by Mary K. Pratt

Enterprise Search Brings Together Structured and Unstructured Customer Data

May 23, 20143 mins
CRM SystemsFinancial Services Industry

Financial services firm UBS lets customers and employees see much more data, much faster, to improve relationships.

UBS had a problem: Customers — banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and pension funds–had to navigate a series of siloed computer systems to access investment information and transaction capabilities whenever they wanted to do research, make trades or redistribute their money. Time and frustrations added up.

“We had over 90 different client access points. It was inefficient for our clients and expensive for us to operate,” says Hishaam Caramanli, managing director and global head of securities e-commerce at the $31 billion global financial services company.

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UBS envisioned a system that would let clients and employees find information and perform transactions from a single starting point. Rather than collecting and cleansing data from many existing systems to put in a data warehouse — a common approach — UBS built a platform called Neo that, behind the scenes, uses enterprise search capabilities to find what users want. The platform is built on Attivio’s Active Intelligence Engine, software that indexes, searches and packages data of all sorts.

Customers got access to the system last year, after UBS had run it internally since 2011. Before Neo, Caramanli says, a client trading Sony stock, for example, would log in to one system to review research, move to another to convert currency to Japanese yen, and then another to execute the trade. Now the client can do it all through Neo, regardless of whether the desired data is unstructured, such as in research reports, or structured in stock price charts.

“Being able to combine all that information into a single, harmonious whole is really what these technologies are about,” says IDC analyst Dave Schubmehl, “because people don’t want to have to go to multiple places for information.” In addition to the Active Intelligence Engine, other so-called unified information access products include IBM’s Vivisimo and Oracle’s Endeca.

Tailored Customer Data

Caramanli, the business sponsor behind Neo, says the development team assembled business and technical requirements by interviewing hundreds of employees and clients to understand what they needed. Pulling together data from 90 systems was the key.

“All that content is indexed and searched behind one login, so you have to think only about the business proposition and not be frustrated by the technology,” Caramanli says. “You can get down to business immediately.”

Neo runs on a private cloud, using tech from about 15 vendors in addition to Attivio, including Informatica’s 29West message transport tool, HTML5 and Adobe’s Flash Media Server.

Caramanli would not say how much UBS invested in Neo, but says the company sees returns in the form of cost savings from operational efficiency and increased volumes in client transactions. Neo also provides a competitive advantage, he says. For example, UBS can now offer data in bundles tailored to clients’ specifications. “We’re able to win accounts we couldn’t before,” he says, “or win them back.”

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