As part of a broad wholesale banking overhaul, BankAmerica Corp. is testing software that gives corporate customers greater control over accounts, while shifting some of their back-office tasks to the bank.
By taking over some of its customers' back-office processing, BankAmerica seeks to bind its customers more closely. State Street Boston Corp. is another bank that is aggressively taking on some of its clients' back-office work.
BankAmerica is rolling out software based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system to customers of trade finance, custody, foreign exchange, and electronic data interchange services.
At the same time, it is redesigning its own back-office processes to give customers far greater access to information about the current status of their accounts.
Devoting Energy to Investing
The goal "is to let us take over [much of the processing] and apply our economics of scale to production environments, freeing up customers to focus on making investments," said Colin Klippen, executive vice president and manager of global payment services at BankAmerica.
The move is part of a BankAmerica effort to revamp much of its wholesale bank. Two months ago, David Coulter, vice chairman of the wholesale bank, appointed Sherry Bartolucci, a senior vice president, to head an organization in charge of reengineering - or redesigning the workflow - of the wholesale bank.
As part of the effort, BankAmerica is close to deciding on a new trust and custody system, which will be used to integrate operations in London and in New York.
BankAmerica is expected to decide this week on a trust system. The company is evaluating whether to modify an existing system developed by Security Pacific Bank, which BankAmerica acquired in 1991, or to buy a new system from Premier Systems Inc., Wayne, Pa. It was software from Premier that was one of the causes of a systems debacle at the bank in the late 1980s. The project, which was abandoned, cost the bank at least $80 million.
Sources said they believe the bank will choose Premier.
In its cash management area, BankAmerica is rolling out new services, such as the ability to make payments via a Windows-based screen.
The bank also is testing some services with major customers, which it declined to name. One of the tests involves allowing a customer to send a payable file, which the bank would split into checks, automated clearing house items, and funds transfers. The company would define the conditions under which it wants the payment sent.
Another test involves coordinating the account management of customers by tying together all of a client's cash management accounts.
The systems will also act as a direct link into the bank's computers, where the Windows interface allows departments in the company to find out the status of transactions.
Mr. Klippin said that BankAmerica wants to automate much of customer service functions that currently take place over the telephone. This way, instead of having the customer call the bank with questions, the customer would be able to view the answer on a personal computer screen.
New Way to Link PCs
BankAmerica is also one of the first banking companies to test an early release of Microsoft Corp.'s newest operating system, Windows NT.
Windows NT, unlike previous PC operating systems, is designed to provide sophisticated network management and data security that typically was associated with mainframe software.
BankAmerica is using the operating system in conjunction with a unit that does business analysis and reporting for the wholesale bank, using software from Arbor Software Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.
The software from Arbor allows BankAmerica to extract customer information from the mainframe and analyze it on a spreadsheet program on a personal computer. Before BankAmerica installed Windows NT, the analysis software was stored on a mainframe, but now it runs on a network of personal computers, according to Kirk Cruikshank, vice president of marketing for Arbor.