JP Morgan nears its $20m Everest

With its eyes on building strong growth in the Asia-Pacific region, JP Morgan Chase Australia is nearing the end of Everest, a $20 million integration project.

The January 2001 acquisition of BT Portfolio Services -- a division of BT Funds Management -- which provides operational and administrative services to fund manager clients, was a means of extending its investor services offerings to more clients in Australia and Asia. JP Morgan's clients include NSP Buck, Norwich Union and Jardine Fleming Capital Partners.

The acquisition also helped JP Morgan secure a "large, anchor client" like BT Funds Management for the local business. It also added 300 former BT Portfolio Services staff to the 1200-person JP Morgan Australia. Of the new staffers 10 were IT people (dedicated to the investor services business) who joined an existing IT group of 45, said JP Morgan vice president and head of investor services technology David Braga.

These conditions drove the firm to review all its operational systems and processes across the merged group, with the aim of developing a common platform.

The integration project is rolling out in five phases including the implementation of vendor-supplied solutions such as InfoComp's Compose system for wholesale registry, DST's HiPortfolio for unit pricing and general ledger, Smartstream's SSR for reconciliations, Alpha's Maz for performance, as well as satisfying all Swift ISO 15022 requirements for straight-through processing of high-value payments. Also in the Everest model were core JP Morgan global in-house applications used for compliance and message routing.

For Braga -- who provided IT supervision for the sale of the BT Portfolio Services business and its transition into JP Morgan -- the sheer scale of trying to rebuild for the business a new platform from a legacy environment was the key implementation challenge.

"This is something you only get to do every 10 years. Every decision we made over what systems to bring in was critical. It was a pressing issue for us," he said.

"We've always been conscious of our legacy systems, so whatever we put in would become our new legacy."

Realising the scale of change would be significant, the firm chose to manage the integration itself. The project, at its peak, involved 80 business and technical people sourced in-house and also from specialist contractors from the finance industry as well as DMR Consulting for project management.

Integration skill was also needed to merge the former BT Portfolio Services' physical and technology assets with JP Morgan, which took over BT Portfolio Services' back-office operations centre in Adelaide. The Adelaide team needed a new site to work on Everest, which involved land acquisition, facility reconstruction, networking and then network and communication links with the Sydney office. A common desktop environment, migrating data from BT's network, application remediation testing and disaster recovery capability were also necessary.

Using in-house IT personnel as the integrators, staff have so far clocked up 550 staff months of work on Everest.

Braga said the key payback of the project is the ability to offer more service and solutions to existing clients that the firm couldn't offer before.

The company is also confident the Everest platform will lend it a competitive edge in what has been a down market in the regional funds management industry since early 2001.

On the technology side, the new model has better integrated vendor-supplied systems, eliminating the need for IT to apply 'bandaids' to make them work together in a merged environment.

Braga expects the integration to be a success, pointing out: "It's not a go out and do it all yourself and have 400 technologists in a room beavering away writing code-project. It's an integration exercise [based on] a well-integrated business strategy [for which we've had] to pick and choose the right pieces."

Everest goes live in late March.

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