgFirst Bank Ensures Compliance with Automation

Ensuring compliance in banking is no easy feat. It means navigating a complex labyrinth of laws and regulations. So how can leaders implement the right processes and governance to meet customer expectations and protect the business?

The answer is automation, and this article explains how one leading US organization is using automation today – along with the impact it is having right now on their business.

Bizagi customer AgFirst is a key part of the US Farm Credit System. AgFirst is a cooperative lender and business services provider to a network of farm credit associations in southern and eastern states.  The organization’s mission is to support rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services.

AgFirst has been using digital process automation to ensure that they are compliant with all regulations surrounding their lending practices. Business Solutions Manager, Kevin Backus, and Applications Programming Manager, Chris Miller, joined Bizagi for a live webinar to talk through how they ensure compliance using Bizagi.

To help you catch up, here’s a highlight summary of what they discussed…


How has your culture changed in order to ensure compliance in finance operations?

“We’ve recently moved as an organization towards a more agile approach to development and [Bizagi Modeler] feeds right into that extremely well. We’re able to build processes extremely quickly,” said Backus told May.

“We joke about the business process analysts not being able to keep up with the developers because as they get to the point where they’re able to crank out processes and feats extremely quickly and we just have to hang on for the ride.”

AgFirst must respond to constantly changing legislation, such as lending thresholds that change annually. So, it’s important to be able to keep adapting to remain compliant.

“The ability to react to change has been very valuable. We roll out a process and we try to make it as manageable as possible in production so that the customer can manage it as much as possible,” said Backus.

“We can create a global vocab that the customer can go in and update themselves rather than depending on us. This has been a big help for us staying on top of these ever-changing regulations that evolve over time,” said Backus.

One of the ways AgFirst enables agile working is by developing in 2-week agile sprints.

“Every time we’re doing a sprint review with the customer we’re able to show them quite a lot of new features and functionalities – that’s one of the things the tool gives us: the ability to turn around requirements pretty quickly and put new features in front of the customers to show them what it’s looking like.,” said Miller.

This helps the team to get constant feedback and work closely with the customers, integrating them into the development process.


How do automated workflows ensure internal compliance?

Prior to deploying digital process automation, AgFirst’s systems did not have an audit trail. This meant it was hard to track processes and prove compliance in finance and other processes. But now, the team can review work that has automatically been tracked.

“Having a strong SQL back-end and being able to track all the data changes throughout the process. The metrics with Bizagi are extremely valuable for us – it tracks completion times and who performs certain tasks,” said Backus.

“We are able to take that last little portion of the system development lifecycle of improvement by looking back at the process to see how it is behaving and always looking to improve things.”

agfirst process.JPG

Why is process transparency important across the business?

Since AgFirst began using process automation, it has helped ensure that tasks are completed and has brought clarity and consistency to the business.

“Process models are built to benefit users and also the technicians building the process and fosters good collaboration between the two. We’re striving to make Bizagi Modeler a standard for our entire district. That’s part of being a business-centric organization – modeling more and understanding what those models mean,” said Backus.

Miller explained that by setting standards around how AgFirst builds models ensures they’re easily understood.

“[The models] represent a great bridge between the business understanding of how the process works and the developers understanding how the process works. It’s the developers who are the ones that will take that process and turn it into a functional application.

“Being able to have both sides looking at the same thing is a big benefit. I’ve been in been in the application development business for 30 years now and that’s always a challenge – how do you get business and developers to see things from the same point view and be able to talk the same language so that you get consistent results?” Process modeling, that’s how.

Using the language of process allows for better collaboration as it acts as a mutual language between business execs, developers, and customers.

“That one version of the truth is so important,” said Backus. “Often there are times that we step back and just listen to the customer discuss the process – it allows them to boil it down to one way the process will work and that has been very beneficial.”


How does this impact regulatory compliance in practice?

Since using digital process automation across the business, AgFirst has seen a significant improvement in its regulation operations.

“The compliance consistency with all of our cooperatives have been improved dramatically,” says Miller. “They were a little bit on their own when they had these non-automated processes – you can’t do much to standardize them. We are now building processes that are similar in structure and the guardrails around the processes are standard and that’s been a big help to ensure consistency within the entire district.”

If you want to hear the full story directly from the team at AgFirst, you can listen back to the session any time you like. Simply watch the webinar on-demand below.