By Patrick “PJ” Schunke
Convincing a financial institution’s board of directors to convert to a paperless system of communicating may not be the easiest thing to accomplish. But in the long run, board members both young and old, the tech-savvy and the not-so-savvy, will appreciate the benefits of a secure board portal.
What is a board portal? It is a Web site designed to facilitate delivery and tracking of board information with the capability to work on many platforms. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has put increased responsibility upon many boards of directors to fulfill their fiduciary duties to stockholders. This has caused many boards to seek additional outside, independent members. Ultimately, this means a greater frequency of meetings; amplified, wide-spread communication; and increased document review. A board portal securely supports communication and workflow for these boards.
It’s no small trick for a board secretary to pull together the monthly board meeting. The volume of information that needs to be gathered is overwhelming and often last-minute. Some board books can run up to 200 pages or more. With a board portal, there is a considerable improvement in time management. There is no more waiting for all the pieces of the board book to be put together, duplicated and then mailed out. As pieces of the book are finished, with only a few keystrokes they are uploaded to a secure Web site that all members can access. Earlier distribution means more lead-time for board members to review documents, digest information and leave valuable meeting time for decision-making.
What will board members find there? In this day and age, when board members have more responsibility than ever, the ease of use and accessibility of board portals make them more attractive. Members can access the secure Web site from anywhere via their laptops. There they will retrieve timely and confidential documents, contracts, policies and board-related information.
A board portal such as Financial Services Inc.’s Director Access tracks and archives user information, providing an audit trail for improved accountability and documentation in accordance with regulatory compliance requirements. Board members can communicate with one another via a confidential, internal messaging system. The portal is a secure repository for all current and archived board documents; this makes referring to past meeting’s minutes a simple task. Members are notified by alerts when new documents are available for review. They also have the ability to comment on and track the access and routing of information. Day-to-day approvals are time-stamped and logged with a single click. A centralized calendar of events with alerts eliminates the need for endless phone calls to reschedule meetings.
What makes board portals even more attractive is the security they offer. One of the most common means of electronic communication is e-mail. What most companies don’t realize is that e-mail is unencrypted and easy to intercept. The last thing you want would be highly confidential information about your bank passing through unsecured e-mail channels on their way to a board member’s Yahoo! account. Board portals offer two-factor authentication and encryption of all sensitive information.
While IT experts value the security of board portals, corporate secretaries see them as time-saving tools that they may not be able to live without. From either point of view, this alternate approach to the traditional paper-bound board book offers more features and increased functionality than your board of directors thinks they need. Once the ease of use, time- and money-saving values are realized, your members will have a competitive edge in the marketplace, forging ahead with ground-breaking technology.
Patrick “PJ” Schunke is president of Financial Services Inc. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.