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French bank overhauls retail systems

Société Générale, one of France's biggest banks, is in the process of revamping its retail banking IT systems. The cost of the overhaul has been estimated at €200m (£128m).

Chief information officer Jacques Beer-Gabel declined to comment on the cost of the changes. However, he did confirm that the rollout of new systems, codenamed project 4D, is "sizeable", and is due to be completed by the end of next year.

"We aim to create a multichannel interface with our customers, using channels such as the Internet, in order to get better information about our customers. This information will help us to cross-sell different financial products to them," Beer-Gabel said.

Cross-selling has long been a goal of the banking industry, but weaknesses in technology have, until recently, been an obstacle. Beer-Gabel said it was much more cost-effective to sell one product, such as an insurance policy, to an existing bank account holder than it was to target an unknown potential client, but to do this banks need a much better flow of information back from its clients.

The revamp will also involve changing the IT set-up to suit a downsized back-office operation, where transactions are processed. The number of back-office centres will be cut from 80 to 20 in France, and the IT system adapted accordingly, Beer-Gabel said.

Société Générale uses IBM hardware in its retail banking division, but Beer-Gabel hinted that this might change. "This isn't a decision forever," he said.

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