Like many other large banking institutions formed through mergers and acquisitions, Bank of America has had to deal with multiple, duplicate backend systems in some of its lines of business. One of those is its wholesale business, which has been on a four-year journey to simplify and modernize its IT platforms to improve customer experience, data quality, and cost elasticity.
"This will be our infrastructure for the next 20 years. Thirty years ago, we decided on a single platform" for non-US markets, Bill Pappas, Bank of America's CIO for global wholesale banking technology and operations, told us. "That has given us a competitive advantage up until now. This transformation will give us a competitive advantage in the future."
[For more on Bank of America's wholesale bank transformation, check out: Bill Pappas Reduces, Rebuilds, and Replaces to Move BofA Merrill Lynch Forward]
After beginning the transformation of the wholesale bank by working on CashPro Online, the bank's single sign on web portal for customers, Pappas and his team turned to consolidating backend systems. That meant upgrading its payments, liquidity, and DDA platforms with the goal of unifying the client experience across different markets while being flexible enough to allow for local configurability.
"Some of our clients are growing outside the US, and we need to ensure they have a consistent experience across different geographies, but we also need to be flexible for some local adaptations," Pappas said. "We see that our clients' needs are either completely global or completely local."
On the payments side, Pappas and his team have collapsed multiple billing platforms into one, and they have collapsed multiple investigation platforms into one to improve payments monitoring. They will migrate thousands of clients to a new global platform for SEPA payments during the next few months. They will soon pilot a new high-value payment platform in Singapore.
The wholesale business has also launched a global capable liquidity platform that provides real-time netting; European and Asian clients have already migrated to it. Pappas and his team are also in the early stages of planning how to collapse three DDA platforms into one.
These upgrades and consolidations have helped to simplify processes such as payments reconciliation, which is running at 99.5% automation, according to Pappas. They have also helped improve the front-end experience for the bank's 520,000 clients using CashPro Online.
"One of our most popular CashPro modules is information reporting," he said. "Our clients need real-time access to data going back a year or more. We can now provide data going back 24 months, and that stems from the simplification of our infrastructure. We have fewer data points to extract, so we can get cleaner data. Big data for us starts with platform simplification."
With a simplified infrastructure, the bank will also be able to improve speed to market for new products and services, such as its new Digital Disbursements e-payments solution. By leveraging P2P payments technology from the bank's retail consumer side, the new solution can speed up payments processing from days to minutes. "It's 75% cheaper than sending a physical check. We see that unit cost as a differentiator for us."
Pappas and his team have partly measured their success so far by looking at operational efficiencies gained by looking at things like platform performance. They've also looked at customer feedback as a key metric, and they have seen the wholesale bank's customer satisfaction scores go up each year since the beginning of the transformation. And they're hard at work to ensure that trend continues. "The first phase of our transformation [improving the front-end experience] isn't over for us. We will continue to build out new products and capabilities for our clients on our new infrastructure over the next 24-36 months."
Jonathan Camhi has been an associate editor with Bank Systems & Technology since 2012. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in New York City covering politics, health and immigration, and has a master's degree from the City University of New York's Graduate School ... View Full Bio