An Alberta bank turned to a small Irish company for software to help give it a more integrated view of its customers.

It ended up with a more integrated supplier relationship when Siebel Systems Inc., which supplies other software

to ATB Financial, acquired the company in question, Dublin-based Eontec.

ATB, an Edmonton-based Crown corporation with 150 branches across the province, looked to Eontec early this year in search of new software for its tellers, agents and back-office staff. Ken Casey, ATB senior vice-president of retail banking delivery, said the bank wanted to replace aging IBM 4700 terminals with a better client interface that would give bring all information about each customer together in one place.

“We wanted to see a customer’s complete holdings and track where the customer had been,” Casey said.

The old system required tellers to remember transaction codes and many operations took a lot of keystrokes, Casey added. “We needed to get an intuitive client interface,” he explained.

ATB already used Siebel software, including Siebel Call Center, but at the time ATB began shopping for new branch teller software the San Mateo, Calif.-based customer relationship management (CRM) software vendor had no such product. ATB narrowed its list of potential suppliers down to four companies, two of which were U.S. companies while the other two had experience in the Canadian market, Casey said.

Casey said ATB’s reasons for choosing Eontec included the fact that it had supplied branch teller software to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the fact that its software was built using Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) technology. “We felt with our other applications that were being built that that would work well,” he said. It also helped that Eontec was able to promise all the functionality ATB wanted right away, while other vendors said some of it would have to come later, according to Casey.

Patrick Brazel, former chief executive of Eontec and now general manager and vice-president of Siebel’s retail finance division, described the CIBC deal as probably the largest rollout of a new branch technology any bank in the world has undertaken.

Brazel said Java, and J2EE in particular, is emerging as the development tool of choice for new corporate applications.

ATB representatives traveled to Dublin to take a closer look at Eontec before closing the deal, Casey said.

Over all, the upgrade to the bank’s branch technology is costing in the range of $16 million, Casey said, with that sum split about half and half between infrastructure and the application with associated integration costs. The cost works out to around $13,500 per workstation, he said.

Very soon after ATB and Eontech signed the deal, Siebel announced its purchase of the Irish banking automation company for $70 million (U.S.).

Casey said the acquisition suits ATB just fine. “In the end it’s going to be a good thing,” he said. “With us running other Siebel applications, it does fit into our enterprise plan. They’re a much bigger company, and that has an effect on your vendor risk.”

Brazel said Siebel is working on further integration of the Branch Teller product with other Siebel software, but wouldn’t elabortate.

Casey said ATB began the implementation April 1 and expects it to take about 18 months, so the rollout will be completed around September 2005.

Casey said ATB turned its attention to upgrading its branch automation after focusing for some time on developing alternative channels such as online and telephone banking. “It was time we started putting the same effort into the branches,” he said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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