AFM pivots with innovation to maintain customer service during COVID-19

With the onset of COVID-19, Accounting and Financial Management (AFM), had to pivot from a traditional office environment to remote work, which meant numerous changes in how they conduct business. This transition required innovation and a spirit of stewardship from AFM’s units, which include Risk Management, Payment Information, Bursar’s Office, and Cash Management.

Risk Management’s transition from primarily standard office workers to remote workers was seamless, according to AFM director John Walker.

“From the beginning, their goal was to provide the same level of service to customers as they had while working in the office,” Walker said. 

Walker said that Risk Management made certain that coverage was in place on several insurance policy annual renewals. These policies include automobile liability and physical damage, equipment, fine arts, Tenant and Users Liability Insurance Policy (TULIP), various general liability policies required by contract, and more. The unit also completed annual account certifications and fiscal year end processing and provided required reporting to The University of Texas System office in support of systemwide policies.

Additionally, Risk Management improved some of their other internal processes by logging and digitizing tort claims to allow easier and quicker access to historical tort files. They also moved to paperless approval of their *DEFINE vouchers and transitioned to paperless imaging on most of their voucher support. *DEFINE is one of the university’s financial systems managed by AFM. Walker noted that while a few tasks required a presence on campus, almost all of their work easily transferred to the remote office setting.

Payment Information also made changes to how they do business, Walker said. They started using UT Box to share information securely with departments. They moved all reports to an electronic format and converted their daily paperwork to PDF, which is then sent to imaging, eliminating the need to print paperwork. Their team also ensured effective internal and external communication by using Teams and Zoom.

The Bursar’s Office has maintained an on-campus presence during the pandemic in order to receive deposits, Walker said. However, they accommodate departments who are working remotely by accepting email deposits so that department staff do not have to come to campus when they have only credit card deposits. Similarly, if departments only have checks they can mail their deposits, eliminating the need to come to campus. 

“Even when the building was locked, the Bursar’s Office provided curbside service so those driving onto campus did not have to get out of their car to drop off deposits,” Walker said. 

After several years of attempting to move to a paperless office, Cash Management made significant advancements this year, according to Walker.

“Some changes were a result a commitment to get better at using and storing less paper, while others were a result of working remotely,” Walker said. “Areas where this is most noticeable are paperless outgoing wire approval process, paperless supporting documentation submission to the Image Retrieval System, and freed office space because prior years’ records were sent to storage or destroyed in accordance with retention rules. Cash Management staff were able to make a smooth transition to working remotely, with no work production issues.”

Cash Management also trained Bursar cashiers to enter Cash Receipts Voucher (CRV) data, thereby saving on the cost of at least one student assistant, Walker added.  

“Together, AFM has leveraged innovation and stewardship to continue their same level of service, while preserving university resources,” Walker said.