Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is expanding a six-month pilot test of sales software in its branches.

The Toronto bank, known as CIBC, invested $6 million to $7 million in the system and decided to take it beyond the 24 pilot branches four months ahead of schedule.

Revenues increased by "orders of magnitude," said James Allen, senior vice president of relational sales and marketing.

The test results validated the bank's decision to distribute customer account and profitability information widely rather than restricting it to a centralized marketing group.

CIBC plans to roll out the customer relationship software-EnAct, a product of Action Systems Inc. of Dallas-to all 1,400 branches nationwide starting in December.

The banking company chose Action Systems because "it understood the value of taking the process out to the local level," Mr. Allen said. "EnAct takes the power of centralized intelligence and moves it down to the front line."

CIBC has spent $10 million to $15 million on data base marketing capabilities in the past three years, Mr. Allen said. "We've definitely bought into the process, and we're absolutely very happy," he said.

Before EnAct, CIBC's branch sales force called clients if they did not have a certain product. Now decisions tocall are based on a probability that the client will want a particular product.

"They feel they have a more compelling reason to call," Mr. Allen said. "They feel they are making the right call and the right offer. There are higher hit rates.

"There is better coordination between what we're doing centrally from a direct mail perspective, and locally," he added.

In the test, branch personnel got on their PCs up to 200 pieces of data per customer from the central data warehouse. The data are updated monthly through an encrypted CD-ROM.

EnAct occupies a unique niche, said Bill Bradway, research director at Meridien Research of Newton, Mass. "It provides a tool for institutions to meet local market needs in an interactive fashion. It works with other relationship management technologies."

He said branch managers can use the software to "measure the effectiveness of profitability and value on a recurring basis."

Action Systems also addresses training, Mr. Bradway said. The company "is skilled at educating and training the branch organization in how to use EnAct to understand the local market, to identify best opportunities, and measure results. That goes along with some assistance in how to manage interaction," he said.

CIBC is the first Canadian bank to use EnAct. ActionSystems has installed EnAct and its predecessor system, Managing Local Markets, at 10 other financial institutions: Fleet Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, National Westminster Bank in the United Kingdom, Standard Bank of South Africa, Sanwa Bank, Commerce Bank, Bank of Oklahoma, Summit Bank, Bancomer in Mexico, and Interbank in Peru.

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