Royal Bank opens data backlog to customers

BALTIMORE – In an era of drive-through and Internet banking, when tellers seem as contemporary as rotary telephones, getting your banking records can still take weeks.

As recently as nine months ago, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Financial

Group personal account holders had to wait between seven and 14 days to get their bankbooks updated beyond the 90-day history offered on the bank’s Web site.

It was a labourious process, says RBC information technology project manager Andy Hanna, who spoke the Information Builders Summit this week. The process typically involved a request delivered to a call centre, which would then initiate the process of gathering the microfiche data, which often had to be translated to accommodate the bank’s French and English speaking clients. The 30,000 such requests each year resulted in $1 million in retrieval costs and $800,000 in personnel costs to the bank every 12 months.

All that changed last August when RBC went live with its Bankbook Reconstruct, an intranet application powered by Information Builders Inc.’s Webfocus software, that allows RBC staff to reconstruct for a personal banking client up to six years of data – the amount banks are mandated by the federal government to store – in either official language, in seconds. The implementation brought RBC a 1,218 per cent return on its investment, for which the bank was honoured with the Highest ROI award at Information Builders 2002 Summit here this week.

“”What that did was eliminate our requirement to keep microfiche for six years,”” Hanna says. “”It’s really a simple application, but it works quite well.””

“”Sometimes it’s not the application that changes the paradigm”” (that provides the biggest ROI), adds Brian Joynt, general manager of Information Builders Canada Inc. “”This one was really (just) automating a process.””

What was not a simple process of automation, Hanna says, was ensuring the integrity of data that had to be collected from a number of different legacy systems. This alone accounted for between six and seven months of the one year implementation process.

“”We’re talking about one terabyte of data. The data integrity was the biggest hurdle, because we found out it wasn’t that pristine,”” Hanna says. “”The development of the application was not as long as the data integrity check.””

Because of the success of what was RBC’s first major Webfocus implementation, the application has been embraced for other bank processes, including credit risk management and fraud detection.

“”Now that they’ve brought in the engine, there’s an interest for it to be in other (banking areas such as) loans, mortgages,”” Hanna says. “”It’s going to save the bank a lot of money in bad loans.””

RBC also has plans to extend Bankbook Reconstruct to its commercial clients and to expand the application itself. Currently, personal banking customers initiate a request either by phone or in person at a bank branch, and the request is fulfilled at internal offices. Without specifying a target date, Hanna says RBC is looking to move request fulfillment to branches and eventually to the Internet, enabling customers to retrieve their own baking histories.

He adds that Webfocus 4.3.6, unveiled at this week’s summit, will lessen the programming needed to create Excel-format files used on the bank’s intranet and to convert the files to PDF format for Internet self-service. (RBC used Webfocus 4.3.1 for its Bankbook Reconstruct application.)

“”It will make it easier for us to go to our next phase in the bank, and ultimately, to the client,”” he says.

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