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Nancy Feig
Nancy Feig
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BPM's Strategic Benefits Offer Greater Agility Enterprisewide

Banks are taking business process management beyond simple workflow automation to actually measure and optimize processes ranging from online account opening to compliance.

If anyone knows about the benefits of business process management (BPM), it's Steven Liles, manager of integration services at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. In October 2006, BB&T went live with a BPM-powered online account opening process. The results speak for themselves.

Before the implementation, it took as long as two weeks to open a customer account online, according to Liles. The process now can be completed in mere minutes, he says. Before, the bank had 20 full-time employees in place to support the online account opening process, Liles adds. Now it needs just three. Meanwhile, the number of accounts opened online has risen steadily, to more than 100,000 in 2007.

But that's just the tip of the BPM iceberg. Like many banks around the world, BB&T is turning to BPM as a means to achieve a more transparent and disciplined organizational model.

BPM enables banks to link their IT systems into their processes, allowing them to automate, streamline and monitor key processes, such as account opening, compliance and payments. The impact that a successful BPM implementation can have -- on everything from application development to customer service to channel performance -- can be astounding. According to an August 2007 report from Forrester Research (Cambridge, Mass.), the market for BPM software is projected to grow from $1.6 billion in 2006 to $6.3 billion by 2011.

One of the greatest promises of BPM is transparency into processes. Transparency, in terms of BPM, is the ability to view all the steps in a process and where a certain transaction or case resides in the flow of that process.

According to Liles, he has been able to make several improvements to BB&T's ($136.4 billion in assets) online account opening process based on reporting from Cambridge, Mass.-based Pegasystems' SmartBPM Suite. In BB&T's online account opening system, every customer is treated as a separate case, he relates. The Pegasystems BPM solution is able to produce reports on individual cases, as well as larger trends and patterns, Liles notes.

The SmartBPM Suite includes dashboards available to analysts in the bank's online channels that allow them to spot patterns in customer behavior, Liles explains, adding that employees in the bank's call center have access to customized dashboards to handle exceptions in the process. The ability to see exactly where and when in the process customers drop out, he continues, has allowed BB&T to make improvements to the process quickly.

"We routinely look at bottlenecks," Liles says. "Early on, people would drop out at the funding stage."

Liles notes that the SmartBPM Suite's case management system also allows for greater channel integration. "BB&T's branch channel is now using the same BPM backbone," creating more-seamless visibility into customers' interactions with the bank across channels, he relates.

That type of end-to-end process visibility brings IT and the business closer together, according to Kiran Garimella, VP for BPM solutions at Darmstadt, Germany-based Software AG. "You see process in a very live sense," says Garimella, who has written several books on BPM.

In addition to process improvement, BPM also can help financial institutions streamline regulatory compliance. Because BPM solutions automate processes based on complex rules engines, compliance functions can be easily integrated into the workflows. Vendors even are building compliance frameworks into their BPM suites.

Supporting Fraud Investigations

Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank ($175.1 billion in assets) plans to use Pegasystems' SmartBPM solution to help prevent money laundering, support fraud investigations, and manage compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act, USA Patriot Act and other regulations. According to Kevin A. Poe, the bank's SVP of enterprise business process services, SunTrust's goal is to simplify compliance by consolidating its multiple systems for suspicious activity reports (SARs).

SunTrust's newly optimized fraud investigation process will be rolled out in several iterations, Poe relates. The project, which will be released in four phases beginning this September and ending in the third quarter of 2009, will span seven business units, he says, explaining that the ability to use the SmartBPM Suite to collaborate across multiples lines of business and disparate application areas was a major reason for its selection.

In fact, SunTrust already is using the Pegasystems BPM suite in another area of the bank, Poe reports. Like BB&T, SunTrust first targeted online account opening for process improvement, rolling out an enhanced sales application March 12, 2008.

"The idea was first [to address] generation of account opening through the online channel," recalls Christian Caspersen, VP, business process lead, for SunTrust. "The goals were a 15-minute interaction and everything done on a real-time basis."

According to Caspersen, "We've seen great results." Even though the bank is not yet marketing the service, it has seen "three or four times the volume" compared to the numbers prior to the BPM implementation, he says. A large reason for this, Caspersen suggests, is that online account-opening customers are not dropping out of the process nearly as often. As a result, "The online channel is opening more accounts than any branch," he adds.

This ability to reuse the BPM suite throughout the bank sets Pegasystems' solution apart from other tools that the bank has used, notes SunTrust SVP Donald Marks. "We're looking to leverage the processes and lessons" learned from the initial deployment of the SmartBPM Suite, he says, crediting the vendor with helping SunTrust plan future deployments. "They talked about alternative tracks and the best way to deploy the tool" across the enterprise, Marks relates.

Pegasystems also facilitated discussions between SunTrust and peer banks via user groups, notes Trace Fooshee, a process consultant at SunTrust. In these user groups, banks offered advice on how to best structure a BPM deployment, he explains. "Peers have a lot of experience with optimal reusability," Fooshee says.

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