The promise of personal computer-based networks includes ease of use, flexibility, and giving employees better access to information than is offered by mainframe computers.
Those attributes of client/server computing are certainly attractive to trust and investment managers, who must keep an eye on portfolios and be able to respond quickly to customer demands.
In January, Bank of Boston Corp. installed a new system it hopes will enable private bankers to do just that. The software, developed by Broaday & Seymour Inc., gives the bank's 70 portfolio managers a direct link to mainframe trust account information through their personal computers. It is designed to help them make investment decisions, monitor portfolio performance, and generate reports more easily. The software also allows bankers to research stocks and build portfolio models.
The $47 billion-asset bank worked on the product, called Aminvestor, with the Charlotte, N.C.-based vendor. The deployment of Aminvestor follows Bank of Boston's conversion to Broadway & Seymour's core trust accounting software, called Amtrust. The bank, which manages $15 billion of assets for more than 21,000 trust and private banking customers, also plans to add two other software applications marketed under the AssetManager name. The line of products, developed by Broadway & Seymour's asset management services group, was sold to Fidelity Investments in April.
Mark Hardie, a technology analyst at Tower Group in Wellesley, Mass., said that Broadway & Seymour was one of first investment systems vendors to bring such a workstation product to market. Other suppliers of traditional core trust accounting systems, including SEI Corp., SunGard Data Systems, and National Computer Systems, are aggressively introducing similar systems, said Mr. Hardie. "This is the next generation of products, the next stage in their evolution," he said. He added that the AssetManager product "matches up well with a suite of Fidelity workstation products."
Don DeHart, the bank's director of investment counseling, who also oversees desktop technology, said the bank was drawn to the convenience of the Windows operating system. "The benefits are being able to take information that is on your basic system and move them into Excel spreadsheets and other types of environments," he said.
Previously, the bank had outsourced trust processing to SEI Corp., Wayne, Pa. Tower Group has estimated that more than 125 banks use SEI to process trust accounts on a service bureau basis. Mr. DeHart said he prefers the in-house system because the bank maintains greater control. "When they were going to do development, it was on their schedule," he said.
Aminvestor provides for analysis, implementation, and reporting of investment decisions made on behalf of customer portfolios. For example, the portfolio modeling and management component allows bankers to perform "what if" analysis with regard to asset allocation and the balancing of accounts. The system also monitors the performance of each part of the portfolio. "It's a nice analytical tool to be able to look at what part of the portfolio contributed to your performance over a period of time," said Mr. DeHart. The system also includes 15 years' worth of account data to provide a long-term view of its performance.
While this kind of information was always tracked, Bank of Boston said it is much less cumbersome to do in a Windows-based environment linked to the core trust processing system.
Using a mouse to point and click, for example, allows bankers to get a concise look at a description of assets, market yields, total market value, estimated annual income, and so on.
This month, the bank is also scheduled to install another module designed to make it easier for bankers to send trade orders to its centralized trading desk. Currently, portfolio managers must order trades through a mainframe connection. "That will disappear," said Mr. DeHart. A fourth component, called Amadministrator, will also be rolled out this year. It is designed to enable trust and investment administrators a better view of account data and to generate management reports more quickly.
Eventually, Bank of Boston plans to make Aminvestor software available to its customers, who could at their convenience tap into the system for information on the financial performance of their portfolios. But Mr. DeHart noted that despite the strengths of the new software, making the switch has not been without hitches.
"Whenever you change, it takes a while to adjust to it," he said. "We're having our problems as we work through it." He noted that the staff must learn to navigate Windows as well as the nuances of a new technology. "I think anytime you move to a new system you are looking at a year before things are settled down," he said.
Eventually, Bank of Boston may also add imaging technology to the process. Mr. DeHart said it would allow managers on the phone with a customer to bring up an image of, say, a letter while the customer is on the phone. "When you can give an answer right there, it makes all the difference in the world," he said. "You are bringing the power of technology right to the desktop of every individual."