Moving beyond e-mails and squawk boxes, the wholesale banking unit of ABN AMRO has installed one of the largest enterprise collaboration systems in the world. Using MindAlign from Chicago-based Divine, the Dutch-based bank is using the system to create global forums where information and ideas can be exchanged.
"We have a vast network of financial professionals spread over 45 countries and 70 cities, and we needed a way to collaborate globally and instantly," said Andy Konchan, director of global financial markets, e-commerce at ABN AMRO in Chicago.
The bank chose MindAlign based on its ease of use and security features. "The consumer products and some of the other enterprise products didn't have the security that we needed in a wholesale banking environment," said Konchan.
In November, the bank began a three-month pilot in its credit trading area. "Our plan was to get it used very well in one area, build a strong business case, and then expand out to the rest of the wholesale bank," said Konchan. "We liked what we saw and decided to push it into production."
Today, the bank has about 1,500 active users of the product, which combines chat, instant messaging and access to previous communications. It also allows users to transmit news, documents and URLs to one or many throughout the enterprise.
The bank has created channels for specific projects or areas of interest, such as foreign exchange, where users can access research and strategies regardless of their location.
"Everyone in these 45 countries who is interested in foreign exchange is able to come into the channel and get this information flow and also contribute when they have something useful," said Konchan.
A searchable central repository, called "backchat," allows users to access channel content. For any date range, users can go back and search on company names, currencies, or specific users. "If you were on vacation, out of the office, or in a meeting, you can go back and see what happened in the credit or foreign exchange markets," said Konchan.
The bank also plans to take instant messaging to clients, which was an additional incentive for choosing MindAlign. Divine is expected to deliver software for client and partner communication within the next six months.
Meanwhile, the bank has already received positive feedback from clients. "We know that there are other systems being used by clients and it's something that is increasingly becoming important in the financial industry," Konchan said.
Payback will come from reduced costs on other systems, decreased e-mail volumes and time spent researching newswires, as well as increased quality of communication.
"MindAlign is really helping us to collect our global information in real time," said Konchan. "Since clients flock to the best-informed firms, I think this does make us more competitive, and there has been a positive revenue impact by putting in the system."