October 01, 2007

Bank Systems &Technology: How does FHLBank Atlanta differ from the Federal Reserve or commercial banks?

Lucia: Unlike the Federal Reserve Banks, FHLBank Atlanta is a private institution that provides our members with funding and liquidity. And unlike commercial banks, our customers are other deposit-gathering financial institutions rather than retail individuals. In essence we're a bank for banks.

We have about 1,200 members, including savings and loans, insurance companies, credit unions, and commercial banks. A large percentage of our customers are smaller institutions with less than $1 billion in assets, although we do serve large institutions as well.

Bank Systems &Technology: What products and services do you offer?

Lucia: Our main business is to provide advances for our members to offer mortgages to their retail customers. Another critical part of our mission is our affordable housing program. The Federal Home Loan Bank system is the largest contributor of private grant funds for affordable housing in the U.S.; we'll provide more than $40 million in 2007.

Many of our smaller members look to us as a major source of their funding. But larger institutions have other funding options, such as selling their own securities on Wall Street. Therefore we need to be very competitively priced.

Bank Systems &Technology: What's your technology infrastructure?

Lucia: Because our business model is so different from a normal bank, we have a combination of [vendor and in-house] systems. Our IT infrastructure is client/server, and much of what we have is Web-enabled. We are in the process of refreshing those systems and are undertaking a significant reengineering of our administrative and data-collection processes.

Bank Systems &Technology: Do you have a large IT development staff?

Lucia: Our entire IT staff makes up about one-quarter of the bank staff, and we have a relatively small development staff. Our business model is that we have less transaction volume than other financial institutions, but the individual dollar size is large and the transactions are complex. We target resources to areas where we can improve efficiency since our cost per transaction is higher than a normal bank. To keep a lean head count, I complement the staff with deep technology knowledge from the outside.

Bank Systems &Technology: What are some of the technology strategies and initiatives you are leading?

Lucia: We're halfway through an IT transformation. We've already ensured that we have redundancy, good performance and tools, and security and administration controls. We've also been refreshing our Internet platform.

We are currently working a loan platform upgrade. We have a team of folks across the bank defining what our business processes should look like in the future, and we'll then go out and find a solution or several pieces of a solution. Our current system was created back when loans were either fixed or variable rate but not both. Our loans now have a lot of complexity, and we want to deliver new products more quickly than we can with our current system.

Bank Systems &Technology: How is IT organized?

Lucia: I'm part of the executive management team. I report to the CEO [Richard Dorfman]. I manage a centralized IT division consisting of five functional departments. Within our applications area we are organized into teams that support our various business lines. We work closely with those businesses to be fully engaged and responsive to their needs.