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Why Do So Many Banks Still Use Excel?

Excel worksheet on laptop screen

Many financial institutions still rely on Excel today, but its maneuverability also makes it susceptible to vulnerabilities. Here’s how no-code can help.

Did you know that Microsoft Excel played an important role in no-code’s history? First released in 1985, Excel was one of the first mainstream tools that allowed users to manipulate data without code. In fact, building on many no-code platforms today is quite similar to working in Excel. Excel has become one of the most essential and widely used computer programs in the world, averaging as many as 1.2 billion monthly users worldwide. Financial institutions, particularly commercial banks, have been using Excel to power operations for decades. 

Unfortunately, what made spreadsheets so revolutionary back in the ’80s is also what makes them incompatible with the needs of today’s modern banks. Let’s explore this a little more.

The (brief) case for Excel in banking

Excel spreadsheets gained early traction in the banking industry because they’re easy to use, easy to learn, and give non-computer experts the power to perform complex data analysis at scale. Banks can also use Excel spreadsheets to organize data for administrative purposes in many different ways, and it’s easy to reorganize information as needed.

You can perform basic math functions, automate calculations, and execute complex formulas with just a few clicks on Excel. These features make it fast and easy to crunch the numbers. 

How using Excel hurts modern banks

The problem with using Excel in banking is that many people don’t use spreadsheets as they were originally intended. Spreadsheets were designed to be fast and easy visual calculators, but many banks use them for complex business functions like tracking or storing large amounts of data. Some banks even use spreadsheets as stop-gap measures to plug the holes between various legacy systems

The problem with using Excel in banking is that many people don’t use spreadsheets as they were originally intended. Spreadsheets were designed to be fast and easy visual calculators, but many banks use them for complex business functions like tracking or storing large amounts of data.

When you don’t use spreadsheets as intended or rely on them for business-critical functions, you open yourself up to a whole host of vulnerabilities caused by:

  • Insufficient governance and control: It’s almost impossible to properly oversee workflows that span across teams, systems, and locations. This makes it difficult for financial institutions to organize and optimize their processes, let alone maintain centralized control.

  • Lack of transparency and auditability: Manual processes are notoriously opaque, and spreadsheets can reduce visibility for regulators, auditors, and other internal teams. This greatly inhibits decision-making, especially when it comes to evaluating and responding to risk. Data hidden within spreadsheets can also lead to fraud.

  • Higher rates of human error: Manual processes are inherently riskier than automated tasks due to human error, but spreadsheets can be particularly disjointed and unorganized. In addition to bogging down workflow systems, spreadsheets can also elevate security concerns and mask control issues.

  • Lack of resilience: Excel spreadsheets are often slow to adapt, update, scale up or down, and integrate into existing systems

All these business risks stem from the fact that Excel is highly susceptible to manipulation. Manual data entry and formula errors are easy for external bad actors to exploit, and the consequences can be costly. In 2014, a spreadsheet mix-up cost Tibco shareholders $100 million. Years earlier, in the infamous Allied Irish Bank case of 2002, a trader manipulated the spreadsheets used by their bank’s internal staff and deceived the bank of $700 million dollars.

Although Excel can open up numerous business risks, we don’t necessarily have to turn away from spreadsheet analytical models completely. After all, there’s still a lot to be said for the infinite formula combinations, instant grid computing, and ease of use that Excel offers. With no-code, there’s a better way to bank.

Dynamic Grid: The ease of spreadsheets, the power of no-code

When we created Dynamic Grid, we didn’t want to make just another spreadsheet solution for the web. We wanted to take everything that’s great about spreadsheets, combine it with the advantages of no-code and modern development practices, and help banks move away from traditional spreadsheets and manual operations. 

Dynamic Grid is a new high-performance grid component that offers the spreadsheet-like experiences that banks know and love. With a familiar end-user editing experience using drag-and-drop functionality, Dynamic Grid offers inline editing, quick data entry, row grouping, and keyboard-based navigation all on a cell-like structure. Creators can use the column-driven configuration to create validation rules upfront, reducing user errors and improving data integrity compliance.

Dynamic Grid also leverages built-in support for data aggregation, filtering, and sorting. This allows end-users to explore, organize, and analyze their data in the ways that work best for them. You can even pivot your data in real-time using Dynamic Grid’s Pivot Mode. Dynamic Grid can also support all other Unqork components for deep integrations and even more complex use-cases.

See a demo of the Dynamic Grid in action.

Go beyond Excel with Unqork

Through modern no-code capabilities, Unqork makes it easy for you to digitize and re-platform your existing end-user computing platforms. By taking away the need to manually upload, export, and transform data into separate systems, Unqork enables you to optimize existing Excel spreadsheets and other legacy operations. Not only will this improve client-facing operations, but will also save your institution time, money, and resources.

Reducing your reliance on Excel spreadsheets and other legacy manual processes can dramatically decrease errors, diminish risks, and improve regulatory compliance. Through Unqork’s digitization capabilities and productivity features like Dynamic Grid, you can leave Excel behind and enter the new era of no-code-powered grids. 

Request a personalized demonstration with one of our in-house experts to learn more about the Unqork platform. Also, make sure to subscribe to the Unqork newsletter for more no-code news.