Trimmed down St George team banks on extra Net bucks

St George Bank is drawing up plans to flesh out its new corporate strategy, the goals of which include improved database marketing, and the development of new internet opportunities.

The new strategy will allow St George to implement a more customer-centric business model now that it has completed integration of St George, BankSA and Advance Bank, said Ed O'Neal, managing director, St George.

John Loebenstein, CIO, St George, is one of a reduced core executive team of seven, announced last month, at the bank.

He said one of the bank's aims is to make better use of customer information in its data warehouse.

"In general terms St George has been recognised as representing best practice in customer analysis and the development of the data warehouse, and we still have that capability," he said.

"But we need to improve the way the knowledge [in the data warehouse] is utilised and taken out to the coalface, to the people who interface with customers, so they can use it in a way that adds value to the relationship. We need to build bridges so all this pool of rich knowledge [can] . . . go out to the customer-facing systems."

According to Loebenstein, St George is "still in the process of making detailed plans", on how to achieve this.

He said that a key technical challenge for the bank as it moves forward on the project is to ensure there is no misinterpretation of customer information, which might result in the alienation of customers.

In terms of the internet and e-commerce, St George aims to partner with nonbanking organisations, to develop new business opportunities.

The bank already has a partnership with Sausage Software, announced in May 1999, to design, develop, market and operate e-commerce solutions.

Loebenstein described the internet as "a very important channel" for St George and said that the bank's new strategy would allow its development to "go ahead relatively unhindered by anything else going on in the bank".

Meanwhile, the bank has recently invested a six-figure sum to implement a new banking platform, from FICS for its corporate customers.

The FICS system enables corporate customers to dial into St George's back-end systems, and complete a wide variety of transactions from their desktop through the 'Corporate Banking for Windows' solution.

A Unix middleware platform manages connectivity to St George's core banking systems.

FICS replaces an in-house system, which was several years old.

"While St George had a good front end for online banking, our back end systems were not scalable, incorporating three different operating platforms. We needed a single-branded commercial solution which could interface with our legacy systems and make day-to-day banking much faster for our customers," said Steve Lindsay, chief manager, IT system services, St George.

Loebenstein said he was pleased with the FICS implementation.

"As with any project you have some ups and downs, you encounter problems in the middle of the project which were initially unforeseen. But we sat with FICS around a table and did what was necessary to fully develop and complete the project."

The FICS system is now being rolled out to St George corporate customers.

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