Hancock Bank faced a big challenge when it purchased Whitney Bank: merge two disparate asset-management and trust-accounting units, smoothly, in a Southeastern market full of competitors apt to pick off clients frustrated by any glitches.

The merging institutions, which both offered a range of investment, wealth management and custodial services, had to reconcile the processes, workflows and tech systems their respective staffs used to manage portfolios, execute trades and report to clients on other third parties.

Hancock (HBHC) purchased Whitney a little over a year ago in a $1.5 billion stock deal that created a bank with about $6.7 billion in assets. The Gulfport, Miss.-based institution uses the Whitney Bank handle in Louisiana and Texas and the Hancock Bank brand in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. The combined asset management unit has more than 6,000 active accounts serving custodial, wealth management and investment clients.

To standardize the tech used by two units, the bank migrated the Whitney portion to a SunGard asset management and trust accounting product that Hancock has already been using (the bank would not say what system Whitney used).

In an interview this week with Bank Technology News, Mark Duthu, executive vice president for Hancock Holding Company's trust and asset management group, discussed the now-completed project — and how the evolution in underlying tech can prepare portfolio managers and sales and service staff for new regulations and market changes.

BTN: What was the first thing that had to happen to bring the two units together?
Duthu: We had to agree on a common operating platform. We spent a better part of six months researching service providers. SunGard was already installed at Hancock, which had a trust department of about the same size, and had the functionality that we were looking for — such as the ability to aid relationship management and report generation.

BTN: What was the timeline?
Duthu: Once we made the decision, the SunGard reps were down here developing a project time line, and the advance team was here working with the Whitney and Hancock teams to deliver the functionality. We had very little room for delay — there was a tight conversion timeframe of about seven months. We needed to create a singular platform for the two banks. That includes trust accounting, security processing, portfolio management, as well as compliance from an investment and account review standpoint.

BTN: What was the challenge in bringing the two banks together?
Duthu: There were different processes that each department used for workflows and reporting, and one of the things that we had to do was determine common policies, procedures and create a common trust platform that would support the entire operation, enabling everyone to use the same tools and work in the same way to create more efficiency and agility to evolve the entire unit going forward. That's particularly important as we look into the future as the technology that's used in asset management changes.

BTN: How did the increased reliance in the industry on analytics and modeling being used in investment and wealth management play a role conversion project?
Duthu: The amount of analysis that we perform on the investment management side has probably increased tenfold when compared to just five years ago, and performance measurement [analysis of the success of investments to inform future strategy] is a key component of that. That particular part of the solution that includes analytics and modeling integrates into our existing systems. We can leverage more analysis and be able to react to new market information very quickly.

BTN: How will the project help with regulatory compliance, particularly as investment management rules become more complex?
: We want to be able to further automate compliance with changing regulatory requirements that are being placed on all banks , to deliver those [reporting tools] into the hands of our trust administrators and portfolio managers … Dodd Frank is an important part of what we're working on with compliance, but there are also required administrative investment reviews that are part of operating a trust division that can benefit from standardization [between the two units] and automated reporting and documents.