In last week's blog I asserted that it is important for a medical practice to have a relationship with a good commercial banker. I listed seven bank products that are essential to operating any practice. A banker who knows your practice and actually comes by regularly is able to help you structure the bank products to minimize costs and maximize operational and financial benefits to your practice.
A comment on the blog reminded me that there is another reason to have an active relationship with your banker: Things are constantly changing and your practice needs an expert resource who will keep it informed of new products. Brent Cockerham, a commercial banker with BB&T, alerted me to a product I had never heard of before.
According to Cockerham, there is a service that allows a practice to deposit cash directly into a safe or vault within the office, yet have immediate access to those funds through its operating account at the bank.
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The cash vault requires a relationship with a cash courier like Loomis or Brinks. The cash courier leases the practice a small vault equipped with a currency scanner. The cash is counted as it is scanned into the vault; a deposit is immediately made into the practice's bank account; and responsibility for the cash transfers to the bank. The bank takes care of scheduling periodical cash pickup and delivery to the bank. If the practice needs some cash on hand to make change, it can be replenished when a pickup is made.
An alternate solution for practices that don't receive a high volume of cash is to buy a small vault and engage a cash courier for periodic pickup and delivery service. The practice does not get the benefit of immediate deposit, but the cost is lower. Deciding which way to go requires a simple cost-benefit analysis.
Vendors can tell you the costs. Here are just some of the benefits:
• Staff members do not have to leave the office to go to the bank.
• The practice is not a target for robbery because the cash is inaccessible, except to an armed cash courier.
• The cash is not subject to pilfering, as in "I need $10 for lunch, I'll pay it back tomorrow."
• It is easier to segregate cash handling duties, which reduces or eliminates the opportunity to embezzle.
• Staff members are not exposed to the threat of a robbery in transit to the bank.
I hope you noticed that none of these benefits involve direct cash savings. It is a common problem that the costs of products and services are very well known and require an outlay of real dollars, while the costs of operational benefits are more often denominated in "soft dollars" - i.e., staff time that can be deployed to higher value activities. That does not mean the costs are not real and substantial.
If you are not comfortable estimating the soft costs and soft benefits, or are just not interested in the exercise, ask your vendor (in this case your banker) to develop the analysis and see if it makes sense to you. It may well be that the product or service would cost you more than it is worth.