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Management Strategies

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Juggling Act

Lloyd DeVaux oversees technology spending during a period of rollercoaster expansion: need to plan far ahead.

Lloyd DeVaux, the new chief information officer at BankAtlantic, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is used to keeping a lot of balls in the air. As CIO at Union Planters, a $35 billion bank based in Memphis, Tenn., he oversaw technology spending during a period of rollercoaster expansion. One lesson he learned about IT management was the need to plan far ahead.

He'll have plenty of opportunity to apply that lesson at BankAtlantic, a $5 billion institution offering banking services through a broad network of community branches throughout Florida. Related subsidiaries include securities firm Ryan, Beck and Co. and real estate developer Levitt Corp., America's first builder of planned suburban communities.

In an interview with BS&T senior associate editor Ivan Schneider, DeVaux talked about the bank's plans and industry trends.

BS&T: Describe your experience at Union Planters.

DeVAUX: When I joined Union Planters it was about the size of BankAtlantic. We did about 50 acquisitions in five years and put together a good technology infrastructure during their growing times, and I enjoyed it.

BS&T: Do you foresee similar growth for BankAtlantic?

DeVAUX: We're at the start of a building process with a lot of opportunity here. I don't think the acquisition market is the same, and I think BankAtlantic will be more selective in how we acquire, to make sure it really fits our culture and fits our market area. Union Planters was really going for footprint and bought some stuff that was outside their market area. I think you'll see them scale back some branches now.

BS&T: How do technology infrastructure requirements change to support growth?

DeVAUX: It was really 500% growth at Union Planters. So if you ask me in five years where BankAtlantic will be, it'll be $20 billion.

Anything I buy today has to be able to handle capacity five, six or seven times more than what I would initially buy it for. It gets pretty expensive to have to envision 500%-600% growth.

BS&T: What projects are you working on now?

DeVAUX: We just signed an agreement with Wausau Financial Systems. We will be implementing over the next three months a full POD proof-of-deposit image system on the check side. This will give us the ability to deliver electronic images of checks to the channels, including the Internet, and to deliver image statements to our customers.

The other big piece we're looking at is our core evaluation. Currently, our core systems-deposits, loans and general ledger systems-are outsourced. We're evaluating that strategy right now to determine whether we ought to make a change there to bring the core bank in-house.

One of the things we struggle with is having clear, timely access to data, and it makes it more difficult when there's a third party involved. It also makes it more difficult to integrate the systems we want to integrate.

BS&T: What are you looking to gain from this integration?

DeVAUX: A big focus right now is to better understand our customers and to understand their relationships to us and what their needs are. We want integration across channels, so that no matter how they touch us, customers get the same view. So we're going to be focusing a lot on process improvement and technology to integrate systems.

BS&T: Do you see that as being a core requirement of a bank these days?

DeVAUX: It is. The beauty of Internet technology is that a lot of the processes can now be improved a lot more economically than they could in the past using the heavy iron stuff. Things like check imaging really completely revamp the way you do business.

You have to go into the processes surrounding check processing and you have to completely redo them. You have to scrap the old workflows and make all new workflows based on the image technology.

BS&T: How does that affect the customer?

DeVAUX: If you've gotten to Utopia, the people dealing with the customer will have everything at their fingertips to better serve the customer. But the next step, which is really where we want to get to, is to allow customers to serve themselves.

Some banks in the beginning thought that the Internet was a separate business. Well, it's really just a channel, because the customers in the end want to decide how they bank with us, when they bank with us, and by which channel.

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