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Martin Davis Unites the Wells Fargo and Wachovia IT Shops

Merging two customer-centric banks presents challenges and opportunities for Davis as he oversees the technology integration.

This move to use a Wells Fargo-centric IT infrastructure comes as no surprise as the dominant bank's systems usually win out post-merger. Plus, says Narter, "The IT shop at Wells loves to build their own stuff and offer a best-in-class experience. They're big enough to be able to do this."

In the end, the idea is for Wells Fargo to have a 360-degree view of all its customers. "Both companies were well positioned relative to knowing our customers and now we're bringing that together," he says. "We want to make sure when we finish the integration that we have full visibility into our banking relationships. It's going to be a common platform." First Manhattan Consulting Group (New York) VP Paul Sussman says the merger integration is presenting the new entity with the perfect opportunity to achieve this holistic customer view, especially given each bank's history in customer relations. "You have Wachovia's ability to maintain great customer service coupled with Wells Fargo's ability to source new business to its customers," he remarks. "And this is on top of the cost savings and risk management advantages they'll get from having integrated customer data."

Of course it's a work in progress, and some Wachovia applications may run in parallel for a while as the integration proceeds. However, the end state is a single Wells Fargo platform using the existing core technology, which, Davis says, "already performs well."

He notes the integration should conclude at the end of 2011. "This [end date] was driven by what's right for our customer base. We want to take our time and ensure there's minimal impact on the customers."

Still, the bank is looking to accelerate the migration of specific platforms. For instance, the mortgage platform was one of the first converted. Davis says many drivers shape the company's integration plan, including the current business climate. "Look at the interest rate rally over the last six months," he remarks. "We wanted our mortgage platform in great shape to take advantage of this for our customers."

Furthermore, Wells Fargo also announced in June it was working with its card processor, First Data (Greenwood Village, Colo.), to help bring Wachovia's credit card customers into the Wells Fargo fold.

Yes, customers are king, but so is cost in a project of this scale. Cost savings and synergies were likely major considerations of the "rescue" acquisition strategy by Wells Fargo. According to Davis, so far the bank is on track, even "exceeding" its expected efficiencies.

With companies the size of Wachovia and Wells Fargo coming together, having two or three versions of everything is par for the course, he says. "So this is a great opportunity to find efficiencies in software, hardware, tools, solutions and processes, and to streamline the organization to take cost out," Davis explains. "We are due to exceed our 2009 goals." Cost is followed very carefully by Davis, as he has joint accountability to the head of the financial group for the technology and operations functions at Wells Fargo.

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