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Winner Take All

Merchants & Manufacturers Bancorp. consolidates core relationships.

Merchants & Manufacturers Bancorporation Inc. (M&MB, Brookfield, Wis., $1.1 billion in assets) sits atop eight community banks, with a ninth acquisition in the works. "Our strategy is to find institutions to partner with based on our three basic criteria: a growing, profitable market, a sound loan portfolio and sound management," says John Krawczyk, executive vice president and general counsel at M&MB.

As a holding company, M&MB provides its banks with access to capital along with several head-office functions, including human resources, operations, technology, auditing and compliance, says Krawczyk. "It allows the banks to really face the customer directly, without having to bother with a lot of the day-to-day operations."

But until earlier this year, its subsidiaries had been running on different core banking systems. Some were using Metavante (Milwaukee), while others were customers of Information Technology Inc. (ITI, Brookfield, Wis.), Fiserv's wholly owned subsidiary. So for M&MB's business strategy to pay off, the holding company had to settle upon a single core systems provider.

In April 2003, M&MB formed a committee that included a representative from each of its subsidiary institutions, and then spent the remainder of the year going through an extensive selection process. The holding company limited the choice to the vendors with whom it already had relationships - Metavante and Fiserv. But that didn't make the decision any easier. Indeed, both vendors had a good track record with M&MB, particularly for Y2K. "When all of our banks went through Y2K, those providers did a very good job of making sure that nothing fell through the cracks," says Krawczyk.

But maintaining dual vendor relationships had taken its toll. "We couldn't go further with our acquisition strategy unless we made common the processes and procedures, and came down to one service provider," asserts Krawczyk.

In the end, the M&MB committee chose Metavante. "We're pretty comfortable that everybody did keep an open mind and that it was a good process, and that we will come out of this with a better system and be a better bank when all the dust settles," says Krawczyk.

Having acquired several banks in the past, M&MB already has experienced staff in core systems migration. Based on that experience, M&MB knows to focus as much on employee training as on data mapping. "Where these things fail - if they do fail - is because the institution fails to provide enough training for their staff," says Krawczyk. "We really try to pinpoint that area, to make sure we've scheduled training properly within the conversion timetable and that we've provided enough of it."

Change Is Good

But the move to a single core system will impact everyone in the organization, not just those switching vendors. "This isn't a conversion just for those banks that are completely transferring from ITI to Metavante, but also for the banks that are on Metavante, too," Krawczyk adds. "We also took the opportunity, within the Metavante system, to make sure that we are utilizing the system to get the most benefit out of it that we could."

For example, bankers in the M&MB group now have an enterprise contact management application. "It's a one-stop point of contact for our sales people, whether they're personal bankers or commercial lenders," explains Krawczyk. "It really helps them to manage their customer relationships and perform all the tasks that need to be performed."

The organization will also employ imaging capabilities throughout its applications, outsourcing its item processing to Metavante. "We're also going into loan document imaging," adds Donald L. Rowland, CEO, COO and president of M&MB. "The loan officers will have the opportunity to review the documentation of their customers at their desks and be able to make decisions based on information in front of them."

That's part of what M&MB needs in order to have capabilities that would help them rank with the "best of the best," according to Rowland. "What we do best is how we deal with our customers and how we make them feel like they are important," he says. "We have to be able to have the appropriate tools to get there and to service our customers appropriately."

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