CIO Set to Link Ameritrade, TD Waterhouse IT Systems

Ameritrade Holding Corp. in Omaha completed its acquisition of New York-based TD Waterhouse Group Inc. last week, creating a combined company called TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. Jerry Bartlett , who was named Ameritrade's CIO in September, spoke with Computerworld about the challenges of merging the IT systems of the two financial services firms.

Jerry Bartlett, CIO at Ameritrade Holding Corp.
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Jerry Bartlett, CIO at Ameritrade Holding Corp.
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Your two companies are a thousand miles apart. What integration issues will that cause? I don't view that as an issue. Ameritrade has legacy operations on the East Coast -- close to 100 technologists. We have already been operating in a dispersed mode anyway. What's kind of cool about TD Waterhouse is that their entire IT organization, with the exception of five people, is right across the street from our Jersey City location.

What's the biggest integration challenge? It's making the personnel and culture things work well. The technologies are fairly similar. Two or three months ago, we already made the decisions on which systems were going to survive and which would be retired.

How many layoffs will result from this merger? Over the last three months, we went through an objective, performance-based assessment of all 800 technologists between the two combined firms and made decisions there. Over the course of the next 18 months, we're going to go from 800 folks to about two-thirds of that.

As the new CIO for TD Ameritrade, what are your objectives for the next year? The integration is my No. 1 priority. We will [also] be focusing on a data center strategy that's moving us toward an active/active [clustering] approach. That's not something Ameritrade's done typically. We're going to continue to deliver innovative products to our client base. Not doing that is why many merger integrations fail. We're also going to focus on business intelligence in the data warehouse. To do that, we need to improve our data warehouse and improve the sophistication of our business intelligence tools.

What's wrong with your current data warehouse? Just the structure of many of our databases makes it very difficult to correlate. While I'm not looking for a purely relational model, I'm looking for something that makes it easier to lay analytical tools on top. We also want to get to a new level of granularity around the data that we collect on our clients' behavior.

What other technologies are you looking at? I've got four data centers that are going to two over the next 12 to 18 months. There will be excess hardware that I'll be able to leverage. Storage is an area that obviously we're looking at. Our strategy is to have a more economical approach to our storage.

What are the storage technologies that will help you go down that tiered road? We are interested in virtualization. We've not strayed far from the beaten path, and that's something we believe is one of two new areas we want to look at, the other being voice over IP.

What are the biggest security threats these days? If you look at what's worrisome, not just for me but for my peers, particularly in this industry, it's security and the protection of our clients and their data and assets. If we lose that, we lose.

The good news is we've done some amazing things to protect our perimeter. In fact, in the November-December time frame, we rolled out brand-new encryption technology. Nothing leaves our data centers that isn't on an encrypted tape. Our biggest threat is what happens on our clients' computers. We're very serious in addressing that.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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