Chasing the merger gold

There are few signs that the task of integrating systems when companies merge is any easier now than before the advent of sophisticated middleware and web-enabled systems.

There are few signs that the task of integrating systems when companies merge is any easier now than before the advent of sophisticated middleware and web-enabled systems.

Indeed, as the complexity of systems increases, there is a strong argument that integration poses a bigger challenge now than ever before.

Although there is plenty of talk from consultants that IT is featuring more prominently in merger thinking, so far that has not resulted in any more integration success stories.

Last month, two of the world's largest stock exchanges, New York and Euronext, promised investors that their planned "merger of equals" would lead to dramatic cost savings through IT consolidation. But whether they can pull this off remains to be seen.

The business case for the merger rests on a three-year plan slated to save £136m a year through IT integration. But the confidence expressed by New York Stock Exchange chief executive John Thaine that the two sides' technology teams have "scrubbed" the numbers and will deliver may be a claim he lives to regret.

In part, his confidence comes from the fact that Euronext has a good record of systems integration, having successfully undertaken a four-year migration plan to harmonise its key IT trading platforms.

However, for every integration triumph there are many failures, as illustrated by clearing house LCH.Clearnet's problems putting its IT house in order in the two-and-a-half years since London Clearing House and Clearnet merged (read article).

For any firms greedily eyeing a pot of gold at the end of the IT-consolidation rainbow, LCH.Clearnet's difficulties are a vivid reminder that saying you will integrate and actually doing it are two very different things.

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