St George bank tidies up integration woes

Commodity systems pave way for real-time data warehousing

Like most large financial institutions, St George Bank has its work cut out when it comes to data integration, but unlike many similar organizations it is close to having its core information centralized in one data warehouse.

St George Bank's outgoing general manager of IT relationships and data warehousing, Gary Carter, said about 90 percent of the bank's data warehouse integration is complete with treasury and margin lending applications still to go.

Margin lending is being integrated now to satisfy compliance regulations.

"We did the first data warehousing project in 1993 when we bought Advance Bank and the Bank of South Australia," he said. "Now each morning 3000 data files are fed into the data warehouse."

St George has from 60 to 70 applications, including credit cards and home loans.

"They do a good job, but to do marketing you need to get information, so we put all systems into the data warehouse and feed it in the CRM so we can see the net worth of the customers of the organization," Carter said.

To further its integration efforts, the bank contracted BearingPoint 12 months ago to come in to "lift the bonnet" and advise the company on how to improve its internal information processes.

"Unless you have all the data in one place you can't get as good information," Carter said, adding at St George data integration has worked well but there is more to do as it is not leveraging things it has done in the past.

The bank undertook a CRM project three years ago and chose PeopleSoft on DB2 but still has a lot of home-grown applications that need integrating, which Carter said is not uncommon in the insurance and banking sector.

"As a bank, what we sell is knowledge of customer data," he said. "We spent $40 million implementing Basel II which provides knowledge of payment patterns. Management initially saw it as a burden but now see it as a sales application, and I think it can be applied generally across IT."

Carter said he was made redundant from the bank, but unlike outgoing colleague CIO John Lobenstein, he will not be moving to a cattle farm in northern NSW, and instead will look to join a data warehousing vendor which is where his interest lies.

St George's BI platform is Business Objects.

"The challenge is to produce data quality. We are now two days behind [from transaction to warehousing] because of the restriction in platforms," he said. "You can run on Linux that costs nothing rather than mainframes that cost millions. Then you can look at real-time data warehousing."

Carter said $500,000 for integration software is not so expensive considering five staff cost the same money.

"The most costly part of the IT organization is the staff, not the tools," he said.

Data integration vendor Informatica's Australia and New Zealand managing director, Laurie Newman, said organizations are now looking more holistically at their applications and the sharing of information to drive business needs.

"Now all the tools are there that didn't exist three or four years ago," Newman said.

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