Joining a trend among global banks, Bank of America Corp. has swung its Internet focus to capital markets customers.
The biggest challenge will be "introducing a new-economy mentality to an old-economy business," said Christiane Mandell, the company's first e-commerce head for global corporate investment banking.
Ms. Mandell, who headed global foreign exchange sales and research, will now be in charge of a Web portal that offers corporate services related to foreign exchange, fixed income, equity, sales, and trading.
Like most big banks, the Charlotte, N.C., company has numerous teams devoted to nurturing its many capital markets businesses. Each has developed its own infrastructure, set of systems, and outside alliances to support its global corporate customers.
"We want to make sure that we leverage all of those solutions into a single solution," Ms. Mandell said. "It's a huge task."
Todd Eyler, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, said Ms. Mandell's mission entails "a fairly wrenching and cannibalizing process." To accomplish such change "there needs to be a single person who has access to the upper reaches of the organization," he said.
Now that most banks have figured out how to serve their retail customers online, many are making second-generation Internet investments aimed at serving corporate customers. Banks that have extended the online efforts to capital markets include First Union Corp. and Citigroup Inc.
"The fact that Bank of America has created and filled this position is a wake-up call for the rest of the industry," said Paul Jamieson senior analyst for banking and payment services at Gomez Advisors of Lincoln, Mass. "Bank of America will be focused on building out the features and functionality the same way as they have in the retail area."
The Internet, with its ability to seep through the artificial walls that separate lines of businesses, will be instrumental in helping Ms. Mandell accomplish what is likely to be her biggest task: cutting through the divisions that keep companies from receiving an integrated pipeline of corporate services.
Ms. Mandell's promotion was announced last week. In her old job she completed the implementation last month of the second generation of Bank of America's online foreign exchange platform, FXO2.
The improved foreign exchange system was the most recent addition to the bank's corporate Internet portal. Ms. Mandell said she expects that derivatives services will be next.
Ms. Mandell is competing against upstart technology companies vying to serve markets traditionally reserved for financial institutions. Banks will have to work together to ward off such threats, she said.
"It is clear that technology companies can be the intermediaries, and they are prepared to set up infrastructure before financial services firms are willing to work with one another," Ms. Mandell said.
The long-term impact technology companies will have on the market is less clear, she said. They will "have a life, but I am not sure [if they] will have a longer life" than financial services firms, she said.
Customers ultimately will benefit from the creation of marketplaces, trading platforms, and Internet portals, all of which will work to increase interaction between parties, she said.
"Five years down the line we will have a lot more problem-solving and collaborative experiences online," Ms. Mandell said. "The Internet doesn't replace a personal relationship. It is just a tool for making that enormously more efficient."
Bank of America expects that the FXO2 platform will handle 80% of its foreign exchange trades within two years. "The more commoditized the product, the more the transition to an online platform seems slower," Ms. Mandell said.
Part of her new job involves managing the numerous alliances Bank of America has struck with technology companies and fellow financial services firms. The bank has been seeking innovative technology because of its executives' close relationship with Silicon Valley companies and their high degree of comfort in working with the Internet, Ms. Mandell said.
Rembert de Villa, a consultant in A.T. Kearney's financial institutions group, said the typical big bank has struck more than 50 alliances throughout its various divisions. These alliances often are not centrally coordinated and tend to overlap, he said.
"Banks are beginning to rationalize their alliances with respect to their business strategies," Mr. de Villa said. "The key to governance and ensuring momentum is executive sponsorship from the thinkers to the doers."
Ms. Mandell joined Security Pacific Acceptance Corp., now part of Bank of America, 11 years ago. Before that she worked six years at Barclays Bank in corporate risk management and as an economist for international financial markets.
In her new position, she reports to Ed Brown, president of global corporate investment banking, and Pam West, senior vice president of business-to-business electronic commerce.
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