An IT research partnership involving Canada’s leading banks, Bell Canada, and the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Management of Technology & Entrepreneurship (CMTE) has been coming up with unconventional solutions to a wide range of IT challenges for the past 15 years. Last month in Halifax that partnership captured one of the country’s leading prizes for innovation, the Synergy Award for Innovation, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada’s largest science and engineering granting agency.

“We need to think outside the box, and the fresh ideas generated by the students and staff at CMTE add measurably to our approach to some challenges,” noted John Davies, CIO, enterprise technology solutions, TD Bank Financial Group.

“We had planned from the beginning to make use of this program to do things that we would otherwise not attempt because of time, market pressures and budget,” added Frank Erschen, vice-president, enterprise IT strategy and development services, BMO Financial Group. “We benefited from an exceptional piece of work on in-store partner selection that was noticed at the highest levels of management.”

BMO, TD, RBC Financial Group and Bell matched funds with NSERC and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to fund the project through a Chair in the Management of Technological Change, held by CMTE director Dr. Joe Paradi. The industry partners shared the Synergy Award with Paradi and Dr. Douglas Reeve, Chair of U of T’s Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry.

While some of the collaborative work applies to specific sponsors, much of the research is geared to industry-wide problems. For example, the researchers applied chemical engineering theory to vastly enhance accuracy in automated credit card fraud detection. The challenge, said Paradi, involved improving on the Falcon system, neural network-based technology that delivers a large number of suspected cases, of which only about 10% are actually fraudulent. CMTE’s solution boosted that rate to about 50%, yielding cost savings and a reduction in annoying calls to customers about non-fraudulent transactions.

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