September 09, 2009

Bank of America (Charlotte; $2.3 trillion in assets) is preparing to roll out the next generation of its treasury management portal CashPro Online. The new CashPro, set to debut at the annual conference of the Association for Financial Professionals this October, will represent a leap forward in the use of collaborative technologies, starting with CashPro's very foundation.

Milton Santiago, SVP for portal strategy and treasury e-commerce solutions executive with the bank, tells BS&T that the key technical improvements to the new solution will be the scalability (it can accommodate in excess of a million users) and reliability of the technology.

"We now have the ability for automated failover, so that if one systems fails, another system takes over," Santiago explains. "CashPro Online was also built on an SOA model. It has the ability to maintain itself without any interruptions in service. It's a complete rebuild. Our goal is to have a solution that's always available. This is important to us because we're a global organization."

Bank of America developed CashPro primarily with its own in-house know-how. The infrastructure itself was from a vendor but Santiago declines to name the company.

This was a two-year project that required significant effort from BofA, says Santiago. "We were very fortunate the bank invested in this in the previous year and even this year," he notes. "The portals represent a financial artery for our clients. It's critical to them for managing their businesses."

However, CashPro Online isn't just a treasury portal—it's a treasury, liquidity and debt solutions portal, emphasizes Santiago. The bank added more functionality in these areas in response to not only the current global economic conditions, but also to what it was hearing its clients say.

"They want visibility, control, speed. We're taking advantage of mature technology now to bring them this collaborative solution," Santiago explains.

The idea was to create an intuitive, user-friendly site for clients so that they can interact with it with minimal instruction and interruption—commonsense improvements, according to Santiago.

For instance, the administration function, the core integrating component of the site, was redone to provide users with a more consistent look and experience across functions. Wire transfers and remote capture modules are very different in nature, each requiring a certain degree of security. However, CashPro was designed so that the user dashboard maintains a consistent feel regardless of the function/product being used by the client.

Another improvement is the function for adding new users. Santiago says the form for doing so is broken into "digestible chunks" of information about the client that can be input into the form in a more automated fashion. There is also on-screen validation of data as the user tabs through each field to ensure the information meets the systems' requirements for things like character length. It will even immediately alert users when a field has been skipped, rather than waiting until they click "submit" when finished.

"Look at sites like Facebook and Flickr," says Santiago. "Much of what we saw a couple years ago with Web 2.0 technology is finally being proven by the heavy use of these sites. So we wanted to create something that's so useable that even a new person can use it."

Security is another important aspect of CashPro Online. BofA looked at security as both an enabler and a utility, he says. Features include transaction destination alerts to ensure the company is really paying whom it says.

"If the system sees a wire going to some place in China when that company never did business in China before, it sends an alert," says Santiago. "It's the same concept that's used in the credit card industry of point-of-sale transaction alerts. It's using scoring and notification based on certain patterns.

There are no digital certificates required and clients can opt for token-based authentication to secure transactions beyond the standard secure login if they wish.

BofA also integrated the servicing area of the portal with its CRM solution. As a result, service requests are immediately available to the bank's global service organization. The client is presented with a dashboard of the service requests it has pending with the bank.

Clients can even use live chat or an avatar feature to seek answers to questions. For instance, the avatar was built with natural language capabilities so it can provide more targeted answers, versus presenting clients with a data dump of possible answers.

These features are what BofA baked into CashPro from the start—technologies that can enhance the customer experience beyond just e-mail help. And this is what Santiago says will help the bank differentiate itself in the commercial banking market.

"It all comes down to our being the one site our clients come to," he says. "We've built an infrastructure that supports three client segments: business banking, middle market commercial banking and wealth management. The portal provides information specific to their segments with regard to products and the knowledge associated with those products."

Non-banking related features such as financial news, stock tracker and local weather were added as well. "When we looked at client use the avatar, weather inquiries were very popular requests among customers, so we added a portlet for local weather," explains Santiago.

"Presently, the bank has a few clients using CashPro Online as early adopters. When CashPro Online becomes generally available later this month, it will be available to new clients and roughly 40,000 users now using a previous version of CashPro. Bank of America clients who have been using other portal technology will be converted to CashPro Online in 2010."

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