U.S. bankers might ease their struggles with data warehousing and other customer information management issues by emulating their Canadian counterparts, experts in the field say. Perhaps because Canada's banking industry is less fragmented than the United States' and had to install technology much earlier to serve coast- to-coast banking networks, the Canadians were faster to develop customer information files and link them with analytical tools to identify sales prospects and measure profitability. "Royal Bank is definitely a leader," said Robert Hall, chief executive officer of Action Systems, referring to Canada's largest bank. "When we started working with them in the late 1980s they were doing things U.S. banks are just getting to." Gregory Nolan, CEO of Profit Management Group, a member of Action Systems' Relationship Optimization Solution Set, said his client Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is also ahead of the game. A report by Tower Group of Newton, Mass., said CIBC's data warehouse made possible significant advances in risk management as early as 1993, when the bank created a division for that purpose. "Canada has one of the most complex banking environments," Mr. Nolan said. "The U.S. can learn a lot from it." Executives at Royal Bank of Canada said luck had something to do with their early development of what became the foundation for today's data warehousing and mining sophistication. "About 15 years ago we decided to build a customer name and address file," said Robert M. Juneau, senior vice president, systems and technology. Called SRF, for service reference file, "it was basic at other companies I worked for," which included Singer Co. and Canadian National Railways. The SRF led to Royal Bank's being able to get a single, comprehensive view of each customer's account relationships, which has become crucial to telephone call centers and other modes of customer service. "For seven years we have been segmenting customers by profitability and using the data for pricing," said Shauneen Bruder, senior vice president of strategic planning and marketing, personal financial services. "My colleagues in the U.S. drool when they see what we have done."
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