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8/25/2003
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First Tennessee Banks On Web Services

It's switching over to a single system developed with Financial Fusion to deliver retail and business banking services online.

First Tennessee National Bank is putting Web services to practical use.

The $23-billion asset institution is working to deliver retail and business online-banking services using a single Web-services system it developed with Financial Fusion Inc., a provider of Internet banking software. The bank's corporate services, being delivered using software from Politzer & Haney, will be switched to the Financial Fusion system early next year.

Web services are software programs that communicate using standard protocols, enabling common business functions to be placed on the Internet or internal company networks where they can be easily accessed by other applications.

Developed using Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Enterprise Edition application-development software, the Financial Fusion system uses middleware to integrate the various banking components, allowing each to be changed without affecting the others. The system lets First Tennessee's retail customers--who include consumers and small businesses--and corporate customers conduct banking transactions from the same virtual location.

In linking its retail and business online-banking services, First Tennessee is demonstrating how technology can be used to leverage existing sets of products. "They're looking at their online delivery as a single strategy rather than a disjointed one, in which they can leverage products for different classes of users," says Nicole Rowe, corporate communications manager at Financial Fusion. First Tennessee can, for example, adapt a traditionally business-oriented function like wire transfer for the consumer market if it chooses.

The push to create a single system began in 1999, when First Tennessee's retail division expanded its Financial Fusion consumer system for the single-owner, home-office market. "We had a good consumer product with Financial Fusion, and added a few enhancements to offer it to small businesses," says Tammy Green, quality assurance manager for consumer banking at First Tennessee.

At the same time, the corporate division noted that with the addition of a few components such as wire transfers, payments, and reporting, the Financial Fusion system could double as a corporate banking platform. "It's not much different than retail except for some enhancements like ACH [electronic-payment network] and wire," says Laura Nix, product manager for cash management at First Tennessee. In 2001, Nix was assigned the task of transitioning the cash-management platform from Politzer & Haney to Financial Fusion.

Not only would such a move be cost-efficient, but it would allow the creation of a new corporate banking system from the ground up. The bank "wanted to create a true cash-management product," Nix says. "We worked with Financial Fusion to tell them what a bank needs as far as Internet cash management."

Those needs run from check and disbursement services to information reporting and to administration tools. Nix says large companies have multiple levels of authorization that limit the kinds of information that can be viewed by an employee, and the system needed to accommodate that.

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