Huntington Ups Cross-Selling Ante

Platforms Gaining Easier Access to Customer Data

Huntington National Bank is poised over the next 14 months to roll out the fruits of a $12 million project that will make it easier for platform personnel to cross-sell products.

In November, the lead bank of Huntington Bancshares Inc. plans to install the first of 500 IBM personal computers -- a key component of the new system -- on the desks of account managers in 135 branches. Ultimately, the Columbus, Ohio-based bank intends to have the system in all its 260 banking offices.

Huntington is one of the first of a handful of banks moving to a technology aimed at inculcating a sales culture among branch personnel. The technology, cooperative processing, gives employees wide access to information across the bank, in an easy-to-use format.

Huntington is one of the first banks to build in-house a customer information file using IBM's DB2 data base, providing a view of all relationships with the customer.

Break on Mainframes, Too

At the same time, cooperative processing assigns tasks to the most appropriate computer system. Therefore, it helps control mainframe processing costs.

Late last year, BankAmerica Corp. and Royal Bank of Canada put cooperative processing systems to their retail branches. Other leading banks -- such as Banc One Corp., Norwest Corp., Barnett Banks Inc., and Michigan National Corp. -- are developing these systems.

In November, Huntington plans to roll out the system to 30 sales representatives in the bank's telemarketing division. In December, the system will be installed in two branches; thereafter, about 12 branches a month will be converted.

"Our intent is to put this first into the high volume, metropolitan branches," said Rick Sellers, president of Huntington Service Corp., the automation arm of Huntington Bancshares.

The system is designed to give Huntington's so-called personal bankers -- platform personnel assigned to specific customers -- more knowledge about their customers. The software incorporates demographic scoring and other types of profile information.

Data at the Touch of a Screen

Customers view the personal computer screen in the same cubicle, along with the personal banker. Touch screens on all these computers allow customers and bankers to interact with the programs.

Huntington "has done a nice job of having the users drive the project, and getting what they needed built into the system," said Max Martin, president of Argo Data Resource Corp., Dallas.

On the basis of tests done in four branches over a period of six months, Mr. Sellers said he believes the system will aid in selling more products.

Test branches typically found a customer, needing ready cash, entering the bank to cash a certificate of deposit.

The platform officer would show a "what if" scenario to demonstrate the cost of keeping the CD and taking out an installment loan, instead. The system reflects such details as income-tax incentives.

Clear View of |Bottom Line'

"We'd show a bottom line -- how the customer would net out that transaction," Mr. Sellers said. As a result, "we've been able to keep a lot of CDs in the bank, and sell more installment loans too."

The PCs Huntington is using are an unreleased version of the Personal System/2 Model 57 from International Business Machines Corp. These models are designed to give greater performance than IBM's higher-end PS/2 Model 70 -- in a smaller box, through the use of a technology called cache memory. The systems will run on a local area networks.

Huntington is using software from Argo Data Resource that runs on a file server, a personal computer that stores files from the mainframe while they are being used by bank employees.

The Argo software handles such functions as dial-up customer service, loan origination, and credit analysis, at the platform employee's work station.

|Expert' Prompting

The software also uses an expert system -- a branch of artificial intelligence -- to prompt customers to answer questions about their needs and recommend products.

Cooperative processing will help Huntington reduce data center costs, Mr. Sellers said, by removing much of the work from the mainframe: "Our processing needs have grown at 20% to 30% each year, but now we expect to be able to cut that to 10% to 15% per year."

Huntington developed a training system with Financial Training Resources to smooth the rollout. Using the software package, the bank's own employees train each other.

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