Bank One Corp. made a big stride last weekend in its efforts to unify its computer systems with those of the former First Chicago NBD Corp.

The old Banc One part of the company finished linking its general ledger systems to a new core accounting system from SAP America Inc., the U.S. arm of the German software vendor SAP AG. That blended the accounting systems of the former Banc One Corp. with those of the old First Chicago, with which it merged in October to form the fifth-largest U.S. bank holding company.

Craig Coit, senior vice president of financial systems at Bank One Corp., said, Now an analyst in the bank can see the entire bank's results within one general ledger."

Bank One now will get to work on sending data directly to the SAP system, and will eventually turn off its existing general ledger mainframe software.

It also plans to continue implementing SAP's profitability software, which lets bank employees analyze customer and transaction profitability.

Both systems, which are components of SAP Banking, were in use by the old First Chicago. It is expected that the SAP systems will be fully integrated across the $250 billion-asset institution by February.

As the first major U.S. banking installation of the enterprise resource planning software, Chicago-based Bank One joins an SAP client roster that includes such large European institutions as Dresdner Bank of Germany and Rabobank Group of the Netherlands.

Other U.S. users of SAP software include Green Tree Financial Corp. (a specialty lender and a unit of insurer Conseco Inc.), Janus Capital Corp., and UMB Financial Corp., a regional bank in Kansas City, Mo.

Bank One is the largest and most complete U.S. installation by a long way, said John Macdonald, senior vice president and general manager of the financial services sector for SAP America. They are a very valuable partner to us and have given us a great deal of input.

Bank One assisted SAP in developing its profitability software for the U.S. market, Mr. Macdonald said.

The U.S. version uses transfer pricing to determine the profitability of a loan, for example, which differs from the methodology commonly used in Europe.

Converting to a new core accounting system was first discussed in early 1995, around the time First Chicago Corp. and NBD Bancorp of Detroit announced they would merge.

The banks wanted to use one system that was year-2000-ready. When First Chicago NBD merged with Banc One, the work was so far along that the heads of the new institution decided to go with SAP software, Mr. Coit said.

Originally the merged banks wanted to develop a mainframe general ledger in-house.

But after six months, officials changed their minds. We chose SAP because much of what we were trying to do was to hook things up in similar ways to what SAP already had, Mr. Coit said.

The banks also decided that SAP's client/server platform, as opposed to mainframe computing, would offer more flexibility in reporting and analysis, Mr. Coit said. Managers can now spend their time analyzing profitability, for example, instead of tracking down basic accounts/payable information.

The conversion has already saved the combined company about $16 million in year-2000 remediation work, according to Bank One.

The software offers huge advantages in terms of multidimensional views of information as well as the ability to connect directly to Excel spreadsheets," Mr. Coit said. It is also a very powerful processor. We have no issues with respect to the throughput we've been able to maintain.

He acknowledged criticism that SAP systems are complex and difficult to install. But he said the complexity reflects the systems' sophistication and flexibility. It's powerful because it's complex, he said.

The new software "certainly changes the way we do things," Mr. Coit said. We anticipate significant cost savings with respect to shared accounting and financial services functions.

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