Four days a week, Banc One Corp. operations executive Michael D. Hansen turns into a road warrior armed with a laptop computer.
As president of Banc One Services Corp.'s newly formed operations division, Mr. Hansen is nominally based in Dallas. But he works out of a "virtual office," visiting the Columbus, Ohio-based bank's affiliates in 11 states so he can better monitor the progress of business strategies and stay sensitive to local market issues.
Staying in touch is particularly important for Mr. Hansen, as he's largely responsible for executing Banc One's corporate shift to a standardized and more centralized operation.
The $87 billion-asset banking company this year announced its intentions to move from a highly decentralized "uncommon partnership" among various affiliated banks to a "national partnership" with a common vision for major lines of business.
The initiative is expected to help the bank address operational inefficiencies, increase revenue, and reduce costs, goals that have been hampered by the decentralized structure.
Mr. Hansen is responsible for providing operations with a national focus, standardizing processes at the 69 affiliates, a task he is somewhat familiar with.
As executive vice president and chief operating officer at Key Services Corp., the technology and operations arm of Keycorp, he was responsible for restructuring the bank's operations along lines of business to improve customer service and reduce costs.
Mr. Hansen, who arrived at Banc One in May, is optimistic about his new mission.
"This creates a big opportunity for us, a huge potential to move to the next level," he said.
Observers agree that the new focus is exactly what Banc One needs to do to remain competitive. The bank unveiled its strategy to more than 100 securities analysts at a presentation given at its headquarters in May.
"Many large banks with similar initiatives talk about cost cutting, but Banc One is (also) talking about top-line growth," said Michael Burton, a banking analyst with the Ohio Co.
"They expect to generate a minimum of $1.2 billion of incremental pretax earnings by 1999" through standardization and consolidation, along with acquisitions.
Fred Cummings, a banking analyst with McDonald & Company Investments Inc., Cleveland, said that while the strategy will yield efficiency gains, how the bank will boost revenue is less clear, and will be more of a challenge.
He added that the strategy is appropriate in today's banking climate in that it can help Banc One cut costs, efficiently introduce common products across the affiliate organization, and better respond to market needs.
To achieve these goals, three new units have emerged as important entities within Banc One Services Corp., the company's technology arm: the financial card services unit, information technology services, and operations services.
A high degree of interdependence will exist between the operations and technology groups, said Mr. Hansen.
"A significant part of achieving preeminence in operations is technology," he said. "We are setting up specific projects to determine how to maximize the value of technologies we have and don't have, and put them into operations capabilities."
Standardizing operations will result in the ability to leverage technology more aggressively by taking advantage of economies of scale, he added.
Mr. Hansen pointed out that all three of the Banc One Services groups play a part in setting the direction and pace of the bank's business agenda. Such a three-way partnership is somewhat unique within financial institutions, which generally have technology organization subservient to business lines.
"The information services group is not an order-taker," he said. "They are much more involved (than such units at other banks) in the business as a partner."
Mr. Hansen has set what he calls a "five-pronged agenda" for bringing about standardization, the principal pieces of which should be completed within the next three to five years.
The bank's main priority is to build a national operations organization and infrastructure, which will involve hiring national managers to oversee the migration to standard processes, and to give a national focus to financial services.
A major aspect of the reorganization will involve standardizing four large business areas within the bank: enterprise operations, such as check and deposit processing; consumer operations, including loans and automated teller machine operations; commercial operations, such as commercial loans and cash management; and administrative operations, including accounts payable and purchasing.
Within these four areas, Mr. Hansen said, is where the use of technology and economies of scale will come into play - particularly for customer service and managing the flow of work between branches and processing centers.
In the customer service area, the bank will be investing a lot of energy in improving customer access to banking services through telephones, automated teller machines, personal computers, and "express branches."
The latter are low-cost branches, smaller and easier to maintain than traditional sites. Mr. Hansen said the focus will be on the service aspects of transactional businesses, mixing self-service technologies with teller- assisted services.
Forty-two of these branches are being implemented in the western United States. Mr. Hansen said the strategy will significantly reduce brick and mortar expenses and enable the bank to more quickly move into new markets.
Further facilitating customer access to services, the bank plans the standardize cash management offerings, including automated clearing house, wire transfer, electronic data interchange, and controlled disbursement.
The differences in cash management products across markets have made it impossible for companies operating in contiguous states to get a seamless view of their wholesale banking services, Mr. Hansen explained. The standardization will address this matter.
Finally, the bank is initiating a major customer segmentation project that will involve the implementation of data base warehousing technology. The objective here is to consolidate customer relationship information from different areas, and create target markets to improve sales, Mr. Hansen said.
Approximately 6,000 employees from the enterprise, consumer, commercial, and administrative operations areas are currently involved in bringing about the standardization of national operations, said Mr. Hansen, and he expects the number to reach around 8,000 by yearend.
In his work so far, Mr. Hansen has come to realize that the very decentralization that has resulted in a patchwork of operational approaches has also bred a fertile environment where progress can be made quickly.
"The value of the bank's diversity is the entrepreneurial spirit and good ideas that we will be able to leverage nationally," he said.