Newly opened United California Bank, which was born of a merger involving three Japanese banking companies that combined two banks, has begun the first phase of its commercial Internet banking service while repositioning itself as one of the largest banks headquartered in the state.
UCB rolled out the first phase of its WebDirect online commercial banking service July 13, offering account transfer and informational capabilities. Richard Swartz, a vice president of UCB, said the next step will be to add wire transfer and stop payment capabilities, multiple account transfers, and image access, all of which should be available next month.
When the Internet service is fully operational, he said, the bank will offer comprehensive cash management capabilities to companies ranging from high-end corporate customers with complex banking needs to small businesses.
The platform, supplied by Brokat Technologies, can also be used for retail banking, Mr. Swartz said. UCB outsources its online retail banking now but is considering building the retail service onto the Brokat system, he said. "Our strategy is that as we continue to build this platform we want to move more Web access in-house onto the same platform," he said.
Los Angeles-based UCB, which was opened July 2, was formed in the merger of $9.3 billion-asset Sanwa Bank California with $1.9 billion-asset Tokai Bank California. The two banks' Japanese parent companies, Sanwa Bank Ltd. and Tokai Bank Ltd., along with Toyo Trust and Banking Co., agreed early last year to combine into one $780 billion company, UFJ Holdings Inc. The holding company is now the official parent of the three Japanese banking companies, which will combine their operations during the next year, and is also the parent of UCB.
Mr. Swartz said UCB considered several technology vendors before choosing Brokat, which has dual headquarters, in San Jose, Calif., and Stuttgart, Germany. "Brokat had the strongest cash management background," he said. "A lot of the other vendors had a focus on one specific piece of it, or they were more geared toward retail. We know that the corporate marketplace has a lot different needs than the retail marketplace."
According to UCB's Web site, the bank is positioning itself to be "the best relationship bank in California." Mr. Swartz said the post-merger bank, which has more than 110 branches statewide and plans to open four more this year, wants to offer products and services to as broad a range of customers as possible. Sanwa Bank California had a range of customers in trust and financial planning and agricultural lending and a portfolio split between retail and commercial loans. Tokai Bank of California's core activities were cash management services and real estate lending.
Brokat, founded in 1994, lists American Express, Charter One Bank, Fidelity Investments, and other financial companies among its clients. Werner Wingen, Brokat's director of product management, said the company's focus on larger financial services companies can benefit UCB, since the Brokat technology will accommodate the addition of other banks in the event of a merger.
"We have a very high degree of scalability," he said. "The technology is very flexible."
Mr. Wingen said Brokat's technology is built on a single platform, meaning banks can consolidate data into one area.