Canadian bank turns to SAS for data extraction

When CIBC went looking for an extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) server to support its mortgages and lending business earlier this year, the firm had two criteria: speed and easy integration with existing and new computer equipment. Now the financial institution says it’s found a solution in SAS Institute Inc.’s Enterprise ETL Server.

SAS, a business intelligence software provider, announced yesterday CIBC had chosen the ETL Server to pull data from various sources, standardize the info and port it into a datastore for the bank’s Mortgages and Lending group.

According to Michael Turney, a senior product manager at SAS Canada based in Toronto, his company’s ETL Server goes beyond traditional extraction, transformation and loading capabilities. Whereas competitive offerings from the likes of Informatica Corp. and Ascential Software must be customized to pull data from disparate sources, SAS’s ETL Server has data-access “hooks” built in, he said.

Turney said a company like CIBC could use the ETL Server to support ad hoc reporting. SAS’s product standardizes data, cleans it up, so it’s easier for banks to create reports about customer risk in a lending situation, for instance.

But Paul Flach, director of business intelligence at CIBC Mortgages and Lending, said his company doesn’t plan to use the ETL Server for ad hoc reports. “We have to be very careful of…corporate standards,” he said, explaining that the company has standardized on reporting tools from another vendor.

That said, Flach pointed out the CIBC was looking for an ETL device. He said CIBC chose SAS’s product for two reasons: first, the bank wanted something that would integrate with the existing business-analysis environment in place. CIBC already had many business processes written in existing SAS applications. “Rather than start from scratch, let’s see what we’ve got,” went the thought process at CIBC, Flach said.

Secondly, the bank wanted to have ETL up and running as quickly as possible. That meant finding software that would work on the existing IBM Corp. z/OS mainframe as well as the incoming client-server architecture that CIBC plans to employ in the future.

Time-to-market is important, Flach said. “The business can’t wait for two years for the technology to be there.”

Turney pointed out that speed is particularly significant in the banking industry. “The consumer market, they’re going to call three banks” for loan quotes, for instance. “They want that information very quickly. The faster you can respond…the more likely you are to grab that customer before someone else does.”

Flach said it took six months for CIBC to decide on SAS’s ETL Server. The bank analyzed its needs and performed a proof of concept before choosing this product.

“It’s implemented,” Flach said, adding that it would be a few months before CIBC recognizes any tangible difference the ETL Server has on the lending practice. “It’s just a question of when we’ll realize the benefits.”

Turney said the ETL Server comes with ETL Studio, a program that provides a sort of process-flow diagram and drag-and-drop capabilities for quick configuration.

According to industry research firm Gartner Inc., the ETL world is changing. Whereas ETL used to be considered a business intelligence enabler, these days it’s branching out into data consistency, data management and system migrations.

Given these shifting sands, Gartner pegs SAS as a “challenger” chasing leaders like Informatica and Ascential in its September Magic Quadrant industry analysis.

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