Forget Web years. Financial players can benchmark how fast things are moving in the industry by the number of acronyms that come and go in a given quarter (or fly off one s tongue in the time it takes to walk a trade show floor).

You get the point. Though annoying as it is to keep pace with jargon, the concepts behind these acronyms are usually worth noting. A new report from Meridien Research, Inc., throws yet another three-letter combo on the acronym heap: ECM more formally known as enterprise customer management.

The report, called Campaign Management Solutions, suggests that competencies in acquisition, retention and marketing are evolving from a database-driven to behavioral-based, interactive customer management paradigm, or ECM. The Meridien report examines advances in campaign management solutions and how they are enabling financial institutions to drive up the profit potential of alternative delivery channels from ATMs to call centers. Five hundred global financial institutions have been considered, including commercial banks, insurance companies and brokerage firms.

The report breaks campaign management solutions into six different elements so that applications can be differentiated and analyzed. It also includes institution case studies of Lloyds TSB General Insurance, Trans Financial Inc. and Standard Life Group.

Bill Bradway, research director and author of the report, says that only a few of the largest institutions will successfully implement enterprise-level customer acquisition and retention strategies by 2000. As scalar complexity increases with the number of contacts to be managed, this is one business area where size is not necessarily an advantage, he says.

The report suggest that mid-size institutions are better positioned to capitalize on resources and more manageable scale of data to develop ECM over the next few years.

In the interim, you can be sure that a ton of companies will spend a lot of money trying to get there. Bradway expects global spending on campaign management solutions to reach $708 million by 2003, up from $505 million in 1998.

HOLLY SRAEEL

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