Following several years of neglect, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's branch channel is undergoing a facelift, with 1,200 locations being equipped with a new operating platform and application software.
Tantalized by the prospect of replacing bricks-and-mortar branches with a low-cost online banking channel, CIBC-like many banks-had set up an independent Internet subsidiary in the 1990s. But when the promised results failed to materialize, it redoubled its efforts on improving its branches.
"To radically reengineer our bank from a customer experience perspective, we needed to work on our branch channel," said Linda Dentay, vice president and CIO, retail branch technology at Toronto-based CIBC.
In the fall of 1999, CIBC launched a three-year, $256 million effort to modernize its branches. It began by replacing its homegrown DOS-based desktops with a fleet of new PCs and a Windows 2000 operating system platform.
The branches were upgraded from a token ring-based OS/2 platform to an Ethernet-based Windows 2000 operating system. The upgrade included replacing the basic applications that had sat on the old OS2 platform.
But the project quickly became bogged down. "With 15-year old core infrastructure and applications, we struggled to add branch functionality, even e-mail," Dentay said.
CIBC's stodgy technical infrastructure was primarily to blame.
"Our banking application platform is proprietary and contains tightly integrated business logic within our client, server and host layers, which causes constraints around cost and time to market for every business change," Dentay explained.
"Each time we changed business functionality or tried to introduce something new, we had to hit all three layers of our technology, which is expensive and time consuming," she continued. "It also limited our capability to extend functionality in our other delivery channels."
Keeping in line with its slogan, "Smart Simple Solutions," CIBC required a new banking application platform that would deliver a good customer experience, and be user-friendly for employees.
"A key requirement was to move to a modern, standards-based architecture," Dentay said. "We wanted to move out of the proprietary space into mid-tier applications that share applications through a shared centralized location rather than in three separate layers that siloed different data for each channel."
In response, CIBC installed Eontec, an object-based repository of more than 1,500 banking processes from Eontec, an Ireland-based provider of component-based systems for retail banks.
Eontec has become the linchpin of CIBC's branch modernization effort. "The right architecture will allow us to reduce risk and add to our business flexibility," Dentay said. "We did not want to build our own customized business processes."
CIBC is in the early stages of rolling out a teller system built on Eontec's teller interface and basic banking functions. The system includes start and end of day processes, basic deposits, withdrawals, bill payments and inquiries.
Eontec also will allow CIBC to eliminate paper within its branches. "Previously, we could only accept paper bill payments within our branches," said Dentay. "By adding the new functions in the branch, now we can accept electronic bill payments and get paper out of the branches."
Forms processing is another innovation. "Typically, we carry a large stock of secure forms at each branch. Now, the system lets us print these forms on demand," said Dentay.
"This year, we are also looking to implement PIN-based authentication in the branches to reduce paper for basic financial transactions," she added.
Residing in the middle tier of CIBC's network, Eontec directs the flow of data seamlessly across software layers. As the teller signs on to conduct a transaction, Eontec connects to the correct process, while pulling customer data from the backend. Thus, information is presented in a customer-centric, not product-centric, way.
Previously, tellers had to conduct transactions separately, without a consolidated view of the customer. If a customer had a deposit and loan payment, the teller needed to complete one transaction, then go back to the main screen to conduct the next.
The new teller system features a three-part user interface. The first part displays personal information, and the second displays their product portfolio. The third part is where the teller conducts all transactions. Since the back end aggregates all customer data at the beginning of each customer session, data does not have to be reentered.
"By giving them a customer-centric view, we are making the employee experience easier and quicker, and now they have the means to know the customer," Dentay said.
"By linking all customer data in a session, employees no longer need to re-key data over and over, all processes and data are shared between transactions, and multiple transactions can occur within one session," she added. "It gives them a more holistic experience with the customer."
CIBC introduced the new teller system in 16 branches last November, and another 16 branches were added in January. All bank branches should be live by early summer.
During the rollout, CIBC plans to develop its next releases and decide on additional banking functions, such as expanded customer information and messaging, product origination and extended servicing functions. A mix of these processes will be released to the platform this year, Dentay said.