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Bank uses BI software to eliminate paper chase

Before BI, workers at Bank of Montreal would spend weeks sifting through piles of records to analyze customer information. Software from Information Builders Inc. gave the bank insight and saved it from being buried in paper.

Employees at Bank of Montreal used to build conclusions from their balance sheets only after wading through paperwork several feet deep. Today workers at the bank have more time on their hands and dozens of trees are still standing, thanks to business intelligence (BI) software.

According to John Veltkamp, systems and programming design leader at Bank of Montreal, workers at the financial services company used to tackle gargantuan piles of documentation several times a year. In order to track the company's bottom line and get a grip on customer information, employees would spend weeks sifting through records and calling the home office to verify their contents.

Now, using applications from New York-based BI software vendor Information Builders Inc., Bank of Montreal has created a Web portal that allows its employees to do the same work faster and nearly paper-free. Veltkamp said the difference is dramatic.

"We went from a weeks-long process to one that literally takes seconds," he said. "We're also able to analyze things more proactively, which is, of course, a huge asset."

By leveraging its BI system, the bank is able to run queries against its databases that were previously impossible, Veltkamp said. This has allowed the company to create new opportunities to cross-sell products and better serve existing customers, he said.

The bank is utilizing Information Builders' WebFOCUS package of applications, which allow it to create detailed reports based on stores of data. While the company also considered products from Cognos Inc. in Ottawa, Ontario, Veltkamp said his company's long-standing relationship with Information Builders made the process of choosing an application simple. The bank chose Information Builders two years ago, when it first undertook the project.

The biggest return on investment (ROI) the company has seen is in employee productivity, Veltkamp said. The software saved the bank hundreds of hours, he said, not only by eliminating the paper-based process, but also in training new workers on how to do the job.

"With the portal, you're able to create an interface that immediately makes sense to anyone who has ever used the Internet," he said.

Going forward, Bank of Montreal hopes to bring additional data sources into its portal to help customer service representatives more effectively create a single view of customers in the bank's call centers.

Bank of Montreal declined to comment on the cost of the software or the year-long implementation.

According to Information Builders vice president Michael Corcoran, Bank of Montreal's deployment, which has won awards from industry watchers such as Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., is not unusual in the financial services market. Corcoran said the vertical is one of the most fertile areas of business for his company.

"The financial-services providers are pushing for greater customer interaction, and this is being driven by cost-cutting," he said.

Corcoran said that over the past several years many financial services providers have gone from writing off BI plans because of security concerns to becoming more open about sharing data with their customers for applications such as bankbook history reproduction.

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