Clash of Systems

By Larry Barrett  |  Posted 2002-09-16 Print this article Print

Is a company's biggest asset really its people? Deutsche Bank didn't act that way after it bought underwriter BT Alex. Brown.

Clash of Systems

Another technology manager at BT Alex. Brown remembers the integration as being even more one-sided—and sees the inaction over Notes vs. Outlook as evidence that Deutsche Bank had something else up its sleeve. "Deutsche Bank wasn't too concerned about migrating the equities group to Notes because they figured most of that group would be gone soon anyway," says Ron Stein, a former technology manager in BT Alex. Brown's U.S. sales and trading technology department. He adds, "Deutsche Bank came into the merger with the idea that its systems were innocent until proven guilty."

Deutsche Bank declined to comment about the merger or the integration with BT Alex. Brown.

In fact, Deutsche Bank did close down its over-the-counter trading group in Baltimore this spring, leading to a mass defection of top executives—including former Alex. Brown CEO and Chairman Mayo Shattuck III, who left for Constellation Energy Group in Baltimore.

While Deutsche Bank made many of the right moves in the year after the deal closed—including identifying the managers who would spearhead the integration, and establishing a process for evaluating competing technologies—the groups within the combined companies continued to operate largely as independent entities.

For example, Deutsche Bank's equity research analysts used a homegrown application called R1 to generate research reports, derive earnings estimates and develop profiles of public companies in Europe. R1 also was used to ensure the company's trading practices were in compliance with regulatory standards. The Alex. Brown group, meanwhile, was using RDS, its own internally developed application, to do essentially the same thing.

"Even some of the Deutsche Bank analysts were in favor of using RDS, but it never happened because in Deutsche Bank's eyes the fact that it was a BT Alex. Brown product made it unacceptable," Allopenna says. "It was pretty clear that the U.S.-based product could more easily be deployed globally to start, and then we could go back and work on R1."

When word came down from Deutsche Bank that R1 would be the prescribed equity research tool, several BT Alex. Brown analysts simply refused to make the switch, arguing that they couldn't do their jobs effectively with the new software. "In the end, we settled on using both," Allopenna says. "That was a pretty good example of how things went."

While Alex. Brown traders were using Bridge, an information service that provides instantaneous news, analytics and pricing information on world financial markets, Deutsche Bank traders were using a competing product called Triarch. The technology staff originally planned to evaluate both services to determine which should be kept and which discarded. No choice was ever made, however. Reuters bought Bridge Information Systems last year, and now owns both Bridge and Triarch.

Senior Writer
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.

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