February 10, 2003

I've always been a sucker for the futurists you see on TV predicting everything from when the stock market will rebound to which celebrities will divorce in the upcoming months (poor Liza). So in the spirit of these underappreciated seers, let me put on my turban, shake the magic Eight Ball, and prognosticate a few certainties of my own for 2003.

The first is easy. The Yankees will win the American League Pennant. The turning point comes in July when, 10 games down to the Red Sox, Darth Steinbrenner buys every airplane in the U.S., forcing the Bosox to forfeit all their away games.

I know I'm going out on a limb here, but I see-God, I can't believe I'm saying this-that the economy will be unsettled this year. In November, stunned by the brilliance and piercing insight of this prediction, economists will nominate me for a Nobel Prize.

On the entertainment front, I sense that American Idol and Survivor, two of America's most popular reality game shows, will combine to create a monster ratings hit. The concept is to have Simon eat a bowl of bugs and rice every time he says something snide, which is just about every time he opens his mouth.

Frivolity aside, there is one bank trend I really believe will come into its own next year: IT outsourcing for large financial institutions. The floodgates for this trend officially sprung late last year, when in fairly quick succession ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase signed multi-billion dollar IT outsourcing arrangements with either EDS or IBM (see Cover Story on www.banktech.com/story/BNK20030210S0008). Small- and medium-sized banks have been outsourcing various back office functions for years to cut cost and streamline processes, a recent example being the Unisys/Washington Mutual check image arrangement. Now that four of the largest banks in the world see the wisdom in large-scale IT outsourcing, it's probably only a matter of time-and increasing competitive pressure-before other top 20 banks follow.

Dedicated readers of Bank Systems & Technology will notice something different this issue-we've added a new back page column to the magazine. The Closing Line, written by senior editor Ivan Schneider, brings a unique take to management trends and issues in financial technology. His first column, on page 38, looks at how Amazon.com can be used to determine what books bankers are buying.

Ivan has also been promoted to editor of BS&T eNEWS, our online news-letter. Under his leadership, the publication has undergone a number of changes, including an increase in frequency from biweekly to weekly, a redesign to an easier-to-read format, and the addition of new sections dedicated to financial analyst research reports and archived stories on news-breaking topics. I recommend everyone visit www.banktech.com and sign up for the improved e-mailnewsletter, which has the added advantage of being free.