A Bank of Montreal technical overhaul heralds some 21st century changes for the institution, according to one executive — not the least of which is getting rid of those little slips of paper in its branches.

All counter transactions

will be performed by tellers who gain access to a customer profile after swiping their ATM card.

“”If you go into some of our branches that haven’t converted yet, you’ll see all sorts of orange (and) blue pieces of paper and pens that are on chains that don’t write very well. We’ve eliminated all of that,”” said Rob Pearce, president of distribution for BMO. “”All the customer has to do is give us the card, we swipe it, they tell us what they want us to do.””

The move to paperless branches is part of a broader transition for the bank which began last December. BMO is upgrading desktop and server hardware via an agreement with IBM and rolling out Microsoft Windows 2000 and Active Directory on 20,000 machines.

“”It’s a significant change from their branch environment, which was in the past on very disparate platforms,”” said Microsoft Canada client executive Michael Weening. “”They had numerous applications that in some cases wouldn’t even run on the same desktops.

“”The tellers used . . . to go to one desktop to access a certain mainframe application, then go to another desktop to access a different application. We’ve completely eliminated that.””

Tellers were using mainframe terminals before the IBM machines were brought in, so BMO is essentially starting with a clean slate. It made sense to rebuild the teller applications and integrate sales force software. The technology was getting so old that younger employees probably wouldn’t even recognize it. “”If they come into a branch and have to use old technology, you can imagine how difficult that is and how much training time that would have taken,”” said Pearce.

Having converted roughly half its branches, the plan is to have 1,000 BMO locations switched over to Windows 2000 and card-swiping tellers by the end of this year. The latter is hardly a new innovation for Canadian banking — Scotiabank, for example, has had the technology in place for two years — but BMO is being innovative with its new operating system, according to Microsoft enterprise strategy consultant John Oxley.

“”Some of the stuff that they’ve got for ideas is actually surprising us,”” he said. BMO is rolling out employee provisioning software concurrently with Windows 2000, for example. That will cut back on extraneous back office information not all employees need to see, he said. In the process, BMO came up with a Web administration tool. “”Unbeknownst to them, it’s actually the first .Net application that they actually created.

“”The biggest surprise, I guess, is how they use Windows 2000,”” added Oxley. “”They actually use all the features. In an effort to cost cut, they look at what’s inherent in the box.””

By January 2003, BMO will achieve better integration between its call centre and branch locations, said Pearce. “”Working between call centres and branches, particularly some branches, is still pretty archaic communication — faxes and all that kind of stuff.””

By the end of the project, BMO aims to have a consistent view of the customer, no matter how they choose to deal with the bank.

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