Chase Manhattan Bank is in the final stages of installing a system that will let its 4,500 relationship managers worldwide share and gain access to constantly changing information about the profitability of their corporate customers.
The system would make the bankers' jobs easier by keeping them up to date on all aspects of their multinational, multifaceted corporate clients. And it would free Chase from worrying about the nuggets of information that tend to fly out the door whenever employees leave. The bank said Monday that it will finish the system rollout this quarter.
Chase is one of a handful of banks stepping up their efforts on the lucrative corporate side to offer some of the customer relationship management techniques that the industry has applied to the retail side.
Banks spend more than $2 on retail-oriented customer relationship technology for every dollar they spend on the wholesale side, according to Meridien Research, which first noticed investments in corporate customer relationship management two years ago. "Now it is becoming a very important trend," said Bill Bradway, a research director at Meridien.
Kimberly Collins, a senior research analyst at GartnerGroup Inc., agreed that there is "an increasing interest in the corporate banks to mange their relationships as retail banks do."
Mr. Bradway identified Chase and State Street Corp. as leaders in managing their corporate customers. PNC Financial Services Group Inc. also is paying attention to the sector. On Monday it announced a project aimed at identifying its retail customers who are also corporate customers.
Chase executives said the system, built with Oracle Corp., recognizes that various employees - private bankers, portfolio managers, analysts, and relationship managers - use different benchmarks to gauge customers' profitability.
The system "provides degrees of customization to our various lines of business," said Rick Thompson, senior vice president of Chase business services in charge of corporate customer profitability.
In the 1980s the bank built a proprietary system that did some of the job, but "the client technology was old," said Charles DeFelice, a vice president of development at Chase business services.
New Internet technology, such as intranets and instant messaging, is helping banks gather and share corporate information between far-flung employees. Universal access is now available for information previously held in individual bankers' rolodexes.
State Street, for example, installed a system a year and a half ago that lets customers and bankers enter and view relevant information through the Web. Customers get a daily report card on their banking activities and are encouraged to give the bank feedback.
The bank is also letting institutional customers immediately send messages to their relationship managers as they observe market events. Soon it plans to offer video technology so customers and bankers can interact face to face.
"Our goal is to provide our customers, both large and small, [with the ability] to do online self-service and online tracking, and we don't believe our competition is doing that," said Anthony Perkins, senior vice president and director of Internet technology services at the $60.5 billion-asset bank.
Banks also are being forced to give their customers access to information on an increasing variety of channels, including wireless devices.
"It's hard to imagine a serious financial professional not acknowledging that information is to be acceptable from all channels," including personal digital assistants, Mr. Perkins said.
Anthony Fernicola, Oracle Group vice president and general manager of global financial services, said more banks are seeking help with corporate customer relationship management.
"We've recently seen a lot of work on the wholesale side, because banking firms are enabling customers to do a lot of self-service and access their information on their own," he said.
One challenge for Chase in implementing its system was integrating the many different lines of businesses seeking to use the same intranet system to get customer profitability information.
For example, middle-market bankers rely on cross-selling information to identify prospective product combinations, while other users look at delivery costs. Portfolio managers are charged with analyzing credit worthiness, while other analysts examine geographical data to maximize tax allocation.
To understand the needs of the different businesses, Chase placed point people in each unit's technology group to inform the implementation team of their progress. To cater to the needs of the more complex investment bank, "we went right down to the analysts that would use the data," Mr. Thompson said.
Because the system will offer multiple ways to view information, it will have to be able to handle large amounts of data. Chase expects its customer profitability database to reach half a trillion bytes this month and two to four trillion bytes next year.
"Our database keeps bankers up to date as the bank reorganizes and senior management changes with acquisitions," Mr. DeFelice said.
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