"If they're exceeding their anticipated savings at this point, then they've probably been very effective at consolidation," notes First Manhattan's Sussman. "Also, I think there's more of a focus on being a cost efficient and standardized organization now versus a year ago. The need is a bit greater and so is the value of savings."
Focusing on a Common Future
Not to be lost in all the talk of customers and platforms is the IT staff. Staff issues can become tricky during merger and acquisition activity as IT workers can take a personal stake in the systems they've operated for years.
Davis agrees mergers can be emotional times for IT professionals who have put years of expertise into a platform. "The key is to try to make them realize their value is tied not to a particular platform but to the organization. We get our pros motivated about what's ahead. Building up the new franchise gets people excited. It's an opportunity they may never see again in the U.S. Once they focus on the integration and executing it, they become focused on the new firm and start to forget about the legacy firms."
As with any merger, there has been some turn over in the IT department. Since IT is so vital to the union's outcome, however, Davis says these losses have been minimal. Additionally, both banks had contract programmers and offshore resources that allowed for greater flexibility with staffing models during the merger.
Plus, when the integration is complete, he anticipates that IT will be in greater demand than ever as the business units look to initiate new projects.
However, Davis is taking things one day at a time and never loses sight of the larger picture. Meetings are held weekly where the integration team examines lessons learned about what went well and what could be improved. "We're not waiting until the end of the project to do a postmortem," he states. "There's a tremendous amount of teamwork coming together here. As long as we stay focused on the similarities instead of the differences, that's a good way to springboard the new corporate culture."