In-Depth

What’s real at Fleet?

Whig political leader Henry Clay said he would “rather be right than be president.” Summarizing Michael Caron, of Fleet Boston Financial Corp., one might say he would “rather be right time than real time.” There is a place on a continuum for analytics, Caron suggests, but things are always moving faster.

“The business intelligence suite of applications allows us to view in detail or summary fashion all customer transactions and related growth opportunities,” said Caron, director of customer and risk information, business development and strategy for Fleet’s Commercial Financial Services Group. MicroStrategy software is used as part of this quest, he added.

“Today, we have monthly, weekly and daily feeds, with increasing demand for near real-time or real changes to information such as customer profile, risk rating and opportunities. In this context, ‘right time’ is also a good term, since it implies there are information updates that are essential to the business function, but aren’t necessarily being constantly refreshed,” he explained.

Caron has been in decision support and business intelligent aspects of analytical processing for about 15 years. At Fleet, he works on the Wholesale Bank side, with technology strategy responsibilities across all business lines. Wholesale Bank customers include large corporations, middle market and some small business clients.

His initial approach to data warehousing was to take “a true analytics and business intelligence [BI] approach, and reverse engineer the key requirements into a warehouse that could meet usage needs on Day One,” he said.

“We had our warehouse and BI suite up and running, including a profitability engine, in about 18 months,” said Caron. “We started making enhancements almost immediately -- staging the critical information for activities, including cross-sell, product penetration and strategic planning.

“At Fleet today,” he continued, “we deliver business intelligence information through a portal called the Business Advisor, which is integrated with the BI suite from MicroStrategy. We have roughly 1,700 users, including relationship managers, portfolio managers and business analysts.”

There are multiple components to the warehouse, said Caron. “Certain parts of the warehouse will move into a real-time capability before others -- especially customer utilities that link name and address information to both internal transactions and external sources.”

What sets the move to real time? “The move is set by business drivers and priorities. For example, risk management is always interested in maintaining the highest quality and most up-to-date information for credit analysis purposes, something that at times requires us to rethink our information supply chain and related performance criteria. The Basel II Accord is also driving new requirements that affect our data and application delivery strategies -- another trend driving the need to visualize change as it happens,” he said.

Before real time can be achieved, some things must be in place. “It is important to plan and build well ahead the infrastructure needed to support real-time performance. For our part, we have some very good database, application and messaging technologies already in place,” said Caron. In both the customer portal and the BI space, Fleet is getting involved in new capabilities to support collaboration and workflow.

The benefits of BI enhancements to the basic data warehouse are recognized throughout the company, Caron indicated. For example, he said, “We see positive change and product gains in our sales management process. We continue to see improvements in product cross-selling, especially across different lines of business as the velocity of referrals increases.”

At the same time, the company has been able to improve the use of BI information in the transaction approval and pricing processes, flowing customer information in a way that reduces handling time and makes managers more efficient, he noted.


Please see the following related stories:

BI: real time or right time?” by Jack Vaughan

Real-time light, real-time anywhere” by Alan Earls

What to look for in a BI architecture” by Wayne Eckerson

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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