Society Takes Aim at Incompatibility; Versatile Software Would Help Smooth Acquisitions

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Society Takes Aim at Incompatibility

Preparing for acquisitions, Cleveland-based Society Corp. plans a transformation of its computer systems to eliminate incompatibility among back offices.

The first step, new branch software for tellers would form the backbone of a proposed sales and marketing system.

The teller software is designed to be flexible enough to run the branch hardware of any acquired bank. Testing is scheduled to begin this week, and Society's tellers are to begin using the system full time in mid-September.

The bank expects the teller software to cut millions of dollars a year from operating costs by eliminating redundant systems at acquired banks.

PCs for Lenders

Society also has other technology projects in the works. Most notably, it plans to give corporate lenders personal computers through which they can use a variety of analytical software, improving their productivity.

Only a handful of other banks are taking this approach to improve their lending function.

As a regional bank in a competitive Midwest market, $15 billion-asset Society has been acquiring local rivals. Two years ago, for example, it acquired Trust Corp. in Toledo.

Society is expected to bid for Ameritrust Corp., another Cleveland-based bank which, like Society, has operations in Indiana.

Positioning for Survival

"It's clear the industry is consolidating," said Kenneth Puglisi, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods in New York. "Society sees itself as one of the survivors."

Mr. Puglisi said Society's management is talented, young, and capable of running a bigger bank.

"You don't want to turn down an opportunity because of what may be required in the back office," he said.

One of Society's teller systems dates from the late 1960s. Two years ago, when the bank acquired Trust Corp., the old system was already running at capacity and unable to handle the new branches.

Millions in Savings Foreseen

Society now runs three teller systems with millions of dollars in redundant hardware.

The new software, developed in-house, can run on a variety of computers, so Society can keep using the hardware of any branches it might acquire. …