When you’re the fourth largest bank in the U.S., but only No. 14 in a fast-growing business that’s crucial to your future, how do you use technology to leapfrog the competition? That was the question facing Susan Certoma, CIO of Wachovia’s $6 billion Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) division, when she was recruited from a competing firm in 2004.
The surprising answer, supported strongly by her CEO: Rock the boat, change everything, and build a multihundred million dollar, end-to-end, services-oriented development and delivery platform, backed by a business-focused, product management culture in IT.
While many enterprises nibble at the edges of SOA, Wachovia’s CIB division opted for a ubiquitous services architecture to support the innovation and efficiency it needed to catch competitors (see also "Wachovia's Steps to SOA Success").
“This was a great opportunity for Wachovia,” Certoma says. “This is a very large business growing rapidly, but with not so much entrenched legacy that you couldn’t take a vision and platform to a whole new level.”
To help realize that vision, Certoma hired Tony Bishop as senior vice president and director of product management. Bishop already learned a lot building SOA platforms for financial services. “IT needs to be flexible, adaptable, scalable,” Bishop observes. “It can’t just be about modeling my business processes as a system. It has to be holistic.”
Eyeing the prize
Corporate and investment banking is a complex business. With dozens of highly customized financial products and services ranging from IPOs and derivatives to leasing, research, advice, and trading, each of the nine business units within CIB demanded its own unique applications, Certoma says. And all of their businesses are intensely competitive, with extreme pressure to get better products to market faster and at lower cost.
Furthermore, financial products require lots of data-intensive modeling, so there’s a premium on high performance applications that can give traders and analysts an edge. “It’s all about complexity,” Certoma says. “There’s a great deal of money to be made if you have the top talent and the technology to do it.”
The vision Certoma proposed in 2004 was a complete restructuring of how CIB did development, centered around a core of reusable frameworks, components, and services that each of the business units could leverage. Each business had been building similar capabilities over and over -- desktop presentation, data management, workflow management, messaging, and customer information management. “If we did it right, it would give them a lift on productivity,” Certoma explains, “and over time it would be cheaper, because the output for our fixed cost would be multiples greater.”
Fast forward 20 months, and Certoma’s plan is bearing fruit. CIB’s Equity Structured Products unit, for example, needed a better “equity volitility” application, to analyze the financial risks of new derivatives products they were thinking of offering.