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6/28/2005
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Citigroup Manages by the Dashboard Light

Asset Management unit has added human workflow and business activity monitoring to its business process management BPM environment to graduate from automation to intelligent decision support.

Straight-though processing is common in the financial services industry, but Citigroup's Asset Management unit has added human workflow and business activity monitoring to its business process management (BPM) environment to graduate from automation to intelligent decision support.

Citigroup's Asset Management business maintains investments for large institutional clients that need profitable havens for vast sums of money. The financial giant deployed CommerceQuest Process Manager software back in 2003 to handle system-to-system processes and integration. In January of this year, the company deployed additional components of CommerceQuest's Traxion BPM Suite to support human workflow, bi-directional human-to-system interaction as well as monitoring for compliance, auditing and decision support.

Among the first projects taking advantage of the new tools is a pricing process that tracks the fluctuating value of mortgages, municipal bonds, corporate bonds and other fixed-income assets. There are 25 touch points in all, including 10 accounting systems and sources of pricing data such as Bloomberg and JP Morgan. Once all trades are completed by 5:30 pm, the process compiles and validates pricing information for all assets and then loads that information into the accounting systems by 9:00 pm.

"If there's a high variance between yesterday's price and today's, we can escalate that to a manager who can investigate," explains Sayee Bapatla, fixed income technology director.

The process incorporates two dashboards, one of which monitors technology systems and verifies that systems are connected and that processes are being carried out at defined intervals. The second dashboard is for back-office operations staff, and it displays green, yellow and red condition monitors reflecting progress toward the 9:00 pm deadline.

"A red light might show that certain pricing information still isn't available and that we're entering a dangerous timeframe," says Bapatla. "Depending on what they see on the dashboard, managers can turn to predefined contingency plans based on the asset class, the pricing sources and the seriousness of the problem."

Work on the pricing process began in May, and it's currently awaiting approval for rollout in July. Bapatla says the next process planned will support risk reporting, with key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards for investment managers so they can quickly understand exposure to interest rate changes, political turmoil, fluctuating currencies and other factors influencing asset pricing. The process will have to be integrated with existing analytic engines that are part of an internal data warehouse.

The long-term goal is to have dashboards and decision support throughout the trading lifecycle, from trade origination to trade completion, but it's hard to predict when that might happen given that Citigroup announced on June 24 that it would sell most of its Asset Management business to Legg Mason in an exchange valued at $3.7 billion. Bapatla couldn't comment on the deal, but it's certain the acquirer will appreciate having well-documented processes and, at least in the case of the pricing process, dashboard visibility into efficiency.

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