First Interstate Bancorp is testing a centralized customer information system expected to improve efficiency in the bank's commercial business.

The PC-based client/server system, developed with Broadway & Seymour Inc., is based on Crisp/Perfect World, a decision support tool made by the technology company's Micro/Resources subsidiary.

The tool provides a central data base for storage of information relevant to profitability management, sales management, loan pricing, cash management, and credit origination.

Los Angeles-based First Interstate, with $56 billion in assets, is testing the system at five corporate banking units. The pilot involves about 100 users in Houston, Phoenix, and Seattle.

A complete rollout of the system is scheduled for November, when it will serve over 3,000 employees throughout the bank's regional offices in 13 western states.

Molly Latham, a senior vice president at First Interstate and head of the Crisp project, said the system will help the bank increase profitability by helping its employees to put customer data to better use.

This is the first system that pulls together First Interstate customer data from various territories, she said. This enables bank officers to view the bank's entire relationship with customers with their personal computers.

"The move to this common data storage and transmission approach is one of the most important information technology initiatives our commercial banking line of business will make in the '90s," she said. "The Crisp project has been a top priority at the bank."

Ms. Latham said the bank expects efficiency gains in sales, credit, and loan areas because electronically transferring customer information between the mainframe and these areas will eliminate the need to rekey data.

"Electronically transferring relevant customer data will dramatically reduce the time and effort required to document and book new loans," she said.

"Until now, officers have kept critical customer information in a variety of locations, including Rolodexes, file folders, and various PC contact management programs. With everything centralized at the Crisp server, we expect to see significant increases in officer productivity."

First Interstate originally enlisted Charlotte, N.C.-based Broadway & Seymour to develop a credit/cash management and sales management system. This effort coincided with First Interstate's automation of information exchange in its back-room operations.

The bank decided to work with Broadway & Seymour because of the company's experience with client/server applications, said Ms. Latham. In addition, the company's acquisition of Micro/Resources in 1994 greatly sped up development efforts, she said.

First Interstate is also working with Broadway & Seymour to train users on the system using an interactive, computer-based training program.

The program has been customized to address the unique methods, practices, and policies at First Interstate. Supplementing the interactive training will be a series of classroom sessions for in-house bank trainers and system users.

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