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BS&T Holds First Executive Summit

Bankers gather for BS&T's first Executive Summit.

This September, Bank Systems & Technology hosted its first-ever Executive Summit. This meeting of the minds, held in scenic Palm Springs, Calif., helped provide bankers from institutions both large and small with some perspective on the changes they will face in the coming years. After all, the financial services industry has been in a state of flux over the past decade as institutions attempt to reshape themselves into more-streamlined, efficient, customer-centric organizations.

Indeed, the idea of transformation was the overriding theme of this year's inaugural conference, sponsored by Document Sciences, Exstream Software, Harland Financial Solutions, Infosys, Metavante, ProfitStars and SAS. Things kicked off with a discussion of strategies for finding and holding on to those elusive high-value customers. James Thomas, global practice leader, merchant solutions, with MasterCard Advisors (Purchase, N.Y.), offered insight into how analytics tools can help banks zero in on these consumers and better understand their needs. Financial institutions must change the way they approach their customers by making their products and services appealing to people on a more intimate level so that they want to buy these products from their financial institution of choice, he said. Today, according to Thomas, consumers choose to do business with one particular bank over another usually because it's a matter of deciding between the lesser of two evils. "This is not a great environment for cross-selling," he noted.

And what better way to gain more insight into clients than by having all that data in one place? This was more or less the topic of the opening day's second session. Citigroup's (New York) Gary Greenwald, managing director, global head of information products, global transaction services at the firm, talked about the importance of operating as a more-integrated financial institution. Whether looking at customers from the retail or commercial side, Greenwald emphasized, having the infrastructure in place to allow connectivity between accounts and across lines of business is what will take a bank from the "same old, same old" to a more dynamic enterprise that can adapt and respond more quickly to clients' needs. Ultimately, this will enable banks to achieve a more-straight-through processing environment, he stated.

Day Two started off with something a bit different for attendees. Dr. Jerry Galloway, professor of instructional technology at Georgia Southern University, shared his views on technology adoption and learning. Technology and people are so intertwined in today's financial institutions that it is simply impossible to operate optimally without the two working in union with each other, Galloway said. It's about more than simple training, he added. Understanding how people best respond to learning and education can make all the difference in the success of a financial institution's latest product or service rollout.

Of course, no event on transformation in banking would be complete without a discussion on compliance. Regulations, laws and guidance have been responsible for a remarkable amount of change in the financial services sector. Rather than looking at compliance as a necessary burden, bankers such as Rose Corvo, technology, services and fulfillment compliance executive at Bank of America, view it as an opportunity for introducing greater efficiency at the bank. Corvo said her goal is to help automate compliance wherever possible so that the bank at large can benefit from this improved flexibility and transparency.

Joining Corvo was Ronald Hoffer, vice president and senior IT-audit manager at Union Bank of California. Hoffer indicated that there are limits to what technology can do in terms of compliance. For example, he said, technology cannot always take the place of people. There are a number of things that technology can do, however, including controlling who accesses information. Hoffer emphasized that banks have to make it clear where technology is the primary control and that technology is always supporting business goals.

Interoperability -- whether between systems or people -- is key for a bank's operations, especially in the payments area. JPMorgan Chase's Patrick Moore, SVP, product executive, ACH and deposit services, and First Horizon EVP and CIO Patrick Ruckh agreed that the future of payments, as their session was titled, lies in a more collaborative, interoperable environment. This harmonization will become even more vital in the years to come as market dynamics force banks to provide a more seamless operating environment. To enable this, Moore and Ruckh agreed that banks would need to concentrate not only on the payments themselves, but also on the information around the payments. That is where opportunity for differentiation and value-added services lies.

This change will usher in a different market, explained Moore, where the differences between cross-border and domestic payments, and high- and low-value payments blur; where pricing is driven by speed, and where security counts.

One of the highlights of the 2006 Executive Summit involved the awards ceremony for BS&T's Most Innovative CIOs in Banking, who were featured in the September 2006 issue. Mark LaPenta (MetLife Bank), Patrick Ruckh (First Horizon), Brian Stanfill (Delaware County Bank & Trust), Kurt Woetzel (The Bank of New York), Michael Ashworth (JPMorgan) and Kevin Shearan (Mellon Financial) were honored before their peers, the first group of BS&T CIOs ever to receive such recognition. **

For information on the 2007 BS&T Executive Summit, visit www.banktech.com/summit

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