Banking on It: Putnam Lovell Securities Inc.
Putnam Lovell Securities Inc., a San Francisco-based boutique investment banking firm, found itself unable to deliver the kind of value-added research reports its customers wanted. Traditionally, research documents were created in-house every morning. Then the company had to manually download information from two databases, one for customer contact and research preference data that's managed by Web-based software from application service provider Salesforce.com Inc., and the other for distribution data such as clients' names and e-mail addresses from a database hosted by research services vendor BlueMatrix Inc. The data was then loaded into an Excel file, where it was cross-referenced. Only then could the research documents be e-mailed to customers. The process could take as long as 30 minutes for a simple piece of research, said Putnam Lovell Chief Technology Officer Rodric O'Connor. And since the research needed to be in customers' hands when the financial markets opened each day, only a relatively small number of reports could be sent out based on the size of O'Connor's staff. The result: Putnum simply couldn't create the more complex, personalized reports it believed would give it an advantage in a highly competitive institutional market.
Last summer, the firm decided to change the way it distributed its reports. The company's lofty goal: Send customized research to each client while cutting in half the $300,000 per quarter the company was spending to distribute the reports. O'Connor considered two alternatives: buying enterprise application integration (EAI) software or integrating the existing data using some type of application over the Internet. But EAI, he decided, would be prohibitively expensive: The license alone would cost $250,000. Meanwhile, the cost of ownership of a Web service was at most 20 percent of the cost of using EAI, and integration software was estimated to require more than six months to develop before testing, versus what O'Connor estimated to be weeks to develop an XML-based Web service.
Rather than solving the problem internally, the company decided to look outside for help. So O'Connor chose a hosted Web service, which would serve as the hub to the "spokes" of the databases maintained by Salesforce.com and BlueMatrix, as well as the research reports created by Putnam Lovell. The software he chose, from San Francisco-based Grand Central Communications Inc., matches each customer's requirements to a customized version of the investment firm's research, then automatically e-mails it directly to the customer. Rather than sending entire reports, the Web service transmits only the specific components of the research that the customer requests. And because the software hub is located outside Putnam Lovell's firewall, security, encryption, authen- tication, policy management and any data transformation become Grand Central's responsibility, says O'Connor. The result: Putnam exceeded its goal of reducing costs by $150,000 a quarter by $50,000.
The new system integrated the data from both databases and the documents created in-house in just one month, says O'Connor. That first step alone was able to get the company halfway to its goal, he said.