Northern Trust Adapts Technology to Changing Times

Bank expands products, portfolio transparency, says Magrini

May 18, 2009
Chris Kentouris

The client is king, says Peter Magrini, technology applications and client solutions practice executive for Northern Trust in Chicago.

While such a stance has become commonplace among asset servicing providers, it is far from easy to fulfill. Like many of its peers, the ever-expanding global marketplace is forcing Northern Trust to ensure 24-by-7 support for its customers while their increased diversification of trading strategies requires it to incorporate new financial instruments into its IT strategy. Market volatility has generated higher trading volumes--hence revenues from clearance and settlement activities--but also prompted customers to seek greater transparency into their portfolios, more efficient risk management controls and timelier information.

Responsible for all software development and custom client solutions, Magrini has implemented a number of enhancements to the Chicago bank's data management and delivery capabilities. A 22-year veteran of Northern, Magrini took on his latest task as the result of the bank's splitting the CTO functions last year into two roles--software management, overseen by Magrini, and infrastructure management, which comes under the direction of Jim Scholefield, technology infrastructure and operations practice executive. Both executives report to Jana Schreuder, president of Northern's operations and technology unit.

Magrini was previously client accounting practice director in charge of accounting operations for customer investment portfolios from April 2007 to August 2008. From November 2005 to March 2006 he served as chief operating officer for worldwide operations and technology. Prior to joining Northern Trust, Magrini held technology roles as a development manager at Citicorp and project leader at the former Continental Illinois National Bank.

Last week, Magrini spoke with Securities Industry News about his past and future initiatives.

How has the credit crunch affected your IT strategy and budget?

In the current economic downturn, market values are declining but trading volumes continue to rise and we continue to invest heavily in IT. Market conditions have simply given us the opportunity to expand into new products and offer clients greater transparency into their portfolios.

What are your IT priorities?

After making substantial investments to ensure our content is solid, we will be putting most of our energy into creating what we call client-differentiated solutions. That means we will present more updated ways clients can package and use information. Northern Trust is unique in having created a truly global infrastructure so that clients in North America, Europe and Asia have access to the same information on their portfolios. Over the past five months we have implemented a third-party data virtualization tool that allows our institutional clients and relationship staff to have a single view of the data but not depend on access to static databases for access. The data is housed in a virtual layer which does not require inquiries to be made to multiple relational databases such as DB2, Oracle and Sybase. Development of reporting and delivery applications will therefore be faster and less expensive. Our business lines will be able to introduce new products to market faster. In our first three deployments of the data virtualization tool we have saved over $500,000 and reduced the development time of the technology solution by 20 percent

What are the next steps in your data virtualization project?