Informix Software Inc. said seven financial services companies recently signed up for its data warehousing technology.

The seven are First Union Corp., Great Western Financial Corp., State Street Boston Corp., Visa International, Merrill Lynch & Co., and two companies the Menlo Park, Calif., technology company declined to name.

Data warehouses are designed to pull together information from various sources to help corporations track customer and product profitability, mine the data for new opportunities, manage risks, and market more precisely.

Great Western selected Informix because its technology "offered the greatest speed in processing," said John R. Lewis, vice president of the thrift's data warehouse effort.

For large-scale data warehouses, Informix competes with Oracle, Sybase, and International Business Machines Corp., said William Bradway, a technology analyst at Tower Group.

Data warehousing is a steadily growing area of banks' information technology investment, Mr. Bradway said. The top 500 U.S. banks will spend $1.7 billion on it this year, Tower Group projects.

Banks want to harness their data to maximize customer profitability and tailor sales pitches to their cusomters, said Alan Paller, director of research and education for the Data Warehouse Institute, Bethesda, Md.

Great Western plans to evaluate and home in on its most profitable customers. "We're developing what we call a directional correct customer value index," Mr. Lewis said.

The Chatsworth, Calif.-based thrift will use this index to develop a type of scoring system for customer profitability. The "primary goal is to improve retention of our best customers," Mr. Lewis said.

Once the index has established a customer's value, the bank will create a V.I.P. Indicator, a general customer rating score such as "gold" and "bronze." The indicator is used in branches when a decision is being made to waive fees or offer better rates, Mr. Lewis said.

As for the future, Great Western has "data warehouse applications under construction for consumer banking and credit risk management," Mr. Lewis said.

Visa, meanwhile, sees a number of applications for its data base technlogy - risk and fraud analysis, micromarketing, and general reporting, said spokeswoman Gail Murayama.

First Union plans to develop an enterprise data warehouse for data mining and decision support. Enterprise warehouses can be immense, since they are used for more than one application.

Informix expects more banks to adopt such larger-scale warehouses, said Michael J. Hall, its director of financial services industry marketing.. Web-based warehouses will also become more prevalent, making it easier for casual users to find and use the stored information, he added.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.