Dah Sing Financial Holdings has built a high-bandwidth network for managing customer relations across all its branches. The move comes amid growing competition in the banking sector. The Hong Kong-listed financial services group recently deployed a Metro Ethernet infrastructure, based on Cisco Systems equipment, to link all 43 branches of its Dah Sing Bank and Mevas Bank subsidiaries. This will bolster its customer relationship management (CRM) programme, which is mobilising key Oracle software applications. Dah Sing officials declined to divulge the total investment made on these projects. 'Customer data is a bank's greatest asset,' said Derek Wong Hong-hing, Dah Sing Group managing director. 'Our goal is to achieve a much better understanding of our customers and their needs based on real-world information that is obtained directly from the customers and their activities.' The group's high-speed Metro Ethernet network uses optical fibre to connect all its banking sites while promoting the adoption of video and audio transmission, internet telephony and data storage. The system replaced the bank's old Frame Relay network, which was not ideally suited for advanced voice and video communications. The new network will also allow for the rollout of the group's 'operational and analytical' CRM system, designed to automate its sales, marketing and customer services. That set-up spans the Web, call centres, in the field and across physical retail sites. Thomas Ng Kai-ching, general manager of Dah Sing Bank's information technology division, said many banks in Hong Kong restricted CRM to a core number of users at the head office, which limited the success of these programmes. 'Our Metro Ethernet platform allows us to implement a scalable CRM programme that can handle high data flows and help provide quicker, better services to targeted customers at any time,' he said. Dah Sing Group, with more than US$7 billion in reported assets last year, requires fast and flexible customer response times to keep pace with competition in Hong Kong, where rival mid-size banks plan to merge. Banking deregulation in China has also encouraged Hong Kong financial services firms to expand into the mainland, ahead of foreign multinational banks. Arics Poon, managing director at Oracle South China and Hong Kong, noted that Dah Sing's bid to create a large central data warehouse, from where the group would get a comprehensive view of its customers, was a challenge. But once fully implemented, the system would enable the group to anticipate customer needs while improving credit control and stimulating cross-selling opportunities. Dah Sing Group has rivalled the efforts of larger banks in using IT to cut costs, raise efficiency and improve service.