HSBC says global IT is vital, as profits rise

HSBC's IT organisation saw a decline in its ability to meet its internal service level agreements in Europe, Hong Kong and Latin America last year.

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HSBC's IT organisation saw a decline in its ability to meet its internal service level agreements in Europe, Hong Kong and Latin America last year.

But this was the only blip in a performance that saw the bank highlight the importance of its global IT strategy as it reported profits up 17 percent in the second half of 2007.

HSBC tracks two key measures as indicators of IT performance – the number of customer transactions and the reliability and resilience of the systems in terms of service and availability.

The bank monitors uptime and the time taken to process credit card transactions, with internal service-level agreements (SLAs) demanding 99.9 percent uptime and for credit card authorisations to occur within two seconds.

In its results presented today (3 March), the bank said the key performance indicators (KPIs) were hit by a "single month's service issue, which skewed a trend of flat or improving service performance".

Europe registered a 1 percent drop in performance, from 98 percent of IT services hitting target in 2006 to 97 percent in 2007. The figures marked a blip on an otherwise impressive contribution by IT to the bank's bottom line.

Achievements highlighted in the result include getting three-quarters of the bank's 120 million credit cards in use across the world processed through a single global system – part of the One HSBC suite of common Group IT systems.

IT had also been vital to HSBC's online banking operation, but the company added that the development of its second-generation internet banking platforms forced up technology costs.

HSBC concentrated its investment on technology promoting straight-through processing and simplifying account opening online, it said, allowing customers to purchase products online.

"This will improve processing time and reduce errors caused by human intervention," the firm said. "[Customers’] use of technology increasingly dictates how they interact with us. We increasingly employ technology to create better products which we can deliver globally at lower cost," the banks stated.

Customer relationship management software had been vital to the launch of new products. "Delivering the right products and services for particular target markets is a fundamental requirement in any service business, and market research and customer analysis is essential to developing an in-depth understanding of significant customer segments and their needs, " the company said.

"This understanding of the customer ensures that customer relationship management systems are effectively used to identify and fulfil sales opportunities, and to manage the sales process."

In sustainability risk management, IT systems were also being used to monitor the "consistent application of policies".

Shared service centres have played a major part in IT efficiency. Six were opened in 2007 bringing total shared service centre employee numbers to 30,000. 31 countries linked into these centres.

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