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Portal Power

A new Web infrastructure helps David Boyles steer ANZ Banking Group toward universal accessibility.

A new Web infrastructure helps David Boyles steer ANZ Banking Group toward universal accessibility

For the driver's sake, an automobile's speedometer, fuel tank indicator and brake light are located on the dashboard rather than in the trunk. The same logic applies to Internet access to financial services: What's the point of gathering data if it isn't made accessible to those who need it most?

However, the information produced by a business-accounting data, information warehouse data, customer information, customer relationship data-is far more complex than that produced by an automobile. The challenge for both bankers and portal providers is one of getting technologists out of the data reporting business and handing that responsibility to the end users.

David Boyles, chief operating officer at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., has accepted that challenge. His technology group at ANZ supports the entire bank, including each line of business and enterprise-wide functional group, as well as the company's top brass.

Given the breadth of his responsibility at the $100 billion bank, Boyles' ultimate goal for ANZ was to "move as much manipulation of information into the hands of business people, administrators, finance people and so on, rather than to keep it in the hands of IT people," he said.

The solution was switching to a Web infrastructure. ANZ reengineered its systems starting with the infrastructure base, including hardware, IP networks, operating systems and application-program interfaces. "You have to have that first," said Boyles. "If you start with trying to deliver the end products first, it doesn't work so well."

ANZ has moved from point solutions, accessible only by certain teams through dedicated terminals, to Web solutions accessible to anyone, from anywhere. The Web components were built using standard Microsoft Web servers, application servers and single sign-on using ActiveDirectory. Other layers of the new architecture include S2 Systems' OpeN/2 for the ATM network and Fundtech's Global PAYplus for payments processing. "Almost everything we do today is accessed via someone's standard desktop," said Boyles.

For Bankers, By Bankers
The company intranet, dubbed MAX, supports the entire range of responsibilities for each employee, including those for executive positions such as COO. "Starting at a high level, I have access to a business summary from my shop: a one-page presentation of the key result areas for my organization, and then drill-down capability below that," said Boyles. "If I find something there that looks interesting, I can drill down to the next level, to whatever level the information's available."

Another feature of MAX is "project-in-a-box," which allows users to examine all of the active projects in the organization pertaining to them. "You can go in and look at all projects, you can look at your own projects, you can drill down into the budget, the estimated time to complete, the estimated cost to complete," said Boyles. "That's all up on MAX in pretty great detail."

The contents of each employee's dashboard depends on what his or her business unit decides to add. "We decided early on that we would never have enough money to develop all the pages, all the applications and so forth that all the businesses wanted," said Boyles. "So instead of trying to do that, we actually created a tool that we give to the businesses."

It doesn't take much to lessen a business unit's dependence on the IT department. "They decide who they want to be their Webmaster, and we take that person through about a day of training," said Boyles. "Most of that is around privacy and the like."

Using these tools, each business unit becomes its own Web publisher, creating, compiling and disseminating information for employees and customers. Since customers rarely remain within a single business unit, ANZ's infrastructure also includes tools that make it easy to hand off a customer issue from one employee to another. "This automatically moves the work to whomever needs to complete it for the customer," said Boyles. "We've put that out, company-wide, so that people don't have to go out and start looking for workflow solutions."

The executive dashboard displays key financial measures along with other drivers of success, such as employee satisfaction. Indeed, employee satisfaction at ANZ has never been better. "Our employee satisfaction is at an all-time high," said Boyles. "Starting down around the 50th percentile of people being happy working at ANZ four years ago, it's up in about the 80th percentile now."

The MAX portal includes links to a PeopleSoft ERP system, with modules for general ledger, human resources, procurement, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Employees can access typical HR functions, along with internal job postings and information on how to maintain work-life balance. By eliminating the drudgery involved with paperwork at the workplace, MAX has been a productivity-booster and a morale-booster at the same time.

Yet it's not just banks that are developing portals for their customers and employees. Financial technology companies are getting into the act as well. For example, Fiserv, Brookfield, Wis. , developed its Cleartouch portal to provide bankers with integrated access to its various offerings. "We become the central point for other Fiserv products and other B2B-type applications that come into the customer's world," said John Macaluso, chief technology officer at Fiserv Vision. "We have a very robust middleware infrastructure that allows us to communicate with other businesses, credit organizations and third-party services."

The XML-based Fiserv interchange format transfers information between applications more easily than can traditional systems, such as a credit application. "You're trying to bring together information from various outside sources and credit bureaus," said Macaluso. "What the portal does is take the functionality out of the back room and puts it at everybody's fingertips."

