Student Loans Company

Topics: Records management | Risk resilience

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Personal Data Secured With Off-Site Storage

The Student Loans Company Improves Business Resilience As Iron Mountain Consolidates And Stores Loan Application Files

Challenge Lack of storage space for student loan applications forced reconsideration of long-term file storage arrangements

Solution Consolidation and off-site storage of confidential paper records featuring IM Connect™ and secure information destruction

Value More resilient and secure records management process has freed internal resources and accelerated document retrieval

“By storing our records with Iron Mountain we’ve massively reduced risk. Retrieval is much easier too. The IM Connect portal is fast, easy to use, and very effective – you just type in a box number and it turns up on site the next day.”

Kerr Clarkson
Facilities Operations Manager
Student Loans Company

Client

The Student Loans Company is a not-for-profit, government-owned organisation. Its role is to undertake the administration, processing and payment of loans and grants to students at UK universities and colleges, as well as the payment of tuition fees to higher and further education institutions. It works under the direction of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (for England), and the Education Departments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Challenge

Rapid growth in recent years, particularly since the increase in tuition fees, has seen the number of staff at the Student Loans Company Darlington site grow from around 650 to 1100 in just six years, with the organisation operating a three-shift programme so that applications are now processed 24 hours a day.

Each loan, bursary, or grant application generates a wealth of paper documents. Each signed application form needs to be supported by sensitive documentation to prove identity and residency, such as a copy of a passport, driving licence, or birth certificate. Additional paperwork, such as credit search results, is also generated. With around 1.3 million current customers and a further 2.8 million no longer in higher education but with loans outstanding, it means that large volumes of highly confidential files must be stored securely. Legislation demands these are retained for up to 25 years.

Records were being held in an area known as Building 13 at the company’s offices in Darlington, where its processing team is based. Part of the growing archive was stored in a rented warehouse nearby. With the onsite storage area and warehouse full to bursting, the Student Loans Company needed a new storage arrangement.

Solution

Iron Mountain was already the provider of records management services for the Student Loans Company’s Glasgow headquarters. As the contract was up for renewal, its procurement team took the opportunity to invite bids, incorporating the additional Darlington storage requirements.

Kerr Clarkson, Facilities Operations Manager at the Student Loans Company, says: “If we were to use an external storage vendor, we had to be sure that fast and easy access to documents would be maintained and that storage facilities could meet the high levels of security required.”

“We’ve now got a far more efficient and resilient process for the safekeeping of confidential files. Iron Mountain has a strong customer service ethic – always helpful, attentive and efficient. If there’s ever a problem I know they will sort it out and come back with an answer right away.”
Kerr Clarkson
Facilities Operations Manager
Student Loans Company

After fully evaluating the responses to tender, the Student Loans Company’s procurement team chose Iron Mountain. Kerr explains why: “Our experience of working with Iron Mountain as a Department for Business Innovation and Skills preferred supplier had been very positive. A site visit demonstrated that Iron Mountain’s processes and security arrangements were second-to-none, and its proposal was the most cost effective.”

Wanting to minimise the cost of document retrieval, the Student Loans Company set a policy of retaining six months of the most recent applications within easy reach onsite and moving the remainder into secure storage with Iron Mountain. In total, over 50,000 boxes of documents needed to be located, indexed, and moved. Working in close collaboration with Iron Mountain, the organisation developed a comprehensive project plan for the uplift and transition.

Iron Mountain provided three people to work with the Student Loans Company’s Darlington premises. Boxes of documents needed to be collected, barcoded, and cross-referenced with the original box identity and content data. Details were then entered onto IM Connect™ – the Iron Mountain web-based records management system – and the right retention dates added.

If any boxes appeared badly damaged, the documents were re-boxed and re-labelled to preserve their integrity. Batches of forty boxes were loaded onto pallets and wrapped for transportation. Typically, 26 pallets per day were moved to the Iron Mountain off-site storage facilities.

After ten days, Building 13 had been cleared of 9,000 boxes and the team moved on to the adjacent warehouse where a further 42,000 boxes of older records were held. Following a similar process, this warehouse was cleared over the following three weeks.

“The whole project went very smoothly and we didn’t lose a single box,” confirms Kerr. “We had a very clear process and the upfront planning and preparation really paid dividends. Iron Mountain was great to work with and we couldn’t have done it so effectively without them. What’s more, the project came in under budget.”

Value

The Student Loans Company now has a fully scalable records management solution capable of supporting its business for the foreseeable future.

Consolidating paper-based records off-site with Iron Mountain has also freed up significant space at the company’s Darlington site and largely relieved its own staff of the burden of managing its archives. “By storing our records with Iron Mountain we’ve massively reduced risk,” says Kerr. “Retrieval is much easier too. The IM Connect portal is fast, easy to use, and very effective – you just type in a box number and it turns up on site the next day.”

The cost of off-site storage with Iron Mountain has to a large extent been offset against warehouse rental and other internal cost savings, meaning that the project is largely cost neutral. However, some cost savings are evident because other Student Loans Company locations now benefit from higher volume discounts on storage charges for their records, enabled by the bulk transfer project.

A regular process is now in place whereby each month Iron Mountain collects and takes into store any records older than six months. This typically amounts to around 1,000 boxes. Files reaching their destruction date are flagged to the Student Loans Company by Iron Mountain and, after authorisation, securely destroyed.

Kerr sums up: “We’ve now got a far more efficient and resilient process for the safekeeping of confidential files. Iron Mountain has a strong customer service ethic – always helpful, attentive and efficient. If there’s ever a problem I know they will sort it out and come back with an answer right away.”

As well as off-site records management and secure destruction of unwanted documents, Iron Mountain also provides data protection services for the Student Loans Company. This involves a daily collection of back-up tapes from three data centres: two in Darlington and the other in Glasgow. In the event of data loss, back-up tapes can be delivered to any UK location 24/7 to enable systems to be restored.

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