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Under Barbara Perino's Direction, IT Helps Washington Trust Compete With the Big Banks

At 209-year-old Washington Trust, Barbara Perino has overhauled legacy systems, developed customer insight capabilities and built an infrastructure that supports the community bank's growth strategies.

Improved customer insight also is the goal behind a CRM initiative taking place in Washington Trust's wealth management business. The bank is deploying UNAPEN's (Wallingford, Conn.) Client Logix CRM and business intelligence platforms to integrate sales and client service activities for four wealth management divisions. Other technologies in use for the wealth management business are Advent's APX product as well as the SunGard Advantage platform on an outsourced basis.

Perino has focused on making sure Washington Trust's infrastructure can support the growth strategies. "A lot of that is making sure we have the backbone and network infrastructure that is sufficient to support the growth we've experienced, to eliminate risk and manage risk by single points of failure," she says. That backbone is provided by Cisco Systems (San Jose, Calif.), and the bank has standardized on Dell (Round Rock, Texas) for its servers, PCs and laptops. The bank outsources its general ledger administration to COCC (Avon, Conn.).

Regarding Washington Trust's key technology providers, Perino emphasizes what she expects from vendors -- and what she thinks they should expect from her: "They're not just our vendors -- the way they manage and deliver their products is very important to us," she says. When Perino requires a new spec or recommends a new feature, her request is not just about what Washington Trust needs, she says; it also addresses "what's going on in the banking industry. If we ask for something, we try to request it [so that] it's good for all [the vendor's] clients, not just us."

The Elite 8 2009
Gary GreenwaldJohn BeranBarbara PerinoFrancisco 'Frank' DeArmasThomas KunzFred CookDavid DowningDonald Westermann
The Benefits of Green

Perino's commitment to Washington Trust and its customers, as well as her passion for helping others, all come together in some initiatives focused on helping the bank be greener. The bank recently received an Environmental Award for its recycling efforts from Cintas Document Management (Cincinnati), which performs secure document shredding services for the bank. Washington Trust recycles approximately 5,000 pounds of paper per week. The bank has run a number of "shredding days," and in May it ran an "eWaste Recycling Day" that allowed members of the local community to bring old electronics to a branch location for recycling.

"We don't have a specifically defined green strategy, but it is clearly something we as a corporation have top of mind," Perino says. The main goal of the shredding days, she adds, is to improve security and customers' awareness of proper security procedures -- essentially, "This is what we do as a company; this is how we protect your information by shredding your documents. Let us do same thing for you."

There's a personal angle to the eWaste Recycling Day. Washington Trust works with the Westerly Innovation Network, a group in which Perino's 11-year-old son is involved, that lets local students recycle donated and discarded computers into network PCs that are donated to other children in need not only in Rhode Island but also in Mexico and Africa.

Whether it's involvement in the activities of her two children or developing her own employees, for Perino it's all about involvement with other people. "I am very people-oriented," she declares. "I love what I do, I love the people. I care about my employees, and I think that's part of what makes me a good leader. I couldn't ask for a better work environment."

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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