DAWN DILLON Senior vice president First NH Banks Manchester

I WOULD SAY A LOT. With everyone striving towards an improved efficiency ratio, they are reducing expenses - which is causing increased needs in automation: more readily available information, things like optical disk for computer output, imaging, and subsequent integration into the desktop for automating letters, automated research requests.

There are a lot of things just in the total workflow that we've not done, we've been so manual. The desktop workflow is really what I think has yet to be automated. We've been focusing on the retail branches - automating those, automating customer access - and what we're forgetting to do is often the measurement of our successes in those areas, as well as the workflow necessary to support them. *** ROBERT M. OLSON JR. Executive vice president Magna Group Inc. St. Louis

IN THE SECOND QUARTER of 1995 we will move into a new processing facility where loan operations - as well as the majority of all other back office activities - will be consolidated. With this move we have already identified about $3 million in savings opportunities that will be realized over the next two to three years through automation and workflow improvements.

We are automating signature card processing and our research function, and installing a new loan collections system. Fundamentally, we are going to be working through a lot of our current manual processes to look for other automation opportunities.

In addition, in the last couple of months, we have developed a data processing tactical plan that supports the bank's five-year strategic plan. It identifies in a fair amount of detail what we have planned over the course of the next 12 to 18 months and our vision for the next three to five years. We are, in effect, building straw men for each of the major functional areas to show what type of automation opportunities would apply as growth and further consolidations materialize.

We are looking at image technology for loan documents as well as in the check processing area for statements and proof-of-deposit. In addition, we are looking at electronic check presentment and data warehouse concepts that will allow us to minimize keying in of redundant information and provide for better management reporting systems.

Because of the changes our organization has gone through in the last few years, we are now at a scale where a lot of these new technologies are cost-justified. *** TIM MEIER Senior vice president U.S. Bancorp Portland, Oregon

THERE IS MORE PRODUCTIVITY POTENTIAL in the back office. And also there is the potential to not only lower the cost of that staff but also to improve some of the cycle times. Most of those opportunities, I think, lie in automation and elimination of handling of paper. That's where the biggest opportunities still lie. And the enabling technologies that will make this happen are the continued evolution and implementation of high- capacity networks. And in particular, image technology and utilizing those networks. Those will be the things that will probably make the biggest improvements to what we have in place today. *** L.W. KING Senior vice president California Bancshares San Ramon

I BELIEVE THERE ARE STILL significant opportunities to improve efficiencies. During this year, we are exploring opportunities to utilize imaging technology, networking, platform automation, outsourcing alternatives, and alternate delivery channels.

We recognize that to prosper as a financial institution we have to continually adapt to our customers' needs. Those needs changed over the years from a "most convenient" location to more technology-based delivery systems utilizing ATMs, telephones, PCs, ACH, and other channels. Customers have also become more price sensitive.

We're extremely conscious that nonbanks have entered the banking services arena in a significant way. The nonbanks generally have a lower cost base than traditional brick and mortar branches, and historically they have been more sales-oriented organizations. That compels the traditional bank to look for opportunities to both lower our cost of delivering services and to develop technology and operating systems to support a more sales-oriented environment. *** ROBERT W. KEELER Executive vice president National Westminster Bancorp Jersey City

WE HAD BEGUN CONSOLIDATING our back room (in Scranton, Pa., last year). Our first move up here was last August. We were very fragmented. We had operations in South Plainfield, N.J., Melville, Long Island, and Pine Street (in Manhattan). Of course, you do lose efficiency by having redundancies in your operation.

That really was a (main reason). Plus the economic issue here in northeastern Pennsylvania, which is very favorable towards us. The efficiencies for us at that point in time were in putting everything together.

We do have imaging but we are looking to increase our imaging. And actually have imaging totally involved in the process flow of work versus just storage. We are expanding our imaging capacity at this point. That's a main thrust for us at this point.

Additionally, we're always making modifications and sophisticating assistance for the employee, whether that be PC-based or midrange- based. Our total thrust up here is really customer service. We still want the human contact with the customer, but we really look to areas to help assist our people in getting information needed to service a customer.

We'll never be satisfied in that area and we continually keep looking at it, addressing it, and increasing it. *** JEFFREY S. GRIFFIE Executive vice president Midlantic Corp. Edison, N.J.

CLEARLY, THE CONTINUED USE of client/server PC technology in the back room is strategic and will bring benefits in terms of cost reductions, efficiencies, and most important, improved customer service. We've spent a good amount of time automating the user departments but not nearly the same degree of attention has been given to the back office.

This automation and reengineering process, however, will reach a point to which significant efficiencies and cost reduction will become more difficult to achieve without some major shift in processing philosophy. Truncation of more transactions, electronic data interchange, image processing, home banking, point of sale, and debit card activity are alternative delivery strategies that will improve customer service while creating back-office efficiencies.

The issue with most of the developing or emerging technologies is the significant up-front capital required to bring them to market. The back- office cost reduction/efficiencies will follow but not without some major reengineering.

In my view, the most effective way to deal with these issues is to form some type of alliance or partnership with a technology partner and/or other financial institutions so that development cost and strategies can be shared. Finding the right partner is critical, but having done so, start-up cost will be reduced, products will come to the market sooner, and efficiency ratios will improve significantly.

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