It’s been a while since Craig Naylor-Smith had a supervisor standing over his shoulder to inspect his work. But today, the managing director of Finance and Administration, has agreed to swap the day job for the chance to experience a day in one of the firm’s busiest department where attention to detail is key – cheque processing.
Craig’s a familiar face at Parseq’s headquarters in Rotherham. He’s not the type of managing director who sits in his office all day, instead he’s a regular visitor to the departments he heads up. He prides himself on knowing his division inside out and for him that means regularly observing the shop floor and from time-to-time getting involved in – some might say instigating – the banter which echoes throughout office.
“Off the top of my head I can tell you exactly how many cheques we process in a year, a day and even an hour. I can explain in detail what the process involves from start to finish, what technologies are used and even how many people handle a cheque before the operation has been completed.
“In theory I know what’s involved, but never until today have I rolled up my sleeves and tested it out in practice.”
Craig’s first job for the day was to join the team in the lockbox cheque processing area.
By the time the cheques have reached Craig and the team they have already started their first stages of processing. Now its Craig’s responsibility to log the details onto Parseq’s specially developed system and run one of the many quality checks required before the cheques are packaged and sent to their final clearing stages. On paper that sounds like a relatively easy job, but in reality it’s a lot more complex.
“On an average day Parseq process over 35,000 cheques. That’s a lot of payments, especially when you consider the meticulous checks each cheque goes through to ensure our clients – which include Bluechip organisations and many of the top international banks and leading utility brands – receive their payments.”
As you can see, cheque processing requires your complete attention and focus, which is something Craig is just fully appreciating. There is no room for human error.
“Since working in this department I realise you need complete concentration to do this job. In the past, I have often stood and talked to staff who have been doing this process and never until now realised how annoying that must be.
“All around me people were logging their details and getting through page after page while I was still plodding through my first. I was slow, mostly because I was trying to make sure I was doing everything right – I’d never live it down if I got this wrong now would I?”
Fortunately for Craig he was assisted by two of Parseq’s most experienced processers, Sylvia Jackson and Kelly Mather. They shadowed Craig’s every move so each of the £558,228 worth of cheques he processed were 100 per cent accurate.
“Having Sylvia and Kelly watch over my shoulder to double check my work was as a strange feeling – one I hadn’t really felt since school – but it was also something I was incredibly grateful for.”
Next Craig tried his hand at encoding.
“Each cheque is processed through encoder machines. This method enables all the details to be read from the cheque and that all relevant information is captured and encoded. It’s a very technical part of the process, but luckily I was supported by Paul Jipson who talked me through every stage.”
In the afternoon Craig deals with the problem issues around cheque processing.
After a bite to eat for lunch and a quick scan of the emails mounting up in Craig’s inbox, he’s back to work. This time working with a team that deals with the problem area of handling cheque payments.
“Not all cheques can be processed via the specialist machines due to a number of factors we can’t control. The cheques that can’t need to be looked after by a specialist team.
“When a cheque has a problem, we handle these manually. This means that each and every detail needs to be carefully keyed in and logged by hand. It’s a similar process to that which I experienced in the morning, but it’s a lot more laborious and painstaking.”
Once this process is complete Craig spends the rest of the afternoon learning the ropes. He also takes the opportunity to talk with the team to find out what additional support they need, if improvements can be made and also what they enjoy about working for Parseq.
The clock strikes 5pm. It’s been a long day, but one which Craig insists he’s both enjoyed and found really inspiring.
“This will definitely not be the last time I do something like this. Today I’ve realised how important it is for both me and my team to spend time getting to understand exactly what makes our business tick and that means taking ourselves out of our comfort zone more often.”
Craig was so impressed by his supervisors during his time with the cheque processing team that he decided to give them a little reward – each was presented with a £10 gift card to spend in the staff canteen during their well-deserved breaks.
“Most people think that processing a cheque is a simple task. I can safely say through experience that this is not the case. It’s skilled and requires unwavering attention to detail. What’s more, it’s a task that is vitally important to both our clients and our business.
“I’m really proud of the results we achieve for our client and the people that make this happen.”