Wed, Nov 17, 2004 - Page 10 News List

First Financial signs cooperation deal with Microsoft

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

First Financial Holding Co (第一金控) and Microsoft Corp yesterday signed a memorandum of cooperation, through which the US software giant will provide technology solutions for the nation's third-largest financial service provider to enhance efficiency in marketing and sales.

"Superior information technology can help us to better understand customers' needs and substantially reduce costs," First Financial chairman Steve Shieh (謝壽夫) said during a signing ceremony yesterday, which was also attended by Kevin Johnson, Microsoft's vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and services group.

Shieh has been engaging in reorganizing and re-engineering the 120-year-old lender into a customer-centric banking institution since he took the post in August last year, and the cooperation with Microsoft is considered an important step to achieve cost-efficiency.

Currently, it takes about two weeks to approve a loan. With Microsoft's IT platform, Shieh hopes the time can be reduced to one day, or even minutes. By adopting the system, Shieh also anticipates the loan approval process will be reduced, as the paperwork currently requires about 25 signatures from different departments.

Elaborating on the collaboration, Jason Ko (柯明川), executive vice president of First Commercial Bank (第一銀行), a First Financial unit, said the company plans to invest NT$38 million in the project in the first year, and NT$45 million in the second year.

Currently, First Financial has about 1,500 salespeople, with 6,000 rear-service staff to process documents and other chores, which is a waste of manpower, Ko said.

By adopting an automatic sales platform, the company expects to downsize back-office personnel by 75 percent and enlarge the sales department to increase customer base, he said.

Most banks in Taiwan rely on IBM Corp's software for their daily business needs, and First Financial will be the first financial institution to adopt Microsoft's system.

The Microsoft system will help the company better target potential customers and probe their needs, Ko said, adding that IBM's products only help banks to establish a bookkeeping system rather than market analysis.

For the first 10 months of the year, First Financial reported after-tax profit of NT$8.98 billion with EPS of NT$1.62.

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