December 07, 2001

David Aldridge Chief Technology Officer Union Planters-

David Aldridge has been busy since joining Union Planters in mid-September as chief technology officer. Along with managing the switch from a mainframe-based system to a distributed platform, Aldridge is spearheading the bank's UP Excel project, which encompasses a wide range of revenue enhancements and cost savings initiatives throughout the organization.

Aldridge will lead the Memphis-based bank in all of its IT initiatives by drawing on his past experience at Home Shopping Network, Banc One, Midlantic Banks and Broadway & Seymour. Aldridge also served a combat tour in Southeast Asia, attaining the rank of captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He spoke about his current initiatives with BS&T senior associate editor IVAN SCHNEIDER.

BS&T: How have the terrorist attacks affected your priorities?

Aldridge: We have a fairly good business resumption program in place. Any time you see this, your knee-jerk reaction is to say, "How well prepared are we for a disaster?"

And disaster recovery's always been pretty high on my list. In a prior job, I hired a fellow who had been at one of the securities companies during the first World Trade Center blast in 1993, and he had to reconstitute operations without a plan. He had learned the lesson the hard way, which I guess sensitized me.

We sat down here and evaluated where we are, and we feel very good about our ability to respond should something happen.

BS&T: What does the bank's technology infrastructure look like?

Aldridge: We are in transition. Now, we run on an IBM mainframe and we run an integrated banking suite that includes financials. We have a mortgage company that has its own loan administration and loan origination system.

The loan administration system actually runs on the mainframe, so if you think about our environment, it is very mainframe-centric, which makes it relatively easy to manage things like security and disaster recovery. As we go through the period of transition, we will probably be moving to a more distributed platform, so we have to rethink things like business resumption planning and security administration.

BS&T: What are some of your goals?

Aldridge: The biggest goal is a project called UP Excel. We took 300 bank officers and asked them to take a look at various areas of the bank and come up with revenue generating ideas or expense reduction ideas. We compiled those into approximately 800 tasks, which will yield us either better performance in serving our customers or potentially a new way to generate revenue.

At least one-third of those have a significant IT component. Some of it may be to replace a system, some may be to go out and acquire a new system, in some cases it might be to go and enhance an existing system. We'll be finished with that at the end of 2002.

BS&T: What's the bank's strategy right now?

Aldridge: We have grown dramatically over the last 10 years. We have acquired some 60 community banks, and our assets have grown to about $34.5 billion.

We have digested those banks in terms of having them all on our systems now. The big challenge is to streamline the organizational structure of the bank and that is part of the UP Excel project, and then optimize processes.

If we have five loan centers across the corporation, how many do we really need? The number's probably not one but it's probably less than five.

And so the UP Excel project would rationalize that to the right number of loan centers, to provide efficient processing so that we can serve our customers, but also with redundancy.

BS&T: How has your background and experience helped you in this role?

Aldridge: If there were a key to my background, it's been change agent. I've spent most of my time in companies that are in transition. At Banc One, I served as chief technology officer for all of the non-bank companies, including securities, insurance, mortgage, brokerage, and mutual fund companies.

That was a new corporation that the chairman had created by pulling those companies together. So my job was to help each of those companies with their individual IT strategies and then to look at where we could together leverage technology.