Andersen Shaping Bank Technology with Its Vision of What Future Holds
Hellauer, Brian, American Banker
John C. Skerritt, managing partner of Andersen Consulting's financial services industries practice, places such nebulous terms as "vision" and "alliances" at the top of his job responsibilities.
But buried within such New Age terminology are the strategies that have changed the course of large-scale systems development within the banking industry.
Vision sharpening and alliance building have paid off for the firm. Since it split from Arthur Andersen & Co. in 1989, Andersen Consulting's revenues have nearly doubled.
The practice Mr. Skerritt oversees represents 25% of the firm's overall revenues, which should surpass $3 billion this year. More than 6,000 people worldwide work in the financial services practice, which is divided into retail financial services, financial markets, and insurance.
Filling a Void
To a certain extent Andersen and other consulting firms have stepped into the void left by the diminished influence of International Business Machines Corp. in today's computing environment. With Big Blue no longer providing the blueprint, bankers are looking elsewhere for big-picture strategizing.
"What Andersen sells is a mind-set: This is how you do things, we'll take care of the rest," said Martin Garvey, an analyst with the META Group, a research firm in Westport, Conn.
"My job involves getting 250 partners worldwide to share a common view of the industry," said Mr. Skerritt. "It's hard to get the partners to adopt a common view of the industry because they're used to being independent."
Payback Is Disappointing
Mr. Skerritt also acknowledged a more fundamental problem, one that has long plagued technology suppliers in general. Banks, like most businesses, are not getting the bang they expect from their technological buck. "That's the overriding message," he noted.
The solution, as Mr. Skerritt sees it, is surprising: more consulting. The situation, he said, "necessitates - I lapse into consultant's jargon - all the redesigning, retraining, and remotivating of the people in the company."
The vision Mr. Skerritt espouses has been encapsulated in the Vision technology planning model, used by the firm as both part of its marketing efforts and as a blueprint for its various client engagements.
As for alliances, Andersen's arrangements with software developers such as Systematics Information Systems Inc., Little Rock, Ark., and clients such as Banc One Corp., Columbus, Ohio, have entrenched the firm in the nation's largest banks. Some client engagements also have yielded products that Andersen can then market to other banks throughout the world.
The best example of that to date, according to Mr. Skerritt, was Andersen's involvement in the development of Banc One's Triumph credit card processing system.
"Since we finished the development of that just over a year ago, we've sold it to three other banks [Barclays, Banamex, and GZS, the credit card processing arm of the major German banks], with two more sales to banks in the states pending," Mr. Skerritt said.
Boon for Banc One
The added sales of Triumph also mean additional revenue for Banc One. Banc One officials declined to comment about Andersen's role in the project.
Although he was born in England, Mr. Skerritt has always had an interest in things American, earning undergraduate degree in American studies and history.
Mr. Skerritt has been on a fast track on both sides of the Atlantic. He joined Andersen's United Kingdom financial consulting business in 1973, when it was still in its infancy. From a staff of 12 in 1973, the U.K. practice has grown to almost 800 employees, including 300 who run the technical operations of the London Stock Exchange.
Starting from Scratch
Mr. Skerritt ran the U.K. financial services practice for five years before being transferred to New York at the end of 1989. …