When the European Commision introduced the concept of the single euro payments area (SEPA), the idea of charging the same fees for cross-border and domestic payments was hailed as a logical evolution in the unity of the European Union and its monetary system. But when the financial institutions affected by the new directive did the math, many felt their fee income was threatened. Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank ($3.12 trillion in assets), however, was an exception.
The bank was one of the earliest to embrace SEPA as a great opportunity to expand its business and add value to its client services. Large-scale technological changes obviously would play an important role in gearing up for the new payments landscape, and Mary Campbell, global head of personal and corporate banking cash and trade operations, group technology and operations, for Deutsche Bank, was there to help spearhead the organization's vast transformation.
According to Campbell, rather than viewing SEPA in a payments vacuum, the bank took a holistic approach. "Deutsche Bank's SEPA activities have to be viewed within our overall strategy of achieving competitive advantage through optimized processing in a vastly changing European payments landscape where new entrants are emerging and existing providers are consolidating," she explains.
It was decided to have one platform supporting a single, pan-European operating model from the outset, Campbell reports. The bank even had a head start since it had already consolidated its ACH processing in three of the European countries in which it operates. In the end, Campbell says, the result of this team effort was harmonized standards and functionality that have led to a straight-through processing rate close to 100 percent.
Even for a bank with Deutsche Bank's global reach and resources, SEPA represented a huge change. But for Campbell, change is just part of the job. "Investment banking is an environment of constant change; you could work with the same company in the same division for 20 years and justifiably feel that you had 20 or more different jobs," she relates. "Rapid response to changing business and industry requirements is essential, [along] with the ability to quickly reprioritize and redirect resources."
Financial Services 2.0
Even the people at the heart of the industry — customers and associates alike — are changing, Campbell notes. The evolving Web 2.0 culture is creating a generation of people who live and work differently from previous generations, she observes, adding that the next generation of employees and clients will be the most influential factor in the future of banking technology.
Maintaining a talented IT organization, Campbell continues, soon will be about more than just hiring staff with a good balance of technology and business acumen. "Changing student trends influence how we manage our organization, and hire and develop our people and their careers," she explains. "Learning methods are changing. ... As these people enter the corporate sector, their e-learning experiences will influence their business practices and their expectations with regard to delivery of financial services. ... By broadly applying such technology, the knowledge sharing and creativity in corporations will fundamentally change."