The nation's largest independent trust company believes it has found a portfolio accounting system that can handle an ever increasing workload while gaining Year 2000 readiness at the same time. Denver-based First Trust Corp. is replacing its legacy system with an updated version of SunGard Asset Management Systems' popular Windows-based Global Plus client/server solution.

First Trust administers more than 220,000 IRAs and business retirement plans with more than $14 billion in assets. And as the firm expects its number of accounts to grow to 250,000 by next year and continue to spiral upwards thereafter, the new system had to support an increasing transaction volume. Maximum scalability-an ability to handle ever larger loads-was mandated. Consequently, Global Plus was selected. It uses Oracle database software and an IBM RS/6000 server that can run multiple applications on multiple computers simultaneously.

Year 2000 was also a motivating factor in turning to SunGard's system, says Terry Reitan, svp and CIO of First Trust. "We found it was going to cost us a lot of money to fix the old system."

But there were other reasons to upgrade."We're trying to install more than just a core engine for basic trust administration. Our clients need more than basic IRA and 401(k)s," says Reitan. "We want to sell additional services, like custodial accounts or college savings accounts." The flexibility of Global Plus will make this easier, he says. "It's a table- driven system. Changes can be introduced by setting up new tables with no need for additional programming. Anybody can change the features in a program to make a new product."

Installing the system is no piece of cake, though. It will be a year before it is up and running. And the system isn't cheap. First Trust will pay about $1.5 million for the program interfaces that will move information from the bank's legacy system to Global Plus, and that doesn't include the cost of reorganizing personnel, which could push the cost to more than $2 million. "Each employee's job will change. But, once installed, the system will allow our employees to research problems more speedily and make their work more reliable," says Reitan.


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