Banks are taking advantage of the latest in communications technology to help employees and even outsiders improve their careers.
Bankers Trust New York Corp., for example, has launched a World Wide Web site aimed at women in the financial industry. It is open to people outside the company and covers industrywide developments. Soon, it will open a confidential virtual career center with information about Bankers Trust itself, available on Lotus Notes to the bank's employees.
Chase Manhattan Corp. and J.P. Morgan & Co. also have career information available to employees on Lotus Notes.
At the heart of Bankers Trust's first initiative is an international group formed by the bank's professional women, the Global Partnership Network for Women. It has been holding industrywide Women on Wall Street conferences since about 1995, said Mona Lau, managing director of human resources at Bankers Trust.
As a global organization, she said, the bank is always looking for technology to make communications easier, like e-mail and video conferencing. "When the Internet started becoming popular and user- friendly," in early 1996, she recalled, "a number of us started saying, 'Why don't we have our own Web site?'"
The bank began the work around yearend, she said, using an outside contractor for much of the computer coding and technical tasks. It took about five months to launch a pilot Intranet site (open only to those connected with Bankers Trust).
But Bankers Trust wanted to include employees of other companies, and the Internet is public. So at the Women on Wall Street conference on Oct. 9, "we pushed a button" and made the site accessible to all on the Internet, she said. Since then, it has been looked at "thousands" of times, said Ms. Lau.
The site cannot gather visitors' demographic information, but that is likely to change. "We've done a number of focus groups with both BT and non-BT people. And we've gotten very good suggestions. We're going to go through a total revamp and make it much more interactive and will ask people to register," she said.
Ms. Lau expects the revamped site to be in operation before yearend 1997. The overhauled site will have the top three headlines of the day, news of executive career changes, and "more research-oriented" articles from organizations like Harvard Business School, The Wall Street Journal, Crain's business publications, and American Banker.
The site's discussion groups may be made faster, she said. Discussions now are more of a bulletin board; participants post comments for others to see later. "We are thinking of changing it so that the discussion will be more live for people who register," so that participants can respond to each other's typed comments immediately.
Another section will offer links to other sites with information on traffic, weather, and hotels and restaurants where a business traveler can entertain a client in various cities, or where to find child-care and elder-care information, she said.
Each month, a Street Smarts section will feature advice from a different "high-ranking woman in a Wall Street firm" or other notable woman, Ms. Lau said. Those from outside the industry might include someone like Esther Dyson, a prominent cyberspace expert, Ms. Lau said.
Bankers Trust's second computer-based career development project, called BT Connect '98, is scheduled to be completely available to Bankers Trust employees in the first quarter of 1998, Ms. Lau said.