It never hurts to know where the bear sits, and the sooner the better.

Particularly in these tough economic times, traders on Bay Street want to know about the bottom line as early as possible, even if it’s bad news.

The Canadian Depository for Securities (CDS), a clearinghouse for daily

trades between banks and brokers, is attempting to make the process more efficient by adopting a reporting tool to deliver the raw numbers on demand.

CDS holds nearly $2 trillion on deposit and settles up to $200 billion daily for banks, trust companies and other financial services firms, providing them with settlement reports and the exchange of payments between the users.

Until this year, CDS used two systems to handle the immense volume of trades — it processes 45 million securities trades a year. One system managed transactions in government debt and money market securities, and the other equities and corporate debt securities.

To keep up with demands from its users, CDS needed to move to one platform and make it easier for the clients such as banks and brokers to create the status reports they want throughout the day.

CDSX, an information system that processes debt and money market securities, replaced two legacy systems the company was using.

But replacing them meant replacing 500 different Cobol reports, so rather than carrying them over, CDS developed a Web reporting application with Information Builders’ WebFocus to deliver information to its customers.

“”We wanted to help our end-users get value out of the technology,”” says Ken Wong, assistant vice-president of IT development for CDS. “”Throughout the day participants often have a need to know what’s been done, what’s not been done on their behalf, that kind of thing. They can build the reports when they need them without waiting for us and requesting us to do it for them.””

Wong says the original cost to replace the Cobol reports was estimated at $3.5 million because of the labour-intensive process it would require. He wouldn’t say what the cost was using WebFocus, only that it was significantly less.

“”We achieved a pretty impressive cost savings, and because we had an aggressive timeline to get CDSX up and running we decided to look for a technology solution that could help us drive out those business values and empower our end users to get at data and do inquiries on their own,”” says Wong.

With Cobol, Wong says a different skill set was required to translate reports that were delivered to a terminal screen or printer. With WebFocus, it’s done over the Web. “”Today we provide the end user access to data to do a query and customized reports on their own so there is a lot less work from CDS technology people,”” he says.

The end result was a subset of those original 500 reports that required a fraction of the number of templates, says Brent Bruin, systems engineer with Information Builders Canada. “”I think that’s where a lot of the return on investment comes from.””

The users can have any number of parameters set on a screen, generate multiple scenarios and create reports in Word, Excel, and PDF format.

Mark Smith, president of research firm Full Circle Strategies in Redwood Shores, Calif., says many organizations have legacy reporting issues.

“”It’s just been a matter of time to replace those systems,”” he says.

“”One of the strengths of WebFocus is the back end integration capability,”” he adds.

The first portion of the CDS project was completed in five months. To date, the money market and most debt securities are processed on the CDSX platform with the remaining debt and equity securities scheduled for conversion in 2003.

— with files from Jennifer Brown

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