We recently held our first MCST Digitalisation webinar, with our very own Chief Marketing Officer Russell Kok and Customer Success Lead Tan Yisin sharing some insights on the rapidly growing industry. If you didn't manage to catch the webinar, fret not! Here is a recap of the webinar:
Host: What is Digitalisation? What does it mean really? Especially in the context of a strata-titled estate, like a condominium?
Russell: So there’s a lot of work involved in managing an estate. From creating and sending out the bills, collecting the payments, managing the accounts and all the maintenance and upkeep of the estate. Currently, most MCSTs rely on the manpower supplied by Managing Agents to get all this work done. But the cost of manpower keeps increasing and that’s where digitalisation comes in. If MCSTs use a modern ERP platform like Qornerstone Estate, it increases their staff productivity, helps to control costs and improves the satisfaction levels of residents.
Host: Can you give us an example of that?
Russell: Nowadays with e-banking, we have become used to being able to check account balance online and getting instant confirmation of payments. But you can’t do this with your condo bills. First of all, you only see your amount owing from a printed statement. And when you pay, you don’t get a receipt until your next bill. So either you wait and check your next bill in 3 months time or many people end up calling Managing Agent and some Mas can 50-100 emails or calls each day. So imagine how much time is wasted unnecessarily and the inconvenience to SPs.
Host: So how does the Qornerstone solution help in this case?
Russell: Well, to answer that question, I need to tell our audience what the Qornerstone platform is.
Qornerstone Estate is a modern, cloud-based ERP system that comprises a back-end with all the necessary modules for modern estate management and this is connected with a front-end interface comprising a mobile app called Qommunity Resident for owners and another app for Technicians and term contractors providing services to the estate.
Host: So how does this benefit MCSTs and owners in the estate?
Russell: Firstly, Qommunity Resident is a condo portal app in the true sense of the word. It allows Residents to transact electronically with the estate and access services. That’s because it’s connected to the back-end ERP. That means bills generated on the back-end can be immediately received and viewed thru the app. Likewise, when owners view and pay the bills, the back-end system updates their balance immediately and issues the receipt. Owners get immediate confirmation of payment on the app.
Host: Thanks for that explanation. We’re now going to do a live demo of what we call our QuickPay solution, which allows SPs to pay quarterly bills and facility booking using DBS Paylah from within Qommunity Resident app or by using any PayNow enabled banking app. To do this, we have Tan Yi Sin, Customer Success Lead.
Yi Sin: Good morning everyone, I’m now going to show you how I can generate an invoice from Qornerstone, push it out to Qommunity Resident and pay using DBS PayLah. Lastly, I will show you how the system reconciles the payment immediately, issues the receipt and sends a confirmation to the SP.
So you see, the entire process was largely automated with no data entry inputs. This eliminates data entry errors and mitigates the risk of estate records like paper receipts getting lost and SPs getting billed twice because their payments were not recorded for reasons such as forgetting to put their unit number.
Host: Thanks Yi Sin. So what we saw was hugely impressive and offers a lot more convenience to SPs, but Russell surely this benefits the MA more right? How does it benefit the MCST?
Russell: That’s a great question. It’s really inefficient and costly to collect monies by cash and cheques – whether it’s direct costs like transport costs to bank-in cash and cheques or indirectly thru the MA fees charged to cover the cost of inefficient accounting processes.
Take payments collection as an example. Right now, SPs pay by cash, cheques or bank transfers which need to be manually reconciled line by line from the bank statement, then the MA can issue the receipt and update the owner balances. Can you imagine how painfully slow and tedious that process is, especially if the SP forgets to indicate their unit number.
And that’s before taking into account data entry errors, which almost always happen. When Receivables and Payables are managed manually with cheque payments, closing the accounts every month takes a long time and forms a significant part of the monthly MA fees.
Host: So what happens if, for example, a receipt goes missing before the finance team gets to update their records? Has that ever happened?
Russell: It happens. Receipts, especially paper receipts over the counter go missing all the time. It’s bad enough when it happens because of mishandling but it’s much worse to the MCST if receipts are deliberately destroyed to cover up fraud. In just the past couple of months, I heard of 2 cases of fraud involving fake receipts and the owners had to pay double.
