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Focus on Eight Expenses to Improve Your Bottom Line

Published: August 22, 2016 Full Article

In the world of banking or in any industry for that matter, most executives’ attention goes to the core elements of the business, and for good reason. Modernizing and marketing services; expanding one’s customer base; training and retaining employees – these are the factors that determine long-term success and profitability.

However, minor expenses and inefficiencies can sometimes go unnoticed, and over time these fixed costs can get out of control. In my line of work, we look at the “bottom 10 percent” of expenses for banks and other companies with multiple locations. These expenses include routine operating costs such as your phone service, electricity, maintenance plans and others – basically anything where a vendor or service provider is sending a monthly bill.

A dollar saved in one of these areas is worth just as much as a dollar earned elsewhere, and often much easier to obtain. In particular, there are eight areas I would recommend focusing on the most.

Telecom

Telecom is a broad and varied spending category with complex rate structures and billing practices that can make it hard to treat with proper scrutiny. Whether it’s your landline phones, conference lines, internet service or even security alarm services (many of which are bundled with telecom plans), there are bound to be billing errors and unused services adding to your costs.

It’s important to keep an eye out for wireless expenses in particular, because corporate cell phone plans tend to include many unneeded features, like GPS navigation, which are added by default and result in an extra monthly charge even when they’re not being used. Landline phone bills also often contain unauthorized third party charges, a process known as “cramming,” which costs Americans $2 billion a year. These charges are difficult to spot, but a thorough audit could yield some considerable refunds.

Armored Cars

With the complicated billing style of most armored car services (including change fees, drop safe or smart safe service, liability amounts, per bag/minute charges and fuel surcharges), overcharges have a tendency to wind up on monthly invoices. For example, if annual price increases are contractually limited to 10 percent, do you have someone who is keeping up with this and who would notice if rates go up by 25 percent? It’s important to always check your service contract to make sure your armored car carrier is in compliance.

Negotiating for a better rate can also yield savings in this category. There are only a few mainstream providers (Garda, Dunbar and Brinks dominate the market), and some may not service your area. However, there is usually at least one competitor in most markets and it’s worth reaching out to them to solicit a bid for your services.

Document Storage & Shredding

Dealing with paper documents is still a big part of banking and many banks rely on third parties to handle archival document storage and shredding. You may be paying a sizable monthly fee for documents being stored off-site, and these costs are often out of sight, out of mind. Bringing in an outside expert with knowledge of operational and regulatory requirements can be helpful to periodically evaluate which documents need to be kept and which can be purged. It would also help to look at the size and shape of the containers you’re using, both for archival storage as well as shredding, because each is typically charged by the cubic foot.

Waste Removal & Recycling

We have found that 82 percent of our clients overspend on waste removal services due to inefficient pickup schedules. Haulers charge by the pickup as well as by volume, so your pickup schedule needs to accurately reflect each of your locations’ actual waste volumes in order to be most cost-efficient.

Waste haulers are also notorious for charging deceptive fuel surcharges and landfill fees that aren’t mentioned in their service agreements or exceed the allowable amounts of the fees that are authorized. Bringing in an experienced consultant to audit your waste services and negotiate a better plan with your hauler can yield big dividends because there is great opportunity to save in this category.

Maintenance Contracts

Maintenance contracts are a broad spending category and can include anything from generators to drive-through equipment, floor cleaning, landscaping and HVAC. Many companies entrust lowerlevel employees with approving “small” maintenance contracts, adding up to no more than a few hundred dollars per month. These companies often don’t consider that these costs can easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over just a few years. So, if you wouldn’t trust a certain employee with a $100,000 purchase, why let them approve contracts that could lock you in for even more? Doing a comprehensive review of these contracts and renegotiating them could save you thousands.

Mail & Shipping

You cannot change the price of a stamp, but there are still plenty of opportunities to cut your mail and shipping costs. For instance, postage meters are typically provided by a private-sector company and their fees for equipment and services are open to negotiation. For express parcel shipping service, you can often claim credits or refunds when packages aren’t delivered on time, so make sure you are tracking shipments and filing refund claims when possible. There are even automated tracking systems linked to your UPS or FedEx account, which identify such instances and automatically file claims. If you are not using something similar, you may be leaving money on the table.

Copier & Printer Leases

Most commercial printers and copiers are leased rather than owned, and these leases typically include a comprehensive suite of services, such as routine maintenance, tech support and consumable supplies. The lengthy terms of these leases mean they often avoid scrutiny, but when their renewals are up it is definitely worthwhile to review the services you are paying for and renegotiate pricing. Check with a knowledgeable source about competitive rates for your area to see if you have been overpaying. The payoff can be significant in the long run.

Utilities

Utilities, such as electricity, natural gas and water/sewer services, can be complicated and rate structures vary significantly from area to area. You should review your accounts to determine whether all charges are actually your responsibility, make sure meters are functioning properly, look for usage anomalies that might indicate inefficiencies or meter errors and ensure that all your services are being obtained at the lowest possible price offered by the utility. Major utilities like Duke Energy, Santee Cooper and SCE&G offer new pricing plans each year, but you cannot expect them to take the initiative to reach out to you to explain them. Being proactive can make a big difference over time.

What Is Next?

In conclusion, there are always more opportunities to save money than you might think. Whether you conduct an internal audit or hire an outside partner to do the legwork for you, the resources you spend will more than pay for themselves. The financial services industry is all about the bottom line and eliminating unnecessary expenditures is a great way to improve it.