Bankers Trust New York Corp. is mulling widespread use of innovative work-group software from Lotus Development Corp.
The bank is considering using Lotus Notes to automate a wide range of business operations that, to date, have defied computerization.
The Notes program runs on personal computers linked by conventional copper cables as well as fiber-optic lines.
Often called groupware by technologists, Notes organizes information into electronic file folders and distributes these folders to appropriate individuals in an organization.
Bankers Trust is considering the Notes software for a raft of paper-intensive operations, including problem resolution for securities-custody services and processing purchase orders.
If the bank proceeds with these plans, it could become one of the first financial institutions to deploy Notes throughout an enterprise.
Officials are hopeful that the software can give Bankers Trust a competitive edge.
"It has the possibility of truly enhancing work-group communications and semi-structured business processes," said Michael Packer, a Bankers Trust senior vice president credited with leading the Notes initiative.
Charles McDonough, partner and bank technology specialist at Andersen Consulting in Detroit, predicted that Notes usage would be widespread in the banking industry in a few years.
More Momentum Expected
"It's really an unusual type of software," Mr. McDonough said. "We see its usage steadily gaining momentum" among banks.
Other banks eyeing Lotus Notes include Chase Manhattan Corp. and Manufacturers Hanover Trust, a unit of Chemical Banking Corp.
One of the first Notes applications Bankers Trust is planning is for the Securities Services Group, said Roger Porcella, an assistant vice president and microcomputer specialist for the securities unit.
He said the bank expects to use Notes to quickly resolve customer questions about credits or debits to custody accounts.
Currently, account reps in New York often pull files from cabinets of securities-related documents to resolve customer questions.
If a debit or credit is due, file folders are mailed to a special unit in Jersey City, N.J., that handles adjustments.
Bankers Trust plants to use Lotus Notes to automate this process. Account reps will use a new document imaging capability for Notes to instantly retrieve electronic copies of paper documents from computer workstations.
Requests for debits or credits will be instantly forwarded over computer networks to the adjustments department.
This should cut the time to resolve most disputes from two or three days to a day, Mr. Porcella said.
The bank expects to start running this Notes application in July, and to have 65 workstations in New York, Jersey City. and Nashville by the end of the year, he said.
Mr. Porcella added that Bankers Trust is considering using Notes to automate expenditure approval requests. Currently, employees must send paper documents to a wide range of officials to obtain permission to buy new equipment and supplies.
Notes could be used to electronically forward expenditure requests to proper parties, and thus would expedite the approval process, Mr. Porcella explained.
Broad Use Possible
Mr. Packer added that Bankers Trust was also evaluating Notes as the basis for corporation-wide electronic messaging.
Currently, Bankers Trust employees use software from International Business Machines Corp. and Digital Equipment Corp. to send electronic messages to each other.
But over the next two to four years, Bankers Trust hopes to replace most, if not all, of the IBM and Digital software with Notes, Mr. Packer said. The Notes messaging software could then be used as a platform on which Bankers Trust computerizes a wide range of business processes.
But Will It Work?
But before Bankers Trust deploys Notes too widely, it wants to be sure the software works as billed.
"A lot depends on what we see over the next couple of months," Mr. Packer said. "We are tremendously interested, of course, but we have to see whether it can handle true, industrial-strength applications."
If the tests are successful, Mr. Porcella said Bankers Trust would need to look at upgrading its telecommunications system. Notes can generate a large volume of data that could eventually overwhelm the bank's existing network, he explained.