Financial firms win kudos for use of IT

Laurentian Bank of Canada, PEAK Financial Group, North Shore Credit Union, RBC Investments, Royal Bank Financial Group, the Bank of Montreal, and First Calgary Savings & Credit Union Ltd. were recently feted as winners of the 2001 Canadian Information Productivity Awards (CIPA). These companies number among the 24 winners of various categories in the awards program founded in 1992 by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Canadian Business magazine. CIPA honours organizations deemed to be making the most innovative and effective use of information technology.

Providing wholesale banking

Laurentian Bank of Canada won the best of category award for large enterprises, although with $1.1 billion in revenues last year it is just one-twentieth the revenue of Canada’s largest bank.

With a goal of providing banking products and services to non-banking partners, and in spite of limited resources, it delivered private-branding banking services to third-party organizations through an entity called B2B Trust. Using the bank’s existing legacy applications and systems, B2B Trust enabled non-banking partners to offer their customers financial products and services – such as chequing accounts, lines of credit and personal loans – without requiring the infrastructure, administrative support and legal status to support these services.

Before the end of its first year, B2B Trust was providing wholesale banking services to organizations that included Sun Life, Bombardier, Canada Post and Merrill Lynch Canada. Such partner companies could then package their own products and services under their own names. Laurentian gains access to potential customers — 400,000 with Merrill Lynch Canada alone – plus shares its operating and investment costs with partners.

Automating for accuracy and speed

PEAK Financial Group of Montreal earned the best of category small business award for its success in streamlining their business procedures with Aquila, an online client and portfolio management system designed by RPM Technologies Inc. in Toronto.

The automated solution reduces errors involved in manual data entry by its financial planners who used to spend more than half their time processing client orders. It also provides timely and accurate information to the client since PEAK augmented the initial installation so that planners can export their reports to software such as Excel, Word, Outlook and Naviplan.

They can also transfer client data to a wireless device such as a Palm Pilot or Blackberry.

Specialized modules enable the company’s insurance professionals to monitor every step of an insurance-related transaction, from application to policy issue, while tracking commissions, renewals and type and size of policies.

PEAK clients can also access their portfolio at any time via As a result, PEAK has increased by 40 per cent the number of clients its 300 representatives serve, as well as attracted top-notch financial planners. A key to success has been training planners to help them take full advantage of the new technologies.

Providing client-dictated service

North Shore Credit Union, featured in our September 2001, Volume 2, Issue 7 of IT World Canada print won an award of excellence in the customer care category. The Vancouver-based credit union launched its member relationship management and implemented the CRM system from Pivotal Corporation. Data from clients in each of North Shore’s service areas flow into the CRM system, enabling North Shore to contact clients according to their preference. Since members dictate how they want their relationship handled and how they prefer to be contacted, emails enabling clients to simply click to renew a mortgage, for example, have proven much more effective than dinner-hour phone calls and direct mail. Clients can also chat online with their financial manager. In the first six months of the CRM system, North Shore’s assets grew by $130 million, overshooting the target by nearly double.

Cutting out the paper chase

RBC Investments also earned a customer care category award of excellence for its success with ClientSource, a new broker/dealer account opening system that shortens the time to open an Action Direct account for self-managed stock trading from about 20 minutes to five.

While the time saving is critical during the busy RRSP season, the new system also eliminates potential typing errors and reduces the paper that could be left lying around as the data was sometimes typed in four times for four purposes. Now, the data flows through high-level edit checks, speeding approval, and clients can trade the day after signing up.

Online brokerage customers get a consolidated view of all their banking and brokerage account information with a single client ID number. Client information is fed electronically to other systems within the organization in a consistent form, encompassing multiple accounts and client relationships. The project, primarily internally implemented with some technical assistance from Microsoft Canada, has proved so successful for Action Direct that it is being rolled out in RBC Investments’ private client division.

Slashing fraud with automated sleuthing

Royal Bank Financial Group earned a large enterprises category award of excellence for its Enterprise Fraud Detection System.

The application developed in-house has reduced fraud losses at Royal Bank by an estimated $40 million a year. The system tracks all four million transactions made daily through the bank’s electronic delivery channels, such as ATMs, telephone and Internet facilities, and debit card point-of-sale terminals.

Transactions are analyzed against customer and terminal profiles using rules and an inference engine to detect suspicious incidents. Each transaction also goes through a progressive scoring engine that indicates the probability of fraud using fuzzy-logic algorithms.

The system automatically updates the customer and terminal profiles stored in the bank’s database and transmits suspicious transactions to a fraud analyst’s workstation for further action.

All this takes less than a second. It has replaced a fragmented fraud management structure in which analysts would monitor paper-based reports generated throughout the bank and take up to three days to act on a suspicious transaction.

Building tools to make work easier

The Bank of Montreal won an award of excellence for organizational transformation after developing a new information tool to better service its small business customers.

Called Optimizer, and based on the Siebel eFinance technology platform, the system relieved 1,800 customer relationship managers of onerous, paper-based tasks in favour of providing their small business clients with real-time information on their bank deposits, loans and investment activities.

The system consolidates information and automates many manual processes while it provides direct access to the loan adjudication system, shortens the decision turnaround time for business customers and enhances service consistency by tracking and recording all client service calls and requests for information.

The system was implemented through designated ‘super-user’ coaches at the 300 sites across Canada.

Using their laptops, the relationship managers can now assess, track, manage and serve business clients and prospects, and share management information in English or French. Business banking revenue has increased and relationship managers’ portfolios are larger.

Using IT to boost competitiveness

First Calgary Savings & Credit Union Ltd. earned an organizational transformation award of excellence for applying technology to increase its loans, deposits and mutual funds by 36 per cent for each of its 325 employees and by 49 per cent for each of its 87,000 members.

Since launching its enterprise banking system in 1998, First Calgary has used off-the-shelf technology to provide customers with the online, telephone and in-house services they would find at bigger institutions.

Relying on partnerships with companies such as Q-Trade to develop online investment services and TelePay for bill payment services via telephone, First Calgary extended its delivery channels to include e-commerce and telephone banking. Greater access to customer information enhanced its ability to make decisions about marketing, financial management and CRM. Eliminating manual processes involved in opening new accounts has cut staff time on this function by half.

By automating its load-application procedures, the credit union has increased its loan portfolio by 40 per cent without adding staff. Where it used to take 36 hours to process a loan from application to approval, First Calgary can now process a loan online instantly.