The customer doesn't get involved in the details of the middleware-that's Fiserv's responsibility. In fact, Firstfed America Bancorp, a $2.5 billion bank based in Swansea, Mass., plans to conserve substantial IT resources using the Cleartouch portal. ""We have approximately 400 copies of PC-based software that we've loaded throughout the organization to allow us to communicate with the mainframe at Fiserv,"" said Gary Vierra, senior vice president at FirstFed.

""Cleartouch is meant to sit on the employee's desktop, to actually replace the desktop,"" he continued. ""It's going to set the stage for a browser-based connection with our core processing system at Fiserv Vision.""

The switch to browser-based access permits systems enhancements, whether at the teller, platform, call center or operations desks, to be performed only once. ""In future updates, we update one server and it's pushed out to all of the 400 PCs or so that host the application,"" said Vierra. ""That's going to be a tremendous savings and a tremendous increase in efficiency for our IT staff.""

Furthermore, the portal helps the bank guide the activities of its employees in a secure manner, depending on their specific role within the bank. ""That will allow us to control access into the core processing systems, and access to certain customer data,"" said Vierra. ""The portal will also allow us to put hyperlinks out there to Internet sites, so we could control Internet access also.""

Content Portals
Clearly, there's a portal for any strategy, especially for banks maintaining their investments in mainframes. In contrast to the ANZ ""infrastructure-first"" strategy, Valley National Bank, based in Wayne, N.J., decided to start at the customer channels and work backwards-a realistic approach given the turmoil in the technology market over the past few years. ""Like a lot of banks, we had held off on a lot of technology upgrades,"" said Peter Jackey, senior vice president and director of information systems at Valley National Bank. ""We were running fine, and we had no real severe problems.""

However, 2002 was ""the year where we looked at things that we had held off doing before, and just decided that it was time to upgrade,"" said Jackey.

Valley National employs systems centered around its mainframe-based Miser system, from Aurum Technology, Plano, Tex. ""We rely on Aurum to find partners that can interface with their systems,"" said Jackey. ""We would not necessarily go out and choose a system that would require us to do a substantial amount of work to interface it to our online banking system.""

""We're a partner with Aurum, so their recommendations go a long way,"" added Jackey.

Other vendor relationships at the bank include AFS for check processing, Baker Hill for commercial lending and Integra for residential mortgage. Eventually, Valley National will seek to bring information from those systems together. ""We want to tie a lot more of that information, including commercial lending, the consumer side and the residential mortgage side,"" said Jackey. ""The pieces that we'll need to do that, we're purchasing now,"" he added.

In the meantime, Valley National plans to upgrade its branches from DOS-based systems to the Aurum Zeus system. But customers may not immediately notice. ""It's our teller and our platform folks that will see a lot of difference,"" said Jackey. ""A lot more information will be at their fingertips.""

The technology overhaul will be more evident to online customers, with the bank's adoption of Financial Fusion. ""We wanted to be able to design it the way we wanted to,"" said Jackey. ""We wanted to own our own product, and be able to customize it any way we want.""

Aurum Technology, a Financial Fusion reseller, modified the Internet banking software for resale to smaller banks as an application service provider. ""It's a best-of-breed, big-bank solution in an ASP model,"" said Paul Duckham, chief operating officer at Aurum Technology. ""It allows us to focus our resources not on developing bill-pay architecture, but developing integration into our core system, imaging systems, lending systems and working with third parties on check ordering.""

The goal is to keep the customer coming back, by replicating the functions available at the bank along with the addition of complementary content. ""We are focusing on content that is a logical extension of the relationship between the bank and the customer,"" said Keith Lokey, vice president of Internet banking solutions at Aurum Technology.

Plush Portals
Advisory and trust departments in banks represent the extreme in friendly, face-to-face relationships. It's a high-touch business with high expectations.

""You'll never call here and end up with a voice mail,"" said Kelly Richert, assistant vice president, Enterprise Trust, St. Louis.

""We absolutely want to make sure that our clients know that their needs are going to be on top of our priority list,"" added Richert.

When Enterprise Bank refers a wealthy customer to its trust department, the customer is given an account on a system powered by Advent's WealthLine.

Asset managers, using Microsoft technology, can create a personalized Web page for each of their clients containing information on all of their holdings, including held-away accounts and other trading activities.

""If a client wants to see what we're buying and selling for them, they can go out and take a look at what their holdings are,"" said Richert. ""They can take a look at their entire net worth right up on the site.""

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