Host: Oh that sounds terrible. I’m sure they must have made a lot of noise!
Russell: Yes, I’m sure they did. That’s why it’s important to move to e-payments, especially an automated e-payment and receivables solution that’s offered on Qornerstone Estate. Doing so means you no longer worry about losing paper receipts and having to write off Receivables.
Host: Any other benefits of moving to e-payments for the MCST?
Russell: With cash and cheques you always worry about fraud. Cash payments made over the counter particularly. It’s rare for MFSF payments to go missing because the SP can be relied on to raise the alarm when they get their next bill. But cash payments for facility bookings and 2nd carpark tend to be small and these are cash receipts, which are easily forged. I mean you can just go into any stationery shop, buy a receipt book, and use that to issue your own receipts to the SP and pocket the cash. No one will be any wiser. Moving to QuickPay eliminates all that.
Host: Earlier, you mentioned e-payments for accounts payables. Is that possible on the Qornerstone platform and how does that help MCSTs?
Russell: If your estate is still using cheques to pay suppliers fraud is the most immediate concern. Cheque fraud is quite prevalent - you can just do a google search and you’ll see what I mean. All the cases you’ll see are just those that are reported and prosecuted on. There are many others that don’t make the news because the amount is small or restitution is made. There are 2 ways cheque fraud can happen. One is from forgery – either by forging the signatures or changing the payee name or amount after the cheques are signed. The other way cheque fraud can happen is by lack of process controls. If one person approves the supplier invoices and the same person prepares the cheques, then that’s when fraud can happen.
Host: I didn’t know that the same person supplying the cheque is also the same person to approve it! Has there ever been an incident where people took advantage of this process?
Russell: The most famous MCST fraud case in Singapore involving more than $3 million dollars lost happened something like this. The perpetrator was the building manager who created his own company with a name that sounded similar to an actual supplier, then proceeded to pay to the fake company. Council members were signing the cheques and didn’t notice the different names.
Host: So how does Qornerstone mitigate this?
Russell: Well firstly, the invoices are keyed into the system directly by the suppliers, not only does this increase productivity of MA staff, it also mitigates the risk of fraud. The suppliers key in their supplier invoice details together with their bank account number. Such that when the invoices are approved, the system generates the payment instruction file for the bank to pay directly to the suppliers’ bank account. The Council members check and approve twice – once to approve the supplier invoices, then another time to approve the payment. So by automating the process and introducing multiple checks, the risk of employee fraud is greatly mitigated.
Host: This sounds great but may be hard to visualise how Council members view and approve invoices. Can you show us a demo?
Host: So why are MCSTs still hanging onto the cheque books?
Russell: It’s physical so the perception is that it’s more secure. Yes, you can check the physical details are correct, but what is not so obvious is the process to create that cheque may not be secure. I mean there must be good reasons for most enterprises and companies have moved away from cheques to ERP-based e-payment systems. Bottom line is, approving payments using a modern ERP system and using e-payments, which always have an audit trail, is more secure than cheques.
Host: We don’t have a lot of time left but perhaps you can spend the last 5 minutes talking about work management?
Russell: Sure! So as strata lot owners and Council members, there are just 3 things to bear in mind.
- How well are my MA and my suppliers performing?
- Is the regular maintenance and equipment servicing, and even the cleaning and security guard patrolling being done properly and in a timely manner?
- Are Residents' feedback/complaints being addressed and fixed in a timely manner?
Right now, with paper-based processes, there is simply no way to objectively measure and answer these questions. How do you tell if your contractors are performing? It’s based on your perception, what you observe. But with a computerised work management system, the conversation becomes one that’s based on data.
So for example each time a resident provides feedback on Qommunity Resident, that automatically creates a work order and the system will track how long it took for the contractor to respond and close off the work. The system also tracks and reports on the Resident's satisfaction ratings, which is the number of stars rating given by the Resident for each work order closed.
So here’s the kind of reports that your MA will be able to pull from the system. You can see the number of work orders not closed, type of breakdowns, scheduled maintenance work by calendar view as well.