Abbey banks on network to boost customer service

Bank implements an IP VPN to underpin its revamped business strategy.

Newly renamed high-street bank Abbey is counting on a new IT infrastructure to underpin a fundamental refocusing of its business.

Chief executive Luqman Arnold, who last month admitted Abbey had “lost the plot with the retail bank”, has promised to refocus the business on its personal banking customers.

“We have 18 million customers and we want them to do more business with us and recommend us,” Arnold told the City last month when he announced the rebranding of the business.

Abbey is completing the first stage of the technology foundation later this month when it finishes the roll-out of an IP virtual private network operated by BT Transform across 750 branches.

It will provide IP telephony and data services across the branch network to support Abbey’s One-on-one customer relationship management programme, which aims to increase customer retention and improve revenue by boosting the average number of products sold to each customer from two to 3.5.

Abbey has configured and implemented Siebel’s eFinance multi-channel CRM system to support internet, telephone and branch-based banking. By the end of the year, it plans to have 7,500 users running the software.

The network will be used to transmit e-learning material to Abbey staff when the CRM programme goes live.

“The immediate impact will be felt in the branches,” said Bill Gibbons, Abbey’s director of technology services and support. “Abbey can improve customer service by deploying new applications to support its customers.”

The IP VPN uses network management software from Intelliden, which will allow IT staff to configure the network on the fly according to the bank’s needs.

This means that upgrading the network to support bandwidth-intensive applications can be achieved overnight, rather than the 75 days it took on Abbey’s old networks, Gibbons said.

“If we wish in the future to pipe enhanced video into branches or run promotions at specific locations, the IP VPN can be upgraded through software without requiring network engineers to log into every router on the network,” he added.

The network will handle up to 750,000 internal voice calls and 1.2 million calls from the public each month, along with inter-branch network traffic, making the network one of the biggest IP telephony roll-outs in the UK.

Besides immediate cost savings, IP telephony promises to deliver improvements to business applications such as contact centre software, workflow and unified messaging, said analyst Andy Rolfe of Gartner.

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