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Bank's T1 links pay dividends in service, flexibility.

Central Bank & Trust may be a conservative, locally-owned Texas bank, but it is aggressive when it comes to applying technology to improve customer service.

CB&T is a 45-year-old Fort Worth institution that in the last few years has grown by acquiring other local banks. It now has 11 branches, all but one in Tarrant County, where it focuses its business.

A national financial magazine rated it as one of the five safest banks in Texas. CB&T lends a conservative 40% or less of the money it has on deposit. The joke goes that CB&T will lend a customer a gold brick--if the customer already has two on deposit.

The bank uses multiplexed T1 lines to its branches, carrying voice and data between the branches and the headquarters and data center.

"In 1991, we really made our technology push," says Danny Baker, vice president of information systems. "We had talked about networks. We had (Dell) PCs around, doing a variety of things, and there was uniformity in what we were buying, because I've bought every PC since the first one."

Baker started with a 12-to-15-PC network at one of the two primary locations, mainly for word processing for secretaries and loan officers. People at the other primary location began clamoring for a network, and CB&T was off and running.

"Our primary focus is customer service," says Baker. Previously, if a customer sought information from a loan officer, "the loan officer had to leave the customer, go across the room to look up what they needed, then come back to the desk. Bad customer service.

"With our IBM AS/400, with token ring capability, people can jump back and forth (between PC and terminal) with a keystroke."

Laser printers are located at each branch. Documents can be accessed via the AS/400 over the network and printed locally, minimizing the wait for customers. Before, documents were faxed to headquarters for rekeying and repeated handling.

PCs will also revamp CB&T's teller service. Baker says tellers can access all the customer data they need right from their work area, rather than go through the cumbersome process of checking index cards and microfiche for customer signatures and other information.

About the time the AS/400 was installed, says Baker, CB&T had nine locations and as many different phone systems, "none of which were very good." The bank standardized on Northern Telecom's Meridian PBX system, which offers four-digit access to all locations.

"That's when we began researching some of the capabilities of T1s," Baker says. The bank called on Chuck Barnes, president of Advanced Corporate Systems, a systems integrator, to design the network.

"We tried to think down the road, when we want to do branch automation and imaging. One project on our list is scanning of credit file documents," Baker says. "Again, it's a customer service issue. If a customer walks into our branch and wants a loan, we shouldn't have to tell him to come back in two days, after the loan officer has gotten the file from the main office and reviewed it."

With the cost of T1s moderating in CB&T's locale, Baker says, it was clear there would be benefits, despite the costs of abandoning some dumb terminal equipment that wouldn't work with the T1s.

The network has single T1s to each branch, connecting to Larse Split-T multiplexers, which break out individual channels to PBXs and to the token ring routers at each site.

"The immediate benefit was in connecting the two main locations," about 4 1/2 miles apart, Baker says. "We went in with routers and tied the locations together. There was enormous benefit in being able to communicate."

Electronic mail was a big plus, Baker explains. "By myself, I save at least a tree a week. I don't send paper any more. Nobody does."

Voice was up quickly to bank branches on the wide area T1 network, but data has moved more slowly. Problem is, there are scads of dumb terminals still in use at CB&T's branches. Baker says the cost of controllers to bring them onto the network would be prohibitive, especially since they will be replaced with PCs by mid-1993 anyway.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:T1/T3 Networks; Central Bank & Trust Co.
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:702
Previous Article:Bargaining for telecomm services.
Next Article:Firm networks voice, video, data on T1.
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