By Edward Cone Print this article Print

FleetBoston Financial's bottom line is getting hammered. So Fleet is using ERM technology to ensure its commercial bankers can act quickly to serve the needs of the most profitable customers.

: Tailored to Fit">

ERM: Tailored to Fit

The nation's seventh-largest bank, formed by the 2001 merger of FleetBoston and Summit Bancorp, began rolling out the banker portals late last year. As of April 1 there were 600 users on the system, with 200 more in training and a total of 1,500 expected by the end of this year. By the end of 2003, all 3,000 lending officers on the commercial side of the Boston company will have access to the tool via their browser.

The ERM product is a follow-on to the implementation of Siebel's eFinance software, another portal-driven management application that gives Fleet's sales force access to product, marketing, and customer data on the same screen. That package was rolled out to Fleet's corporate banking sales force in November 2000, after eight months of development and customization by Fleet and its integrator, Watch Hill Partners.

"We sort of customized it to make it work the way our sales force works," says Dean Athanasia, managing director of FleetBoston's Strategic Marketing Group. This special development group, which handled the eFinance and ERM jobs, was created two years ago within the bank to get sales and marketing systems deployed faster and cheaper. Fleet's modifications to eFinance concerned loans, on which companies pay interest to Fleet, and the sale of noncredit financial products such as cash management, which earn or save the corporate customers money. With this modification, it was possible for corporate relationship managers to get all their information about possible sales opportunities in one place.

"This is something we use on a day-to-day basis," says Benham. "You have to understand the goals and business objectives of your customers and see what best meets their needs. If we haven't gotten, say, foreign exchange business with them, why not? We can look at call reports, project the profitability to us, and see who the right people to call are, here and at the company."

Athanasia has hired several former lending officers for his team, which works with both technology and product specialists. "This is not just the technology people or the business lines developing a project. We are focused on the whole picture while business groups tend to focus on their own immediate problems."

Watch Hill cofounder Seth Henry says the projects benefited from an iterative development process favored by both FleetBoston and his company. That allowed frequent testing of the system at different stages of its development to avoid committing to fixes that weren't going to work. "We spent less than the industry average for this project because we knew what we wanted," says James Eardley, FleetBoston's director of sales and marketing systems.

The modified eFinance system was deployed first, starting in November 2000, in order to tie together the sales pipelines for loans and corporate products and to help corporate bankers track the relationships with their customers more accurately and cross-sell more effectively. But the eFinance system didn't tie the whole picture together in an easy-to-view-and-approve manner. And once managers got a taste of what was possible, they wanted more. "Our officers wanted information on profitability and history," says Athanasia. "They wanted to conduct business online, approve deals, file deals."

Those functions and the related customer data resided in other applications—the company's internally-written customer data application, called the Customer Linking Utility (CLU); in its document management system, based on FileNet; in its MicroStrategy business intelligence application, and in its Siebel Vista sales force automation application. And the software to approve deals electronically hadn't been built yet; Fleet's developers are now writing the code for an electronic approval system.

To give all of Fleet's loan officers, managers, and others responsible for handling corporate customers a complete picture of the bank's dealings with each customer could have meant rolling out interfaces to all of these applications, at considerable cost.

Instead, they turned to Siebel's browser-based employee portal software to pull in the data from eFinance and the other corporate banking applications, as well as external data on customers like industry news and financial profiles from news sources and other digital content.

This article was originally published on 2002-04-12
Senior Writer and author of the Know It All blog

Ed Cone has worked as a contributing editor at Wired, a staff writer at Forbes, a senior writer for Ziff Davis with Baseline and Interactive Week, and as a freelancer based in Paris and then North Carolina for a wide variety of magazines and papers including the International Herald Tribune, Texas Monthly, and Playboy. He writes an opinion column in his hometown paper, the Greensboro News & Record, and publishes the semi-popular EdCone.com weblog. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa, two kids, and a dog.
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