"It's extremely complex to know what a client really wants, yet it's also very simple," says Alejandro Valenzuela, CEO of Grupo Financiero Banorte of Monterrey, Mexico.

"Banorte 20 years ago had 300,000 clients. Today we have 20 million clients. The real challenge is how we go from the knowledge of the client you had when we had 300,000 clients and extend that to 20 million clients, understanding each and every one of those clients and what they want from mobile banking, online, ATM, branch and other channels. Understanding what their needs are, and responding very rapidly to their transactions," Valenzuela said.

To obtain that customer insight and transition the bank from a product-centric model to a customer-centric one, the bank is spending $1 billion over the next ten years on master data management software and research services from IBM. The software will aggregate all customer information by customer rather than by product to create that widely-sought 360-degree view of the customer.

Banorte and other Mexican banks have an advantage in projects of this nature. While U.S. banks struggle with the concept of a common customer or entity identifier that they can use to tag customer records, Mexico already has such a scheme in place. "In Mexico, we have the same identifier for each person, that identifier by law has to be integrated every time you sign a contract with a financial institution," says Pablo Suarez, vice president of IBM. "We will be able to consolidate all the data with that identifier. Every time the customer touches a channel, employees in the channel will have all the information about that customer."

The added information about customers will help the bank create true risk-based and value-based pricing eventually, according to Valenzuela. "The pricing has to come out of understanding not only the dynamics of our client and the risks you're taking with client, but also how that customer behaves in the breadth of daily life."

The bank hopes to improve efficiency levels by 40% and achieve a 20% return on equity on this project. On the efficiency side IBM is working with the bank on end-to-end process reengineering to guarantee that the total time of serving the customers, for instance in the origination of a loan, is low. The return on the investment should come mainly from more efficient and effective sales across the organization.

Another goal for the project is to put Banorte in position to better handle existing and future alternative customer channels. "I am amazed by the velocity of change," Valenzuela says. "Four years ago we had no mobile transactions, last year we had more than 10 million transactions from the mobile phone. Youngsters especially are using these platforms to deal with their bank; their fathers are not. We want to provide the fathers with classic service in the branch or at an ATM, and let the youngsters use whatever comes about. Who uses a check today? My grandmother."

Grupo Financiero Banorte (GFNorte) is the third largest financial group in Mexico, with a network of more than 1,300 branches, over 6,700 ATMs and 110,000 POS terminals.