Synovus Financial Corp. announced the formation of a technology subsidiary that will be the focus of product testing and innovation for the multibank holding company.

Synovus, which has $9.3 billion of assets, is looking to the new division, Synovus Technologies Inc., to accelerate adoption of new technology throughout its 34-bank network in the Southeast.

Company officials want to make it easier for its subsidiaries, which range in asset size from $50 million to almost $2 billion, to quickly roll out new features and enhancements.

"Timely implementation of technology to improve customer products and services is critical to our business, and this reorganization will insure we accomplish it," said James H. Blanchard, chairman and chief executive officer of the Columbus, Ga.-based holding company.

Anne G. Dawahare was named president of Synovus Technologies and chief information officer of Synovus Financial, which also owns a full-service brokerage firm, a mortgage company, and 81% of Total System Services Inc., a major credit card processing company.

"We are trying to make it easier than ever to meet the needs of the banks," said Ms. Dawahare, a former senior vice president at Synovus, who will supervise a staff of 37.

"This effort will focus all our technology organization in one place," she said.

The division will also oversee the recently announced five-year partnership with M&I Data Services of Milwaukee to provide the deposit, loan, and general ledger systems for all the banks.

Synovus has a reputation for technology expertise-notably through its Total System affiliation-and for leaving its community banking subsidiaries on long leashes. It has prided itself on decentralized, local decision making, but as a result, individual banks often duplicated efforts.

Under the new structure described by Ms. Dawahare, individual bankers will contact Synovus Technologies to research and develop products. The technology staff will also be responsible for training that is tailored to the needs of each bank.

Synovus' banks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina "are focused on the ultimate customer and do not want to create products," Ms. Dawahare said.

Even as technology functions are centralized, Synovus wants specific market requirements to determine which products are offered in each locale.

"What Birmingham (Ala.) strongly desires may not be what Quincy, Fla., wants," Ms. Dawahare said.

By outsourcing through Marshall & Ilsley Corp.'s M&I Data Services unit, Synovus expects to centralize data processing on a common system. That would allow the banking company to consolidate the 30 different systems currently used, said F. Stevenson Brice, former president of the company's mainframe-computer-based services subsidiary, Synovus Data Corp.

The impetus behind both the technology division and the M&I outsourcing contract was the "ability to get to a technology platform that we wanted in a timely manner," said Mr. Brice, director of strategic initiatives at the Synovus holding company.

Technologies that Synovus hopes to roll out through the new division could include personal computer banking, Internet banking, and cash management.

PC banking is available only through Columbus Bank and Trust, the company's flagship bank in Georgia, which has $1.8 billion of assets. Up to 15 affiliates will roll out the proprietary product this year.

Synovus' equity investment in the Internet banking company Security First Technologies may help expedite the development of transactional Web sites for member banks.

The reorganization provided a contrast to the mergers and acquisitions that are preoccupying many bankers. But Mr. Blanchard and Synovus have a habit of going their own way.

"Unlike a lot of banks of this size, it is not out there growing the franchise but is focused on improving its technology and its return on investment," said Christopher T. Kelley of Morgan Keegan & Co. in Memphis.

In forming a technology services unit to support the holding company, Synovus is following in the footsteps of superregionals like Banc One Corp. and KeyCorp.

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