G. Thomas Andes

Chief executive,

Magna Group Inc., St. Louis

Very definitely. Part of our strategic plan deals with the need to concentrate and develop the right technology from two different standpoints.

No. 1, from a management information standpoint, is to make sure that we have the right systems and procedures in place.

No. 2 is from a customer standpoint. As the demands of our customers grow more and more to the technology side - from home banking, ATM machines, POS terminals, to direct debits, etc. - we have to be able to provide the right technology at a place and in a form that customers want it.

We're just getting ready to install two automated loan machines. That's something we think is very important - the customers and their need for more convenience in banking.

I also spend a lot of time on technology to make sure of two things. No. 1, that we spend money on the right technology. And No. 2, that those dollars are spent most efficiently. I feel that it's necessary to keep a very close eye on technology.

John D. Hashagen Jr.

Chief executive,

Vermont National Bank, Brattleboro

The short answer is they take marginally more of my interest and time than they did in the past. The reason for that is our chief operating officer, Robert Soucy, has a very strong background in technology. He was head of operations in his previous career. So he is able to spend a lot more time on that and is closer to it than I am.

The first part of this year we made a $3 million long-term commitment to our retail delivery system - teller system, customer service, and the backup software throughout both of our banks. At the time, that took a lot of our attention. And once that's done, Bob Soucy and his people are able to pretty much carry it through and implement it, just giving me progress reports.

E.B. Robinson

Chief executive,

Deposit Guaranty Corp., Jackson, Miss.

Yes. I was in on the beta-test site on screen phones and have been involved with the operations chief on where we are headed with technology. In the past it was not as critical. Now, I try to sit in on all of our major technology decisions.

John R. Cochran

Chief executive,

FirstMerit Corp., Akron, Ohio

Based on our strategic imperatives, all of which require technology to effectively achieve our goals and objectives, the answer is unequivocally yes. The real key in focusing on technology is to ensure that the hardware, software, and man-hours invested in that technology ultimately serve the organization in the most effective manner. For example, when we reviewed our strategic imperatives and the platform technology that was recently implemented within the organization, our focus was not exclusively on technology but on matching the technology to meet our business needs.

The strategic imperative to "earn all of our customers' business" requires the ability to automatically profile our customers and understand their needs. This profiling requires a high level of technology that must be cost-effective and poised for future enhancements. But we feel the most important issue is meeting the customers' needs. Money spent on technology is wasted unless it delivers needed products and services to customers.

Our imperative to "find a better way" allows us to eliminate redundant processes. Our executive information system provides both myself and my management team with pertinent and concise data so we can make effective decisions.

And the imperative to "delight our customers with

service" requires an ongoing focus on current trends in technology to support a sophisticated call center, imaging, telephone banking, bill paying, and Internet banking. These endeavors require a solid strategic foundation to ensure that our time, effort, and investments are wisely spent.

Stephen Hansel

Chief executive,

Hibernia Corp., New Orleans

Absolutely. Hibernia was underinvested in technology and training when I got here in 1992. For the three-and-half years ending in 1995, we were playing catch-up in technology to a significant extent. Today, we have initiatives to, we hope, take us to the top of the class in service and competitiveness. We're spending a lot of time on it.

The dollars are significant. But the impact on service and expense management is also significant.

John N. Royse

Chief executive,

Old National Bancorp, Evansville, Ind.

That's an easy one to answer: Yes. One reason that technology is taking up more time now is that the dollar amount has grown so much. I am more aware now than I would have been a few years ago when the dollar investment wasn't so great.

I suppose you could say this whole technology thing is a bit of a double-edged sword. We certainly have to keep abreast of the changes in electronics for our younger customer base. This is very important to them. While the older customer base still wants to see the live teller and do things pretty much as they have been done in the past. Banks have responsibilities to both groups.

You hear a lot of talk about the technological changes. But perhaps it will be more gradual than some think because a large part of our customers still prefer some of our older systems.

One of our people was in New York City recently. There were three ATMs outside the branch and four tellers inside. All the ATMs had lines - and there was nobody waiting for the tellers. What a difference that is from when you get out in the Midwest area. ATMs are still a relatively new thing, and used primarily by the younger population base. Frequently, you'll see the older people standing in line waiting for the teller in the branches. Where you're located has much to do with it as well.

Christopher R. Jennings

Chief executive,

Dauphin Deposit Corp., Harrisburg, Pa.

They commanded a lot of time in the past - and now they are commanding much more. One of my early responsibilities when I came to this company in 1987 was to rebuild its technology base. So I've been involved more deeply than some CEOs in technology issues. But with technologies like data warehouses, sophisticated profitability systems, sophisticated asset/liability management systems, and coterminous transfer pricing, you can't get away from it now. It's all over you like fleas on a dog.

Traditional banking managers are challenged with how to apply new technologies to competitive advantage. They find it very challenging to try to translate technology investments into internal rates of return. You can't just throw it into the traditional capital budgeting model and say, "We'll invest $1 million here and get an internal rate of return of 16.5%." Lot's of luck. You have to make some fairly intuitive judgments on as much quantitative information as you can gather.

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