When the chief banking officer of a $10.3B community bank visited a competing super-regional branch in her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, she noticed something troubling.\n\nPiles upon piles of paper crowded the branch manager\u2019s desk and cluttered the nearby credenza. Set amid an open floor plan, the stacks of files left sensitive customer information\u2014business and personal, loans and deposits\u2014available for all to see1.\n\nToday\u2019s rapidly rising rate environment is driving activity across the country\u2019s 72,000 bank branches2. Those branches, and their operational sites and processing centers, are full of paper. As most banks maintain a hybrid of physical and digital records, front-line branch associates struggle to provide a friendly, frictionless customer experience.\n\nWhat the chief banking officer understood while visiting a competitor\u2019s branch was both the complexity and the necessity of digital transformation, including paperless initiatives. Her bank, currently undergoing an acquisition, has conducted five mergers in the past ten years and consolidated approximately 40 branches. In each case, they contended with volumes of new and decades-old paperwork.\n\nBy digitizing customer records, operational records, and legacy records, banks like the one led by the chief banking officer see improvements in key areas: accessibility, efficiency, and compliance3.\n\nConsider the following real-world scenarios.\n\n\u25cf A tier 1 North American bank digitally transformed more than 1,000 of its branches. They determined and executed a \u2018store versus destroy\u2019 strategy for paper documents based on client classification and record retention schedules4.\n\n\u25cf A global bank with more than 1,400 branches in Latin America indexed critical customer data. This freed up branch space by eliminating stored boxes of paperwork. They achieved a secure chain of custody with files in an electronic repository. The correct documents were then put in long-term storage to meet compliance requirements5.\n\n\u25cf A tier 1 US retail bank tackled paper at more than 5,000 of its branches. Information is now secure and easily accessible to branch associates leading to better customer service. The bank stored needed information and safely destroyed the rest6.\n\n\u25cf A large financial institution acquired a smaller bank. They organized and secured assets from 30 redundant branches and office locations to rapidly prepare for closures7.\n\n\u25cf A small regional bank securely disposed of IT assets across five branches and a data center as it began a massive upgrade to its backend and customer-facing technologies8.\n\n\u2018It\u2019s not really about the paper\u2019\n\nSome market analysts predict the extinction of paper banking in the next decade9. In response, leading financial services organizations employ cloud-based solutions combined with artificial intelligence10.\n\nOf the top 50 US banks, 46 work with Iron Mountain, a company known in the intelligent document processing and content services platform markets. More than 2,500 financial services institutions, almost all Fortune 1000 companies, and thousands of local enterprises rely on Iron Mountain\u2019s solutions and services.\n\nThese industry leaders are hastening a digital transformation\u2014one that promises to show a return on investment in less than 18 months, reduce the risks of non-compliance, and save 40% of employee time11.\n\nWorking with bank branches, Iron Mountain experts customize the right software implementation and integration with existing systems. Ultimately, they find the most efficient and risk-averse ways to scan, process, and securely store12 or destroy physical documents. Electronic information gets encrypted with restricted access and role-based permissions. Documents from other locations, such as cloud repositories, enterprise content management systems, and file shares, can be accessed for enhanced visibility and connection. Using optical character recognition technology13, documents are searchable by text or index, available for many file types and in many languages.\n\nThough reducing space-hogging stores of paper does shrink the branch footprint, \u201cit\u2019s not really about the paper. It\u2019s about the data within those documents,\u201d said Olivia Markbreiter14, a Principal Advisor at Iron Mountain.\n\n\u201cWhen you open a customer file, you really can be reading their life story: when they opened their account, if they have a spouse\u2019s account, if they have their children\u2019s accounts or a business account,\u201d Markbreiter said. \u201cSo, the challenge here is not just about paper but how we get all this data into a digital format and a unified customer profile.\u201d\n\nThat customer profile helps the branch optimize customer service, as does the use of technology to sort paper files rather than assigning tellers to the task.\n\nArtificial intelligence technology\u2014available in Iron Mountain\u2019s InSight15 software\u2014can spot elements such as names, Social Security numbers, customer ID numbers, check amounts, and addresses. Then, it automatically indexes records based on any specified criteria. This means legacy paper documents merge with online records for a more complete digital profile that can be queried, searched, and integrated with automated workflows.\n\nWhat\u2019s taking so long?\n\nIf digital transformation were easy, everyone would have done it by now. What makes the move to paperless uniquely challenging for banks comes down to three things.\n\nTime to play \u2018what\u2019s in the box?\u2019\n\nAfter years of supporting financial services clients with their digital transformations, the experts at Iron Mountain recommend a sensible and effective approach for bank branches.\n\nAn ideal starting point is to talk to a professional in this arena. Iron Mountain\u2019s team works with thousands of bank branches to consult and customize solutions that address objectives as well as pain points. They know how to reduce the risk and stress illustrated by the chief banking officer who witnessed an all-too-common scene of associates overwhelmed by paper. Not only will digital transformation declutter branch desks, but it will also enhance compliance, increase efficiencies, and protect sensitive customer information.\n\nFor more information and support with becoming a paperless branch, learn about the Iron Mountain Digital Bank solution.